Monday, March 14, 2011
Turning Boys into Men
The longer I am the mother of sons, the more convinced I am, that as a society, we are failing at turning our boys into men. Our young men are entering the adult world more concerned with having the newest cell phone or gnarliest tattoo rather than bothering themselves with standing up for what they believe is right or providing for their family. They are selfish, self-centered, unused to working and truly believe that the world revolves around them. They are disrespectful, hate authority, and think the world owes them a living. And as parents, we share in the burden of blame.
For years, I have pondered the state of our young men, and wondered at the remedy. I have come to the conclusion that the answer doesn't lie in providing boys with more stuff, filling them with self-esteem or pandering to their over-inflated sense of self. It lies in skipping adolescent angst and progressing systematically from boyhood to manhood.
When Master Hand Grenade was 12, I noticed a change in his countenance. He gradually changed from a little boy, looking to his mother for guidance and affirmation to a young man, choosing to spend his time watching and learning the ways of men. The way that he responded to me changed. No longer did he appreciate me organizing and dictating every hour of his day. He wanted autonomy. He wanted to have input in the goings on of daily life. As a mother, I rebelled. Who was he to tell me how he wanted some things to be done? He was the child - I was the mother! And then I realized that my role as a mother was changing. Yes, I was his mother, but I was also a woman, and in reality, men don't like to be ordered about by women, even their mother.
This new development put me in quite a quandary. Now I needed to figure out how to balance being a mother, in charge of teaching school and mandating chores and being a woman, allowing my son to take his rightful place as a man, practicing to be the head of a household.
Truthfully, after years of thinking on these things, I still don't have the answers. I do, however, have some theories. I have come to the conclusion that young men, when they reach the age of 12, should be out from under their mothers roof. Now before everyone starts yelling, let me explain. By out of the house, I don't think that 12 year olds should move out and make their own way in the world - heaven forbid! I do, however, think they need to be out of the house, working alongside of men, learning discipline, work ethic and responsibility from an older man.
In my perfect world, Master Hand Grenade would be home until noon each day. He would finish his schooling, chores and whatever other home responsibilities he had and then he would spend the rest of the day, until dinner, working on becoming a man. He would dig ditches, build houses, put up hay and chop wood. He would learn to be on time, to work hard, to be tough. He would learn to work when he wanted to be anywhere else and put in a full day when his muscles were aching and tired. He would learn the value of physical labor and a dollar earned. He would learn true self-respect, not the prolific lie of self-esteem. He would skip being a "teenager" and go strait to manhood. He would be a man worthy of marrying your daughter and being the father of your grandchildren. He would be a man of God.
The reality of my perfect world is anything but perfect. Our society doesn't value the same things that I value. Our society worships youth, not the respectability of manhood. We applaud the folly of a child rather than venerating the character of the truly humble, self-controlled man. We are teaching our boys to be boys and wondering why they are not men.
The truth of the matter is that Master Hand Grenade is still under my roof, instead of learning beside his father or another Godly man. Our government has deemed him too young to have a job. The craftsman taking an apprentice is from a bygone era. And so we pray. We pray that we will have the wisdom to raise Master Hand Grenade and Master Calvin to have a great desire to be a men rather than boys. I pray that I am able to balance being a mother and a woman encouraging her men to be leaders.
I believe we need to rethink the way we turn boys into men. Our families, our country our very society depends on it.