I will turn 50 in June of this year which, strangely, does not bother me a bit. I still feel like I’m young and in my prime. Well, except after a day of putting in a new ceiling for the kitchen. My back is telling me I am definitely not in my prime anymore!
As I approach the half century mark (Okay, that did it, now I do feel old!) and as my children are producing grandchildren, I think more about my father and all the things he taught me. My father, pictured to the right, taught me a lot of things, some he probably never meant to. He was a hard drinker, a fighter, and a hell raiser with a bad temper. He was also fiercely protective, loving, and had a heart as big as the world.
I learned a lot about life from watching him, and the things he taught me played a huge part in making me the man I am today. Now that I’ve raised my kids, and they are starting to raise their own, I think about all the kids I know who have grown up or are growing up now without fathers to teach them these things.
And that worries me.
I know that these days it is fashionable to think that a child doesn’t need a father; that single parent families are just as valid as two parent families, or that two moms are the same as a mom and a dad. The idea that a two parent, male-female family is the best for raising children is considered antiquated, archaic, and intolerant.
Well, call me antiquated, archaic and intolerant because as I watch our culture sinking into a morass of violence and ignorance, I believe one of the major causes is the lack of fathers in families. Both boys and girls need a strong male role model in their lives. Boys need it so they an learn how to handle the strength and power of being a man, particularly during the adolescent rush of hormones that can cause even the best of kids to pull stupid stunts that could get them or somebody else hurt. Girls need a strong male role model to show them how a real man acts, and how he treats a woman. And personally, I believe a young woman also needs that strong male figure to counter the endless stream of sexualizing images that inundate our children and to demonstrate to her that she is more than just her reproductive system.
I’m not holding myself above reproach here, nor am I saying that a mother is unimportant. I was a single father for a lot of years, and despite my best efforts, I am certain that the lack of a full time mother hurt my kids. Both parents are equally important when it comes to raising kids.
But today, we’re talking about fathers, and as a father/stepfather, I want to pass along a few things my father taught me about being a man to other fathers/stepfathers out there. There’s a good chance that some of you were raised fatherless yourselves, and don’t have a good example to follow. (Important tip: TV fathers are almost always bad examples to follow. There are no scripts in real life. Or laugh tracks.)
Let’s face it — when they are little, boys are easy to raise. Get ‘em some Lego’s, a puppy, a bicycle, and you’re good for several years. But when they start getting older, when those hormones start raging, if you haven’t done some serious work with them, they can spin out of control in a second, sometimes with life-altering effects. Even with all our best efforts, they can still make decisions that leave us scratching our heads and saying “I know I raised you better than that!”
In my opinion, a father’s job is to provide his sons with the ability to withstand that onslaught of hormonally induced insanity without incurring any facial scars, long term enemies, or criminal records.
So here are 12 things that I think every father should teach their sons. Some are skills, some are attitudes. Some are general and some are specific, but they all work together to help turn a boy into a man. Some you will teach directly, but most of them you will teach by doing. Show your son the kind of man you are, because that is the kind of man he will aspire to be.
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So, tell me what things you think fathers should teach their sons. And before you ask, I do plan on doing some companion pieces to this one, covering things fathers should teach their daughters, and I’ll look for a partner to give the mother’s perspective. Let me know what you think!