I recall sitting as a silent observer in a conversation between two men. The older was obviously providing consultation to the younger, both fathers of some strong-willed children.
Their discussions revolved around a particular question, this being, “So as a father, how do you provide for your family”, the younger responding with, “Well for starters I work 5-6 days a week, I make sure there is food on the table, the children have what they need and I keep the boss happy.” The older man asked the question again and told the younger to take longer to respond. Bewildered by this the younger man simply shrugged his shoulders, acknowledging he had covered most things. The older man chuckled, “As dads we still have to provide care, protection and model what we want them to become. As much as we like to think mum provides all that, we still have to play our part in growing strong children.”
This intrigued me enough to do some reading up myself in the area of growing strong, caring and resilient young boys, which led me to one of many books I perused. This one, by Celia Lashlie, known for her work in the corrections system, in particular supports the conversations above about parental responsibility and the role of education in the system. Her book called “Growing gorgeous boys into good men” acknowledges some of the work she did with young male adolescents following the Good Man Project in Nelson, 2001. Following this, she had an opportunity to hear the voices of young boys through an action research project that included 25 Boys schools. It also meant they could explore ideas about manhood in an all-male environment.
What caught my attention in this book was the challenge she makes to mothers. In one of her chapters she called “Stop making his Lunch”, she notes that as our young boys transition into adolescence our role as mothers is to assist them to cross the bridge, then back up and trust they’ll be ok as they journey toward manhood.
The following is a summary of those voices from that research, some of which are hard hitting, but important for us to hear in the hope we ourselves find a way forward to developing a healthy pathway for future dads.
* Men’s voices aren’t heard as clearly as they should or could be and it seems acceptable to poke fun at men.
* Your boys don’t want you to be anyone else, they just want you to be their dad.
* Where at all possible raising a boy should be a partnership between his mother and father.
* All he wants is your time, even if it’s 5 minutes a day.
* He wants you to connect with him as he is now, not as you might want him to be.
* You don’t have to give him lectures, just answer questions honestly and when he asks them.
* As your stepson moves towards the bridge of adolescence make room for his father physically and emotionally. Don’t for a minute assume that because you’re with his mother he has any duty or responsibility to respect you more than he would any other adult.
Of course the makeup of society today is very diverse and dynamic, solo parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, same-sex parents, so the challenge for us is to consider positive pathways of transition from childhood—adolescence—adulthood and how we contribute to a whole and healthy society.
There are some good programmes locally that can support fathers, grandfathers as you do the best you can to provide a positive pathway for those to follow. If you think you’d like to talk more about this please call me on 345 5971.