I suppose this year has just been one of those times of reflection. With our youngest son graduating from high school and getting ready to move away to college, our oldest son across the country in the Army and our daughter hitting the books in college, this year has really provided opportunities to reflect.
A look back at the last 20 years of fatherhood, 22 years of marriage, the ending of an Army career and getting closer to my 50th birthday has been wonderful, scary, and eye-opening.
I think that as I grow older and maybe a little wiser I tend to look at things a bit different and find myself looking for answers or solutions to some of the problems I see around me. I have no hope for our political issues and see no fix in the near future and so I am focusing my energy on that which I can have an impact on. The things, people, and places that I can touch and make a difference at and to.
One of the biggest problems that has been weighing on my mind lately is our young men. Not my sons, but a collective of our young men that we are in contact with. I try to understand them and learn as to what makes them tick. What motivates them? What gets them out of bed in the morning? What is it that they will contribute to our community?
In looking at them it dawned on me that we have some serious issues with them just becoming men.
We as a nation are not letting them grow up to be men. In Scouting we constantly talk about Character, but what about manliness? What makes them men?
In thinking on this I am trying to define what that means or looks like.
Rugged? Well, it does not have to mean that. Self reliant? That is a big issue. Courteous and Kind. Hard working. Providers, hunter gatherers.
My Dad showed me what it is to be a man. He showed me how to love his family, protect them and care for them. He taught me to be a provider and never to let them down. He showed me the value of working hard and being rewarded for hard work. He demonstrated to me determination and applying yourself to get what you want. He taught me how to compete and be a good sport. He showed me how to be a faithful husband and loving dad.
There are many traits of being a man who I think get lost when a young man does not have that man to show them. And then it was clear. We are missing men… Dad’s.
I grew up in a generation that won’t be labeled great or unique. My generation learned from parents that by and large stayed together. The guys I grew up with were pretty much the same. I grew up an Army Brat. Moved every three years and learned to make new friends annually. The guys I grew up with had Dad’s that went away to Vietnam. We were all about 1-year-old when our Dad’s went away and left us with Mom. Mom was still there when Dad got back. We were Army families. Everyone I knew had a Mom and a Dad. I did not know divorced people. It was not till I became a Cubmaster that I was introduced to my first single parent. That was 15 years ago. This revelation was mind numbing for me. It was something that I did not understand. Parents are just supposed to stay together. My parents are still together after 48 years, why can’t other people make that kind of commitment?
Marriage is disposable these days and it is criminal to me. I do not believe in “irreconcilable differences”. If you have problems, work them out. “For better or for worse” that was the promise I made 22 years ago and I intend to keep it. Our marriage has not been all peaches and cream, but neither is life. It takes work to make it work. It takes an altering of thinking to change the result. Our society needs to alter its thinking on the casual nature of marriage.
Being husband and wife is not a flavor of the month and when you introduce children to the equation it ramps the intensity of the commitment to another level.
This attitude of disposable relationships I feel is the single biggest issue in boys not becoming good men. As much as I value Mom’s, they can not be Dad’s.
Dad’s make men when they are engaged in their lives and serve their son’s as a teacher and mentor. Not a buddy, but a parent that teaches manliness.
A Dad that teaches his son to respect women. Teaches the value of family and the importance of keeping the family together. Passing on tradition and culture. Teaching that values drive Character and that you do what you value.
This is manliness and it is being missed on a generation that is growing up in a world that does not value hard work and reward. Where mediocre is ok and that government is more important than family. That there is always a safety net and that skills and education are not as important as learning systems. A world that punishes risk taking and praises just going along. A world that rewards the individual as long as everyone else is rewarded to.
We need to alter that thinking.
We need to reward achievement and hard work. We need to praise Dad’s that stick it out and raise good young men. We need to frown on the disintegration of marriage and the promises that come with committing oneself to another. We need to alter our thinking from an attitude of what’s in it for me to what is in it for us. We need to stop being selfish and think about someone else for a change. Think about those young men that will be rudderless men in the very near future if we do not alter our thinking.
In talking with my 20 year son on Sunday over the phone I could not help but listen to him as we talked about his life in the Army. The lessons he learned at home that are making him a success in life now.
Then sitting on the bed with my youngest son making plans to pack up his stuff to get ready to move to college. The knowledge that he will do well because of the solid foundation of values and skills he has to go and be a man.
Looking back over this last couple months taking a deep look at the past and then a glance to the future I am left with the satisfaction that my wife and I have done well. At the same time I fear for the future of the young men of our community and beyond. Unless we alter our thinking, we will set them up to fail.
We need to make them men.
What are you doing to make a difference?
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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