Life Lessons Between Fathers and Sons
As parents, our #1 job is to help our children become healthy, happy adults who make positive contributions to their communities. To that end, all parents should teach their children about those behaviors and character traits that are most strongly associated with health, happiness, and positive community contributions. In addition to these gender-neutral life lessons passed from parent to child, fathers have some unique lessons to teach their sons. The most important of these are as follows.
- 1. What is “a man”? What does he look and act like? Can he wear a pink Oxford shirt? Is a tattoo macho or disfiguring? Can he admit being flawed or wrong without damaging his sense of status? Does he lose face if he cries?
- 2. What can he expect of a man’s body? What are the boundaries regarding his body? What is an erection? How should a coming-of-age young man handle an unexpected and ill-timed erection? Is masturbation shameful or acceptable? Is the passing of gas to be done publicly and with humor or privately and without fanfare? What are the privacy boundaries regarding bodies and their functions?
- 3. What is a man’s role in the world? Is being a “househusband” an acceptable role for a husband/father? Or is being a breadwinner his exclusive role? Is he the head of his household or a peer-level partner with his wife?
- 4. What should a man expect of a woman (i.e., her role in the world and in his life)? Is she necessarily domestic? Is she necessarily employed outside the home? Or a degreed professional? Is she a decision-maker? Is reproduction assumed?
- 5. What should a man expect of his world? Does it owe him a living? Is life reasonable and fair?
- 6. What “handyman” skills and knowledge are useful among both single and married men? How do you change a flat tire on a vehicle? How do you mow the lawn? Where do you place your hand on a hammer handle when you are preparing to hammer a nail?
- 7. What sports knowledge is necessary for either entertainment or social savvy? Does he need to know and love football? Or does he just need to know the difference between a homerun (baseball) and a touchdown (football) in order to engage in social pleasantries with other men?
Life lessons passed from fathers to sons should set the stage for the sons’ ability to conceptualize what their gender means to them and how they relate to their world and others in it. Fathers have a unique and awesome responsibility to craft a new generation of man.