by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today, we revisit the several aspects of Father’s Day, focusing on Boyhood. This is second year that we have brought you this series. It is a holiday that was proposed to be a companion of Mother’s Day. It has not received the same press as has Mother’s Day, probably because of the very close bond between mothers and their children.

We have included the post from last year and expanded it to include additional background information on the fatherhood and parenthood. We hope that as you read this and the subsequent posts that you will gain new and fond appreciations for our fathers. They have provided us with the support and love that has nurtured us through the good and bad times.

Let us renew our commitment to become the best fathers that we can be to our own children and not make the mistakes that may have been made by our own fathers. GLB

[ This is Part 3 of 7. ]

    

“My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.”
— Aldous Huxley

“My father was not a failure. After all, he was the father of a president of the United States.”
— Harry S. Truman

“Just talk to me as a father – not what the Constitution says. What do you feel?”
— Joe Biden

“Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father.”
— Gloria Steinem

“My father always used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, then you’ve had a great life.”
— Lee Iacocca

“This is a moment that I deeply wish my parents could have lived to share. My father would have enjoyed what you have so generously said of me-and my mother would have believed it.”
— Lyndon B. Johnson

“My father was a man of love. He always loved me to death. He worked hard in the fields, but my father never hit me. Never. I don’t ever remember a really cross, unkind word from my father.”
— Johnny Cash

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?”
— Sitting Bull

  

The Importance of Being a Good Father

About to become a first-time dad? Not sure of what to do with that little bundle of joy when you take it home from the hospital? The following is a reprint of a posting we wrote last year looking at this topic. Following that, we have included some thoughts of practical ways you can help your wife/mother and little baby when they join you at home after the birth. GLB

(The following overview of becoming a new father first appeared in this blog on Monday, June 15, 2009)

“My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, ‘You’re tearing up the grass.’ ‘We’re not raising grass,’ Dad would reply. ‘We’re raising boys.’ ”
— Harmon Killebrew (Professional Baseball Player)

JerryandJackunderfive1 Raising children is almost a full-time job FOR BOTH PARENTS! The constant issue in raising kids is this: Do we preserve our things (environment, house, etc.) or do we focus on the needs of our kids (including their exploration even though it may damage some of that environment)?

We must hand it to those single parents who cope with these trials alone and succeed. So, what is our task?

I think that the parents main task is to nurture child and help him/her to develop their own abilities, including those related to self-control. We have all had the experience of going into a restaurant for a peaceful dinner only to encounter an undisciplined child sitting at the next table or booth. The child cries, screams, throws tantrums in an effort to get attention and/or get his/her way. This is not only an American phenomenon, we encountered this on our journeys through England, especially on the trains. It is interesting that in Germany, where parents take their children out, are prepared with toys and give their children attention during the outing; we didn’t see disruptive behavior of children in public there.

So what are we to do? We, as parents and especially we men as fathers, need to learn to identify our children’s needs. By attending to their being tired, hungry, and/or in need of activity, will start to provide appropriate responses to our children. This may, as in the case of the quote above, involve the temporary destruction of some things around us; grass can be replaced or regrown, but a love, confidence, feelings of belonging are not as easily replaced after being ‘damaged’ by neglect or abuse. Let us men, as fathers, take on the responsibility of providing that nurturing environment for our children, of loving them, of providing them with all the reasonable opportunities in life that will enable them to grow up into reasonably happy and functional adults.

Jack and Anya in rockerLet’s not try to live out the childhoods that we did not have or pass the abuse from our own parents onto our kids. They are precious and deserve to become beautiful human beings. And, just maybe, they will treat us in the same way when roles become reversed in our elder years!

May we all have the privilege of hearing:

“Dad, you’re someone to look up to no matter how tall I’ve grown”
— Author Unknown

The Nature of Growing Up a “Boy”

NICARAGUAN_FARMING_BOY A boy is a young male human (usually child or adolescent), as contrasted to its female counterpart, girl, or an adult male, a man.

The term "boy" is primarily used to indicate biological sex distinctions, cultural gender role distinctions or both. The latter most commonly applies to adult men, either considered in some way immature or inferior, in a position associated with aspects of boyhood, or even without such boyish connotation as age-indiscriminate synonym. The term can be joined with a variety of other words to form these gender-related labels as compound words.

Ongoing debates about the influences of nature versus nurture in shaping the behavior of girls and boys raises questions about whether the roles played by boys are mainly the result of inborn differences or of socialization. Images of boys in art, literature and popular culture often demonstrate assumptions about gender roles.

Scope of Boyhood

An adult male human is a man, but when age is not a crucial factor, both terms can be interchangeable, e.g., ‘boys and their toys’ applies equally to adults and young boys, just as ‘Are you mice or men?’ can also apply to young boys.

The age boundary is not clear cut, rather dependent on the context or even on individual circumstances. A young man who has not assumed (or has been denied) the traditional roles of a man might also be called a boy. It may feel uncomfortable to a young male upon being referred to as a "man" before he believes he has assumed these roles, such as having a career, a partner, a household of his own, fatherhood, etc, though the addition of a jocular modifier such as "young man" or "little man" might lessen the dissonance. Conversely, it may feel uncomfortable to a male to be called a "boy" if he believes he has assumed the traditional roles of a "man". In mother’s/mama’s boy, the word emphatically implies a male (minor or adult in years) who is too immature to be independent.

In some traditions boyhood is held to be exchanged for adult manhood, or at least approach it significantly, by certain -in se independent- acts assuming a role deemed to be typical for a "normal" man (though there are limits) as marriage, fathering offspring or military service. Various cultural and/or religious rites of passage serve, partially or specifically, to mark the transition to manhood.

There is often a number of traditional differences in attire between boys and adult men, which may even give rise to a metaphoric term such as broekvent in Dutch (i.e., a boy who has not yet "graduated" from shorts to trousers) and in what is socially accepted as appropriate behaviour, e.g., boys may be publicly seen naked in cultures where men are not.

In English, the words youth, teenager and adolescent may refer to either male or female. No gender-specific term exists for an intermediate stage between a boy and a man, except "young man", although the term puberty, for one who reached sexual reproductivity (or the legally assumed age, e.g. 14 for boys, often set lower for girls) without being a legal adult yet, stems from a Latin word for boys only, itself named after the accompanying male body hair, pubes, on face and genital region.

Many occasions occur when an adult male is commonly referred to as a boy. A person’s boyfriend or loverboy may be of any age; this even applies to a ‘working’ call-boy, toyboy (though usually younger than the client as youth is generally considered attractive). Reflecting the general aesthetic preference for youth, one says pretty boy (e.g. in the nickname of Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd, who committed his first bank robbery at age 30) or Adonis (name of a mythological youth) even when a male beauty is clearly of riper age. In terms (used pejoratively or neutrally) for homosexuals such as batty boy (alongside "batty man"; from "bottom") or "bum boy", age is not essential, but the connotation of immaturity can strengthen insulting use.

ScoutFun Boy scouts at summer camp
in the United States.

A man’s group of male friends etc. engaged in Male bonding are often called "the boys". It is most common to refer to men, irrespective of age or even in an adult age group, as boys in the context of a team (especially all-male), such as old boys for networking of adult men who attended the same school(s) as boys, or as professional colleagues, e.g. "the boys at the office, – police station etc." (often all adults). The members of a student fraternity can be called frat(ernity) boys, technically preferable to the pleonasm frat-bro(ther), and remain so for life as adults, after graduation.

In sports ‘the boys’ commonly refers to the teammates; e.g., UK football managers quite often refer to their players as "The boy so-and-so" and this usage is by no means restricted to the youngest players, though it is rarely applied to the most senior.

In US urban, particularly African American and Latino slang the term boy is used with a possessive as meaning friend (my boy, his boys), presumably as a reduction of homeboy, originally a male from the same area.

In some cases, a word using boy is used merely to designate the age of the (male) person, irrespective of the function, as in altar boy, a minor acting as liturgical acolyte, or in Boy Scouts, an organisation specifically for boys. Thus the compound -man can then be replaced by -boy, as in footboy; or boy is simply added, either as a prefix (e.g., in boy-racer) or as a suffix (e.g., in Teddy Boy).

An adult equivalent (with or without -man) is not to be expected when -boy designates an apprentice (for which some languages use a compound with the equivalent of boy, e.g. leerjongen ‘learning boy’ in Dutch) or lowest rank implying specific on the job training if promotion is to be obtained, as in kitchen-boy. Similarly schoolboy only applies to minors; the modern near-synonym pupil originally designated a minor in Roman law as being under a specific adult’s authority, as in loco parentis.

Expressions such as "boys will be boys" (i.e., a male always retains a tendency for boyish games or mischief) allude to stereotypically ascribed characteristics of boys and men; in the term tomboy, a woman’s (according to the counterpart-gender stereotype) uncharacteristically bold nature is even described solely by comparing her to a boy.

The use of boy (like kid) in (fantasy or descriptive) nick-names, also for adult men (e.g. Shark Boy for a wrestler with matching costume), may also connote to the informal or naughty image of boyhood.

In such terms as ‘city boy’ or ‘home boy’, the age notion is at most anachronistic, as they indicate any male who grew up (or by extension lived a long time) in a certain environment.

The Connection Between Father and Son

The HealthyPlace blog, in it’s article “The Connection Between Father and Son”, lists a number of characteristics that should help all fathers to establish a good connection with their sons (and daughters). It is included here for your convenience, but check out this posting as well as others at her web site listed in the “References” section below. GLB

The changing relationship between father and son and putting the father-son relationship in perspective as the years progress.

da-ara-bluefishconsultinga5 (ARA) – If you’re the father of a little boy, there’s a good chance that right now you are enjoying a very close connection with your son. He probably idolizes everything you do — dressing up in your clothes, imitating the way you read the paper or the way you stand when you talk. He tries to do everything you do and works hard to make sure he has your attention and your approval. You can see in your little boy’s eyes that he is utterly convinced that you are without a doubt the ultimate man in the world.

And if you are a dad whose son has gotten a bit older, you can stop for a moment and smile when you recollect those special days with your young son. As time goes by, though, your son gets older and your relationship changes. When your son begins to develop into a young man, both of you face challenges that mean working a little bit harder to maintain your bond. The relationship you develop now will set the course for a lifetime bond between you and your son.

Dr. James Longhurst, a licensed psychologist for Montcalm School, a residential treatment program for troubled and at-risk youth, says that in general, as boys become teens, they sometimes question or challenge all their previously held perceptions about their fathers.

“This happens,” he says, “as they are trying to become individuals and to learn how to ‘be their own man.’ In this part of their lives, teen boys often reject their father’s values.”

Dr. Longhurst says that fathers need to realize that when their boy begins to become a young man, you as a father, need to be sure to keep things in balance. “Dads need to realize that they can never be as good, and all knowing as your young son thinks you are. Likewise, they are never as bad, or as stupid, as their teenage sons may say they are.”

When the father-son relationship is intense, Dr. Longhurst explains that it can be a key time for fathers to use crisis as opportunity, exploring their relationship with their son and working through the conflict to bring the relationship closer.

Sean, a student who recently graduated from Montcalm School and is looking forward to his first summer job, says that when he came to the program, he and his father had a very tense relationship that was, in some ways, at the heart of his troubles. Sean’s parents were divorced and his father, a recovering alcoholic, was changing his lifestyle and becoming a different person. That wasn’t easy for Sean. “I didn’t like my dad before when he was drinking, but I didn’t like him later when he started changing the way he lived his life. I had a lot of resentment because of my dad’s trouble with alcohol when I was young, but when he changed his life and became sober, I wasn’t ready for that either.”

Sean believes that before he and his father sought help through Montcalm School, the relationship was difficult for both of them. “It felt kind of superficial. We didn’t really spend any quality time together. Our relationship was pretty much going down the tubes. I stopped going to his house and I think I now know he didn’t treat me as bad as I did him.”

During his time at Montcalm School, Sean and his father had numerous conferences, facilitated by staff working for the program. They laid the cards out on the table, and Sean and his father realized, that they both wanted the same things from their relationship.

“It’s kind of like we came to realize, Hey, you’re my dad and I’m your son,” Sean says. “Why are we doing this? He apologized for the mistakes he’d made in the past, as did I, and we built a relationship based on trust. Today we’re open and honest with each other and issues don’t get swept under the rug.”

Tips for Dads and Sons (from Dr. Jim Longhurst and Montcalm School Director John Weed): – When the chance arrives, try to use crisis as opportunity to bring father and son closer together.

  • Avoid being counter-aggressive. Your son may have irrational beliefs that he will try to bring into a conflict.
  • Try to understand the world through your son’s eyes. What makes them interpret what you say in the way that they do?
  • What is the real issue? What is the real problem? Is it really the messy bedroom? Or is it something more, something else that happened? If you’re in a cycle, repeating the same old argument, what ever you’re talking about isn’t the real issue because it isn’t getting resolved.
  • (and from Sean, a graduate of Montcalm School, to teenage sons): “Be as open minded as possible. Family is always forever and your dad is always your dad. What I did was let him speak and then made sure he heard me out too.”

 

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Boy… 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy

HealthyPlace: The Connection Between Father and Son… 
http://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/dads/connection-between-father-and-son/menu-id-61/

Brainy Quote: Father Quotes…
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/father_3.html