Once upon a time, the main lesson a father taught his sons was how to treat a lady. This in turn would become training on how to raise a daughter who would in turn become the object of desire for a trained gentlemen, and thus the cycle would continue and lead us to stronger and stronger families and great identities as individuals. Somewhere, though, this beautiful cycle was broken and replaced with single mothers doing their absolute best to raise sons, let alone gentlemen, and absentee fathers who had no real influence over their daughters who, in turn, became the objects of desire of, shall we say, those with less than gentlemanly upbringings. We are currently knee-deep in the latter, but I believe we aren’t that far gone, where we can’t collectively contribute to reviving the former.
You see I believe that our situations are only a snapshot. I can’t go back and undo issues from my first marriage. All I can do now is try my hardest to instill certain lessons in my son today. Starting right now. Sometimes it’s just questions to be asked and planting the seeds. Sometimes it’s just doing it. Showing through more actions and less words. One thing I know for sure is that young people are always watching. By at least a 10 to 1 ratio they are watching much more than listening. Especially if you aren’t speaking their language to begin with. So what are some practical things that fathers can do today, right now to reopen the doors to the gentlemen factory? We can start to stem the tide and stop the pure ignoramuses we see flooding our airways, timelines, and unfortunately, in some cases, funeral parlors.
1. Just show up.
One of the most vivid and beautiful memories about my own father, and of course it’s even more clear now that he’s passed from this world, is not how one day we were walking down a wooded path and he sat me on his knee and told me how proud of me he was or how much he loved me. It wasn’t one day at the carnival in the middle of summer where he bought me an ice cream cone then told me a story. Nope. As touching as those scenes are that many fathers and sons may actually share, that isn’t my recollection. My memory is one a bit more practical and potentially attainable for all those fathers out there who are just like me. The memory is this: every home and away varsity basketball game I played in during my high school career, my dad was there. In the stands, every time. When I played well he cheered. When I played so-so, at halftime he’d tell me to snap out of it. Too many jumpers, “go to the basket!” he’d shout. But most importantly he was there. Two weeks ago I somewhat scolded (gently) my son for not inviting me to more of his programs. He spends most of the time with his mother 45 minutes away. But when I got the call with him on the other end inviting me to his belt test for Taekwondo, I told myself that there was no way I was going to miss it, and I didn’t. The entire test took far less time that it took in total commute, but the look on his face was priceless. So now, hopefully, he will be more inclined to invite me to more things, more memories are created, and a positive cycle can ensue. It’s moments like that when bonds are built. So when life decisions have to be made, our children, especially our sons, don’t hesitate to consult us. Then the conversation can turn to more guidance on how to behave and carry yourself in certain situations; how to get along and how to represent yourself. Will you be able to make every event? Probably not. My father was an entrepreneur so he had a bit more flexibility than most, but we can all probably do a little more. And it starts simply with showing up.