Well, son, I don’t have a penis but…

Welcome to Annie’s first entry. I am sure that it isn’t nearly so exciting for you, dear Reader, as it is for me, a bona fide blog virgin.  (Well, until now.)

A couple of nights ago my eleven-year-old son said that while his older sister is great with helping him to learn how to be a teen, “She can’t teach me how to be a guy…and before you even say it, neither can you, Mom.”

Excuse me?

Well, I’ve been chewing on that one and tonight I stand ready to make my case as to why I most certainly can teach the boy some things about ‘guyhood.’

“What do you want to know?” a male in his life asked when the topic arose. (The boy was crimson and cringing at that point—bad Mommy, for having brought it up.)

“Look, all you need to know is to respect your mother—respect women,” the fellow said. (My boy’s eyes rolled.)

Mom & son

Hiking out after three days in the backcountry

But really, isn’t there more to it? In my experience with relationships (I’ve kissed a few toads), the men I have most admired, those who consistently “man-up,” those who have had the greatest emotional depth and sensitivity—their childhoods were prominently defined by women—mothers, sisters, grandmothers, often in the absence for one reason or another—of men.  Of the real jerks, I’d say just the opposite. (For once, my ex is the exception.)

Perhaps what it comes down to is a difference between what I want my son to be and what he wants to be himself.  Perhaps he wants to be a man’s man through and through.  With emasculated men the butt of ads for products pitched at men from manly cars to manly soap (Dove, really?)—it’s no wonder he—like a lot of adult men—is having trouble distilling what it is to be modern and masculine.  Is putting the seat down emasculating? Does consideration for the women in a guy’s life reduce him to a pantywaist? Isn’t masculinity assaulted on every front? Just have a look at Samantha Bee on The Daily Show.

I do the mothering and the fathering, all the dad stuff:  the camping, hiking and boating; the sporting events and chess playing—I’m there.  But I can’t teach my boys how to relate to jerks, nor how to be jerks, not any more than a quality dad could or would. I can’t treat them how to mistreat women or one another, not any more than any good dad.

(Wish me luck, I’ll let you know how it went tomorrow.)

Next:  I’m just not a guy.  Damn.

1 comment to Well, son, I don’t have a penis but…

  • TomHunter

    When I was 16 years old, and my own father had already been gone for eight years–though he did take me out regularly for movies with his second wife–my older brother Ron, who is about four years older than me, looked over at me. We were stopped at a traffic light at 90th and Dodge Street in Omaha.

    "You know, Tom, I don't think any of us boys are at all like Dad," he said. "None of us want to go out and conquer the world." Our father, though a country boy from Kingsley, Iowa at heart, had led a team from Nebraska that defeated Harvard to win the National Moot Court for 1956. National Champions. He was able to do all those things because, of course, my mother was working and put him through law school.

    "Ron, I'm going to have to disagree with you there," I actually said to Ron, leaving him speechless. "I'm like Dad."

    Being a man means you have goals that you pursue, goals that take years or decades to achieve, and you don't need to talk about them to anybody. But you have goals. You know that a life is short and that you will be happier in the second half of it if you have been working toward some goal in the first half of your life.

    Being a man means that you never ride in the wagon. Never. Riding in the wagon means allowing someone else to carry your weight. A man works hard so that the people he loves can laugh and feel safe and not know what it takes to keep them that way.

    Some of these things when taken to extremes can become unhealthy. If you work to become rich and ignore your own kids someday… why bother?

    A real man falls in love with a woman. One at a time.

    Being a man means that you know the only thing you need to know about relationships. It's the Golden Rule of Relationships. If there is some woman you love, then you should live by this rule: 'she wants to be with a man who makes her feel good about herself'. Not someone who makes her feel 'happy' because happiness can be counterfeited. The test is if your behavior, son, makes her feel good about herself. If that test fails for any reason, you're breaking the rule.

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