Raising a Man

 

How are you raising your child to become the adult you want them to be?

I grew up with sisters and am learning about raising boys in real-time. Boys were always a puzzle to me growing up. They could be caring and kind, and then aggressive, dismissive and cruel. What makes them act this way?, I’ve often thought. I’ve heard throughout my life (both as a child, teen and now parent), “It’s easier to raise boys than it is girls.” This never made sense to me. The beauty of girls is that we are allowed to have emotions.  And while there may be room for improving how we experience or work through our emotions, we are not conditioned to hide or repress them. Boys don’t often tell you what’s going on. My oldest son talks to my husband and I and is pretty open about what’s going on — yet he too really struggles to understand the emotion(s) he is feeling and what’s causing them. He lumps them all into two categories: those that make me feel good, and those that make me feel bad.

Watching my sons grow, I am starting to see them exhibit those same confusing behaviors I saw from boys when I was growing up. Particularly from my oldest. He can be loving and kind, empathetic and thoughtful, and then on what seems like a turn-of-the-dime, he can be rude, dismissive and cruel — whether its to his classmates, friends, brother or my husband and I. Consequences seem to have minimal impact, it’s almost like he can’t help himself. My biggest concern as I watch him grow is what kind of man he will be. I want to believe that what my husband and I are teaching him the ‘right’ things: appreciating diversity, equality, and what you have, being kind to one another, and sharing your gifts with others. He’s for equality, diversity, fairness, and taking care of the planet, yet I see him struggling with being kind. He often directs feeling of negativity towards his younger brother, or us. I understand the desire to vent to those that you know will still love you and be there for you, but it’s draining on my husband and our patience and takes a toll on his younger brother. He shared what he deemed a ‘good day’ that included playing volleyball well in P.E. (I’m good with this), and then watching a female classmate miss a shot and fall in a way that was ‘hilarious’ – “Mom, I couldn’t stop laughing,’ he said (I’m not good with this). I attempted to ask him how he thought the girl felt (I’m sure embarrassed) and he acted as though I were purposely trying to be a killjoy. “Mom, I said I had a good day.” and he immediately ended the conversation.

I want my child to be happy, but not at the expense of others. Particularly not at a women’s expense. Maybe I’m overly sensitive because overt sexism and misogyny are finally getting the exposure we women have needed to change what is ‘acceptable’ behavior. I feel like I’m at a pivotal point in my son’s maturing and need to ‘up’ my parenting skills a notch to ensure we’re guiding him down a path toward manhood that he’ll one day be proud of. I want him to be kind to others. I want him to see the benefit — not only to others to how he’ll feel. I don’t know how else to do that then exhibiting the behavior myself, and getting him to think (rethink) how he interacts with others.

What challenges are you facing in helping your child to grow to be the adult you hope they will be? How are you helping your child?

 

 

 

 

Counting on a Few Good (Dads) Men

Have you ever struggled to find an appropriate Father’s Day card for your Dad?  I have. There seem to be two varieties that exist: cards that imply Dad needs time away golfing, fishing or BBQ’ing; or Dad can’t control his bodily functions and loves the TV remote more than anything else. There is a third variety and it’s the sentimental kind. I usually gravitate towards these, because the other two don’t seem to fit.

My parents celebrated a milestone anniversary this year, and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. They had most of their original wedding party and friends from high school attend. It was a joy to see so many people who loved my parents and had such fond memories of them.

After the celebration there was an informal reception, where the guests came together and we shared food and stories. I got to hear new stories of them growing up. I learned a lot about my dad that afternoon. He loved to fish–he used to do it almost everyday in the summer with his high school buddies growing up (I had no idea, the only time I saw my dad fish growing up was when he took my sisters and I out to a local lake a handful of times); and he used to be a bit more ‘wild’ than I would have ever guessed. The person I knew was my dad–a man who has always been intentional in his parenting, and actions. As a father, he was more serious than fun (I never saw him do anything even remotely wild), but loving and giving of his time with my sisters and I. I never got the feeling from my dad that he needed (or yearned) for time away from us–though he certainly could have. He was always present. He would push us to be our best, and coach, support, encourage and praise us along the way. He was (and still is) a great dad.

This year I found a card that made me smile. It said, “Dad in Chief” and had a fancy patch that looked similar to a presidential seal with an eagle and stars (the eagle is holding a small remote control in one talon, and spatula in the other, but oh well). My dad is tops in my book. He continues to be a great model of what being a dad is all about. My husband is the same with our sons. He’s present, he’s invested, he cares, and it shows. I love him dearly for it.

I feel very fortunate to have such good men in my life.

How are you honoring your dad today? How are you being the parent you want to be for your child?

Happy Father’s Day!