Teaching boys to be men
June 16, 2017
by Ivan Raconteur

With Fathers Day approaching this weekend, I have been thinking about my dad, and fathers in general.

It’s been more than 30 years since my dad cashed in his chips back in 1984, which means he has been gone more years than he was around during my lifetime.

He seemed rather old at the time, but he was just 57, which doesn’t seem old to me at all now. Time has a way of changing our perspective on these things.

I think it’s fair to say my father had a somewhat more serious and sober disposition than I do (which frankly is not especially difficult), but looking back through the lens of time, I understand him more than I did when he was alive.

He had a lot of responsibility in his life. He had a family to take care of, including me and my four siblings.

His responsibility started much earlier than that, however. His father also died at a relatively young age, and his mother suffered a debilitating stroke soon afterwards, so his plans changed suddenly when he was a young man, and he returned to his hometown to help take care of the family.

Born in 1927, Dad grew up during the Depression, in a large family. Like so many families during that period, they went through hard times and knew very well what it was like to do without.

We weren’t exactly rolling in the dough when I was young, but we were comfortable, and I never thought of us as poor.

Mine must have been a lavish childhood compared to what my dad experienced, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

I understand now that my early years were carefree because Dad took on the responsibility to shield us from the hardships he went through. If he seemed a bit serious, I guess that’s understandable.

This doesn’t mean he didn’t have a sense of humor.

There were plenty of things that amused him, and he sometimes unleashed a wonderful broad smile, especially when talking to his friends.

He was a big man, 6 feet 3 inches tall, and had a deep bass voice which he put to good use in the back row of the church choir.

Dad had a way of maintaining eye contact and talking to people as if they were the only other person in the world. I can only imagine what he would make of the current trend of people in social situations ignoring one another and staring at their phones. I’m confident he would have plenty to say about that, and none of it would be complimentary.

My dad died when I had just turned 20, about the age I realized not only did I not have all the answers, but I hadn’t even figured out the questions yet.

There are a lot of things I wish I could have asked him, but I realize now I started learning from him the moment I clocked in.

Guys, in particular, learn a lot from their fathers, and much of what they learn comes not from direct lessons but from observation.

Fathers, and men in general, are confused a lot of the time. We don’t have it all figured out (as the women in our lives frequently remind us), and we tend to muddle our way through things.

Fathers are held to a higher standard, though, because good or bad, their sons are watching them and learning by example.

Fathers teach their sons the important things early on – not necessarily how to handle specific situations, but how to behave in general.

Fathers teach us to respect ourselves and others.

I think the absence of this kind of teaching is responsible for a lot of the problems we see today.

When I read or hear about young men who behave in a way that shows they have no respect for others, especially women, or who treat women as if they were property and not people, I can’t help wondering if those young men lacked a good male role model when they were boys.

It makes me smile sometimes, looking back through the mists of time. I can still hear my father’s voice reminding me not to interrupt, to hold doors for people, stand up straight, speak clearly, and demonstrate good manners at all times.

Clearly, a lot of people did not get those messages when they were growing up.

In parts of society in which there are a lot of absentee fathers, I think there can be a cycle of young men not learning important lessons, which means their sons don’t learn those lessons, either.

I’m not suggesting single mothers can’t be good parents, but there are some things boys just learn better by observing good male role models.

My hat is off to all the guys out there who are leading by example and stepping up to help boys become men – even gentlemen, which is by no means automatic.

Guys may frequently be confused, but those who work at being good leaders probably get it right more often than not, and they are doing their part to prepare the next generation of boys grow up to be the kind of fathers we can honor on Father’s Day and throughout the year.

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