Dads, What We Hope You Teach Your Sons…
“We did role plays in Health today, and they were hilarious, ” Carson shared at dinner.
“Aren’t you studying Sex Ed in Health?”
“WHAT!?!?! WHAT KIND OF ROLE PLAY DO YOU DO IN SEX ED?!?!?!”
She nonchalantly recounted the content while my eyes bugged out of my very head. These conversational role plays that still freaked me out.
“Well, we may homeschool Sex Ed.”
“You can’t do that!”
“Of course I can.”
“Mom, I know you’re not a fan but think about Thomas, whose parents will never teach him anything about sex.”
“Well, I have a teaching degree; I’ll volunteer to teach it.”
“Yeah, and I have a lot of experience having sex, so I’ll volunteer too! ” Chris pipes in.
Both girls scream, throw their hands over their ears, and run from the table.
I am a girl out of season.
Chris is a girl daddy.
I mama women-children.
We know girls.
Dads, one day your sons may be part of our family. We think of you often and hope things are going swimmingly on your end.
We want you to know we are giving it our concerted effort to teach our girls compassion and adventure and purity and boldness. Courage and love, responsibility and grace.
We teach them about the College Football Playoff Selection Committee (highlighting Condoleezza Rice’s participation, of course) and watch as a family as the top teams are announced each week during the season. Our girls can drive a boat, mow the grass, protect the seasoning on a cast iron frying pan, and bake a chocolate chip cookie just shy of done.
We teach them about sex and finances and injustice and hard work. We encourage their voice and questions, and we don’t airbrush our marriage to make reality more palatable. They know we squeaked through our hardest season, that we went to counseling, that I took “stable pills” (an anti-depressant) for a while (and they were glad for it, mind you!).
Most of all we’re pretty crazy about a well-known carpenter, and we hope they notice him building a messy masterpiece of our lives. And they allow him to do the same in theirs.
We’re trying, man. We know she may sit at your table for Thanksgiving dinner, and – if so – we want her to be a permanent fixture there, to be a rich blessing to your family.
If we were allowed to whisper into your ear during this formative time, we’d champion these ideals…
- Talk real talk about hard stuff. About failure. Your failures. Your struggles. The pressures of being the provider. The weight of being the leader. The ubiquitous measuring-stick that always asks, “Do I have what it takes?” Talk to him about man things. And share how you navigate those difficulties. He needs you to be a guide in his life, not a superhero in his mind.
- Overtly teach him that sex is for marriage and worth the wait. Not because it’s a conservative mainstay or because it’s the responsible thing to say. But because you believe it. This is no hollow assertion based on a fairytale ideal. My past sexual indiscretions have borne lasting consequences in my marriage – emotional, mental, relational. That’s just how the thing works. Casual sex is not a rite of passage; it’s an expensive withdrawal from the marriage bed, and when we accept (or worse, promote) the “Boys will be boys” platitude, we act as enemies of their future marriages. It’s not unmanly to wait; it’s the most noble gift a man can give his bride. We want that for our daughters.
- Be a man who values women. All women. Without ever articulating one word, you will teach your son 1) what you love, 2) what you think about women, 3) what you feel about marriage. If I could beg one thing of all men, it would be for you to take up the fight against the sexual abuse and exploitation of women. However, for the purposes of this conversation, I would just ask that you live the belief that EVERY woman and EVERY girl is valuable and to be respected. Sometimes the danger here is that your words and choices don’t match. Words that take the high road are proven fraudulent by choices that exploit and denigrate. And – as a bonus – if you want to insist he open doors and pull out chairs and give up his seat to a woman on a crowded subway, I won’t be mad about it. I’ll worry about making him an activist later… 🙂
- Make him a lifelong adventurer. Do dangerous dude things that are exhilarating and challenging. We believe the desire to burn stuff and blow things up and climb stuff and shoot stuff is innate to man-ness. As much a cord of his makeup as the network of vessels that keep him alive. Responsibility can gradually tug on slack in that strand and over time completely unravel his sense of adventure. We don’t want that for him. Boredom in marriage is dangerous, so let’s instill in our people a wonder and a courage and an appreciation for adventuring together.
- Demonstrate leadership as a posture not a position. A leader who believes his authority comes from his position as the leader is quite susceptible to tyranny. A leader who recognizes his position as an opportunity to serve and help and nurture and foster has influence over many glad followers.
- Be certain he knows what you love most. This is the easiest of them all. Without a doubt he will know the answer. If a third party were to ask, “What does your dad love most?” he will have a response. We hope his reply is about that well-known carpenter who’s so important to us…
Thank you for doing the good work of dadding. What a weight to steward……parenting today affects marriages tomorrow! We feel ya, man. Rock the next decade of your father business, and we look forward to fighting over grandchildren and family holidays one day down the road.
Or not so much.[ Images: Filter Collective, Gil, and Steve Simmonds]