Since my post last week (if you missed it it is in the archives for November) and after some conversations with single parents who are clearly frustrated, angry and very concerned about how to help their sons survive the transition from boyhood to manhood, I feel the need to clarify a point or two. First of all there are no magic bullets to employ that will make this parenting thing, especially for young men who are fatherless, any easier, less painful or less worrisome. His journey as a young man on his way to a state of manhood will be fraught with mistakes, poor decisions, terrible outcomes, regrets and pain. Unfortunately we, as their parents and care givers, will have a minimal say in most of what will happen next. It is part of their learning experience. Most of us are experiential learners meaning that we have to experience something before we can learn from it. Fortunately we are in a position where we can support and encourage the learning so that they understand what they need to do in order to have more of what they want. We can help divert some of the sadness, lonliness and depression of being or feeling alone on this special journey. It is a spiritual, physical, emotional and mental journey that all young men need to go through to become healthy, high functioning, loving, caring and productive members of society. So that’s the good news. The question that now remains is how do we survive his journey and how does he navigate the turbulent waters that lie ahead?
Last week I spoke about the importance of giving him our time–our undivided and unencumbered time. This week I want to touch on how vitally important it is that we do all we can to foster an environment for him to live in so that he feels as though he is an important part of the household; that he is valued and seen as important to the unit he is a part of; that he is not judged, seen or told that he is ‘stupid’ or will never amount to anything. Most important, however, is that he needs to know and to hear that he is loved and has a place at the ‘table’–that he is connected to the family. It is up to us as parents to create this environment without forgetting the other lessons we want all of our children to learn. Things like being compassionate, exhibiting manners and respect for others and who they are in the world. We need to model what we want him to learn and we do that by not accepting or tolerating bad behaviour and poor excuses for inappropriate decisions. His journey is also our journey. So the second point here is that this transition–this metamorphosis that takes place in his life moving from boyhood to manhood is a process and not an event. It will not happen overnight. It will take time and patience;love and dedication and it will take acceptance on our part. We can not make him do what we want or think he should do.
The last point to make here is this. Just as you would build a house, for instance, you do not start with trying to put the windows in before the walls are up. The same logic applies here. We cannot try to hurry the process along in order to limit our own discomfort or fear by skipping over certain elements that are necessary to the process. We need to go from ‘A’ then ‘B’ then ‘C’ and so on. Over the next few weeks I will add other elements to this process that are necessary to act upon in order to arrive at a place where trust can or has been established, that respect is received and given by all the folks involved and that our sons will be much more comfortable in their own skins with a more confident manner that reflects an understanding of who he is in the world, his importance and his place among other healthy and mature men.
That’s the way I see it anyway, Jim