Welcome to Week 2 of our Raising Boys series. If you’d like to read previous posts, you can catch up at Raising Boys!
Do you ever really think deeply about a dad’s role, and his impact in his son’s life?
Why, and HOW, exactly are dads important to sons? If you had to give a specific answer, could you? I read a book a few years back that answered these questions beautifully and deeply, and SPECIFICALLY.
Last week, I mentioned how the male species were once so completely foreign to me! I grew up with one sister, and only knew of boys from my one cousin, so getting married and then, later on, having sons, really was an eye opener for me! One of the most eye opening books on boys and men I have read (and perhaps ever will read) is Wild At Heart, by John Eldredge.
In his book, he believes that the question in every man’s heart is:
Am I really a man? Have I got what it takes…when it counts?
Raising Boys: The Power of Affirmation
In Wild At Heart, John told the story of climbing one day with his two sons. He watched as his first son, Sam, went up the rock face; calling out pointers as he went and helping him see spots that Sam couldn’t. At one point, Sam came to an overhang, and battled to climb over it, getting more and more scared until he began to cry. John suggested that he come down, that they find another place to climb, somewhere funner, but Sam refused, saying he wanted to do it. So with a bit of a boost, he got over the overhang and kept climbing, all the way being verbally supported and affirmed by his dad. At one point, John said,’way to go, Sam, you’re a wild man!’ Sam made it to the top, and then took a while coming down the back of the rock. John began to set up his other son to begin climbing, and when he’d started, Sam came up to his dad and quietly asked,‘Dad, did you really think I was a wild man up there?’
John comments on this sweet vulnerable question his son asked of him:
Miss that moment and you’ll miss a boy’s heart forever. It’s not a question – it’s THE question, the one every boy and man is longing to ask. Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Until a man KNOWS he’s a man he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at the same time shrink from anything that might reveal he is not.
Of all the affirming, supportive comments his dad said to Sam as he was climbing, the one that stuck most was that of his dad calling him a ‘wild man’. He didn’t want to know if his dad thought he was a sweet kid, or a great climber. Something inside him loved his dad calling him a ‘wild man’; it made him feel that his dad was speaking of his strength, his capacity.
Do you recognize this in your son?
Boys long for these moments where this question in their hearts is answered by their dad. The discernment of dads is so powerful here – first realising the question that every boy asks, and then being sensitive in answering that question in an affirming way, whenever a situation arises to answer it – to send his son the message: ‘YES, you DO have what it takes when it counts, you ARE strong enough, you HAVE WHAT IT TAKES!’
Mom: Alien; Dad: Rockstar!
I read a comment once, that made me smile because it’s so true, regarding a boy’s move away from his mom and towards his dad:
From around eighteen months, moms will begin, more and more, to see the back of their little boy’s heads.
It’s true; they move from adoring mom to noticing, and then adoring, dad, it’s sad not to be adored in the same way, but it’s an important transition! One that, if we understand, we can support and not take personally.
Boys at this age seem to have a radar that seeks dad out; an invisible pull towards him. Dad coming home is celebratory, dad leaving is cry-worthy and any chance to get to be near, or on, dad is taken. My son, at four years of age, wakes his daddy up each morning with a running jump and wrestle 🙂 And sometimes, he’ll walk into a room, look at me vaguely and ask ‘where’s dad?’ Like I said..alien!
So how do I keep my son safe but let him grow?!
Never.Take.Your.Hands.Off.The.Wheel! – I heard this analogy and love it: we can view our sons as cars which we are steering at high speed on a freeway; to keep them from harming themselves we can’t take our hands off the wheel, not even for a moment. We need to keep them driving straight, correcting course every now and then slightly, not leave them alone to crash into the left or right barricade.
This week, my son wrestled with a friend slightly older and bigger than him. Dads from both sides were watching, rooting for their son. It was spontaneous and light and fun. My son got hurt at one point and looked about to cry, and we tried to end the fun fight, but he waved us off and insisted on going back to try again. Recognizing the opportunity to prove something to himself and try again, we left them to it and he had a much better ’round’ of preschool wrestling 🙂 We could have easily pulled them apart as the smaller child got hurt, but we saw him watching dad for validation and affirmation, and knew something important was happening in his heart. And later that night, he spoke of the fight again in a proud way. We don’t know what words (if any) he held onto from his daddy, but many were spoken, and all of them answered his heart’s question well!
Giving your husband a copy of Wild At Heart is a great place to start! Chances are, dad will start reading it and not be able to put it down. It is, after all, about HIS heart. It’ll speak right to him! My hubby, who hardly ever reads, read it from cover to cover. True story! 🙂
It’s a great eye-opener to the male heart, and we know we need all the help we can get understanding the male species, right? 😉 If he is hesitant to read it, then once you’ve read it, you can read aloud certain parts/ chapters. Or talk about it over dishes.. ‘you know, that book I’m reading tells this story of…what do you think? Is that how you feel too?’
Sometimes it’s easier to listen to an audio version than it is to sit for hours and read a book. You can buy the audio book of Wild At Heart at ChristianAudio.com
Prioritize ‘Boy Time’
After reading this book, my son AND my husband both ‘decoded’ before my eyes; it was like I suddenly had 3D ‘Male Species Demystified’ glasses on! Once you and your spouse are on the ‘same page’ and have read the book, a positive step forward would be to prioritize dates where the boys in the house get out alone; where they can do activities, go on outings and play sports that give sons opportunities to push and test themselves, and dad the opportunities to let his son(s) know that they have what it takes, that they are strong enough – to answer that question. It’s so important that they hear what dad thinks of them, that he gives them a measure of their ability, verbally.
Go with the flow…of Testosterone
It’s inbuilt in every boy – that powerful, noisy, super active ‘stimulant’. My son isn’t trying to bug me, or drive me insane (although it really may feel like it some days) when every morning’s initially calm playtime turns into a very loud whirlwind through the playroom; plastic blocks become bombs on unsuspecting lego houses, plastic chairs become bulldozers in a street of army men. It’s noisy, very noisy! And it’s normal (I keep reminding myself). It’s called testosterone, and he is happiest reveling in it. Some days I would give a lot to have some peace in the house, and I have to remind myself that boys have this in them, that they aren’t SUPPOSED to be still and calm and quiet ALL day. So I try to embrace it and keep it happening, but safe 🙂
Our shopping list until December includes items that may just lighten his tazmanian devil speed around my house, and at the same time increase my stress a hundred fold: bodyboard, skateboard, rollerblades, trampoline, climbing wall. Bigger house with huge yard. We have our medical insurance ready. Let’s hope we won’t have to use it much!
I like James Dobson’s phrase in his book ‘Bringing up Boys‘:
..for parents whose family includes one or more boys, the greatest challenge may be just keeping them alive through childhood and adolescence.
Up for a challenge, dad?
If you and your spouse take the initiative, read the book, and find you relate to it’s message – that every boy (and man!) has a burning question inside asking ‘Am I strong enough? Do I have what it takes?!’ then I’d challenge you to spend a lot more intentional time with your son. It takes energy, and most likely a change in weekly routine, maybe even personal hobbies. But it’s so worth it. Create activities that allow opportunities for your son to test his strength, his endurance and his limits, listen for him asking THE question, and ANSWER. This answer, coming especially from dad, will powerfully mould a soft hearted boy into a man some day – hurt or whole. Your NOT answering that question for him, or being ‘passive’ in his life, can have devastating consequences emotionally for him later on in life, with him filling in all sorts of lies and misconceptions about himself. Speak wisely!
<< Last week: The Keys of Connecting with your Son as He Grows
>> Next Week: How to Sweep the Mom Guilt Out of Your Life
Recommended reading as mentioned in the Raising Boys Series.
- Bringing Up Boys
- Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different – and How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men
- Bringing Up Boys ~ Parent Workbook
- The 5 Love Languages of Children
- Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul
- Your Brain on Childhood: The Unexpected Side Effects of Classrooms, Ballparks, Family Rooms, and the Minivan
- Boundaries with Kids: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Children
- Building Confidence in Your Child
- Parenting Isn’t for Cowards: The ‘You Can Do It’ Guide for Hassled Parents from America’s Best-Loved Family Advocate
- The Power of a Praying® Parent (Power of Praying)