Bringing up Men in an age of sissies.
I've a good friend (let's call him Red) who has married a good woman, with two boys. At ages 12 and 9, they're decent kids, but they've been reared for the previous several years by their mother, alone, and before that, with an ufortunate man. Red's new bride is delighted to see the boys now have a positive male role model, and my buddy Red is more than happy to step in and provide them direction in that role.
Long before Red proposed to her, he began helping the boys. After they got married, he began working in earnest to show them how to grow up to be Men. There are little things, like how to shake hands like a man, and how to wear clothing. Then there were bigger issues, like not coming inside and just sitting on the couch to watch television all day long, simply because it's hot outside. (It's Texas. You can expect triple digit temperatures in the summertime. Drink lots of water, and get back to playing outdoors.)
The younger boy has shown an uncommonly strong love of WebKinz. Okay, says Red. Fine. But try not to be silly about it-- boys at some point shouldn't carry around dolls. And when that doll is a wolf, a boy traditionally names it "Fang," or "Spike," or "Timber"-- not "Jenny." Red isn't trying to impede the boy's creativity, but he does insist that the doll get left home in the boy's room when they're out and about town.
Wailing and gnashing of teeth were observed.
Looks like Red has his work cut out for him.
The other day, Red reported to me that his boys were coming in the house, whining about what to put on an ant bite that each had sustained. He was incredulous. "You could rub some dirt on it," he answered. "If that doesn't work, maybe we could find you some cream for it, from your Mother's bathroom!"
Red isn't intolerant. If the boys grow up to actually be gay, he's fine with that. But he will be DAMNED if he will let them grow up to be wussies.
We have discussed how the world has changed since we were kids. Nowadays, boys are taught that there is zero tolerance for violence, so that even throwing a punch back at someone who has punched them in the face is grounds for expulsion. Boys are taught to cry more readily, and come seeking the ready attention of their mothers, rather than learning to deal with adversity themselves. Red's wife is a very, VERY good mother. She gives her boys lots of mothering. The problem is, they've been receiving double doses of mothering, without much fathering, in the past. Red is trying to overcome that. He figures that he doesn't have much time.
The good news is, the boys have taken to him like a duck to water. They will literally follow him around, doing work with him. They learn lessons from him about telling the truth (this has been an issue with them), treating their mother and other women with respect (also an issue), and speaking plainly. Of course these aren't exclusively the providence of men, but some lessons seem to take better to boys, when taught them by a grown man whom they respect, and who walks the walk. Talk is cheap.
I reckon that Red is just doing what's right, and no more. But because so few seem to do just that, it makes him stand out some. I'm proud to call him my friend.
We've been talking about culturally manly things to do. He takes them fishing, and they do the sports thing. I mentioned that he needs to watch some John Wayne movies with them. Maybe The Cowboys, and The Searchers, and The Sons Of Katie Elder. I like The Wind And The Lion, partially because it's actually a movie about men, rather than just cultures.
Any other ideas I can pass on? Favorite books? Important activities?
I myself was fortunate to have been reared with a definitive positive male role model.