Men To Fathers

“If you don’t tell them, they don’t know, and if you don’t listen, you’ll never know what they are thinking,” is our comment for the day.

It’s not easy to be a child today.  They’re bombarded with all kinds of choices, media, options, and techniques of how to succeed, where to go, why to go there and what will happen if you don’t.  Roles have shifted and in today’s society kids are accosted by rewards they don’t earn, accolades they don’t understand, and teachers who are flummoxed because of all the barriers society places in front of them.

When asked why you want a job, most kids say to buy things.  They’re not taught jobs are a means to an end that go far beyond buying things.  Many young people want IPODs, IPADs or IPHONES.  They get a job to buy one and then quit.  Many realize with the exception of the IPHONES they have completed the process.  They own access.  With the IPHONES, if they can buy it, many parents take up the responsibility of paying for the convenience, the fad, or ‘being like their friends.’ There is little teaching in this process, and rather than understanding the virtue of teaching the responsibility off paying their own way, we acquiesce to a common flaw—we want to be liked.  Why make them pay for something they have not earned? Would our parents have done that?  As parents we sometime forget we are who we are because of our parents, and granted our parents weren’t perfect, but you are where you are because of who your parents were as much as in spite of your parents.  Never forget that.

Today many young men don’t know how to be men because many women have taken that from us.  Go to any meeting today and how many women do you see wearing pants.  Take that one step further…how many of these same meetings do you go to and see men in dresses.  A simple observation but fill of the meritocracy we claim to have become.  If women thrust themselves into roles that previously were occupied by men, then what are the men to do?  What many men are doing in response is not showing up.  When a woman considers my opening a door for her as a sign of disrespect, I should realize and tell my sons the same, that’s her issue not mine.  But fewer and fewer men are opening doors, and fewer and fewer women are expecting that.  Roles have changed.

Being rewarded for showing up isn’t what it’s all about either.  If you have a job and don’t show up, you get fired.  That’s a given.  But if you are the father of a child and you don’t do what you are supposed to do, something more devastating than getting fired happens.  That child grow up with a view of his dad that will take a generation to erase, even longer if it’s been a cycle where many women don’t want the fathers in their children lives anyway even though statistics show that of the men in prison,  85% of youth in jail & 71% of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes.  When an absent father is accorded this moniker, it’s important to know who gave it, why, and if it’s true.  Many fathers can’t be there because momma won’t let them.  That’s a shame, and these fathers need to fight for the right to keep their children from being a statistic.

Our education is ridden with barriers that are intimidating to teachers.  When you have a child who wants to learn, you find a way.  When you have an idea whose time has come, you find a way.  When you look at the education system as one that is flawed, you need to examine are you part of the solution or not?  During the ‘separate but equal’ era, teachers fought against the odds.  Student like me received some of the best education out there because teachers found a way.  Students like me achieved success because teachers fought for an education that was hard from them to get and they wanted us to be sure we knew education and keeping your ‘eye on the prize’ was important.  Ask kids today, not if they are going to college but rather the question should be ‘what college are you going?’  Having low expectations gets you exactly that…low expectations.  Remember, it’s not easy being a child, but it’s going to be even harder being an adult if we don’t prepare them.

Recently I had a heart-to-heart talk with both our sons.  My younger son needed to understand the concept of apologizing.  I told him it went beyond just saying ‘you’re sorry.’ He wanted to argue.  He wanted to tell me what he knew.  He wanted me to shut up.  As my voice began to rise I told him he needed to listen.  I explained that if he kept doing the same thing he told me he was sorry for, he was clueless.  I told him if he made the same play each time on a video game that got him killed, he’d always get killed and until he listened or paid attention, nothing would change.  Waiting to be told to do the same thing you knew you were responsible to do, like chores, and being sorry each time you were reminded didn’t indicate anything was learned, and if he didn’t MAN up and learn something, he’d be punished.

My older son’s conversation was a bit more adult.  He was dissed at his job for being insignificant–he didn’t matter.  Rather than listen to this crap, he quit.  I asked him who did he think that helped?  My adult conversation castigated him on when you do things that affect people other than yourself in a ‘bad’ way, call someone first before being stupid. Words can only hurt if you let them.  Eleanor Roosevelt tells us that “no one can make you feel inferior except yourself.”

I’m not sure if these conversations registered and they may not resonate for a few days, but the important thing is have them, listen, and remember, as parents, particularly fathers, ours is to provide as well as protect, and teaching is a large part of that.  Keeping the truth from them, making it easy for them only makes it harder later. It’s never too late to say sorry, but it’s always too early to quit, particularly teaching boys to become men.

“That’s where the confusion comes in. Most of them have not left God. They’ve simply left a church that distorts teachings interpreted by men based on some anachronistic fear of being wrong.”

Father Max [p. 38]

from “Murder Behind Closed Doors” by Jere Myles

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