After reading yet another article about the things “that boys need” which contained zero substance and fighting frustration that that author was being linked, lauded and probably paid, I decided to write my own, possibly also nonsubstantive post about what I think boys need.
I don’t have a PhD in child development or behavior so consider myself supremely qualified to write such an authoritative piece.
1. An understanding and example of masculine spirituality. Outside of certain venues this is almost impossible to find in the United States. The last 40 years of devastation in the Church have resulted in, if not been driven by a demasculinization of the Faith. St James beheading the Moors- denounce it. Our Lord confronting and trouncing the money lenders in the Temple- ignore it. Cue in Altar girls. Female Eucharistic “ministers”. Girly, feel good music. All standards, rules and rubrics dismissed as “unpastoral”. Sometimes letting your sons see a movie with bad language is worthwhile when it exhibits masculine sacrifice and builds up the Faith. Gran Torino is a great movie that every young man (15 and above) should see. I won’t spoil it but it speaks to boys in a way that their mother’s preaching cannot.
2. Sacrifice in action by their father. Boys need to see their fathers work hard, and give up personal comforts for their family. My husband loves to gives the last piece of meat on his plate (his favorite part of the meal) up to one of the children. It’s commonplace to see someone in the family give up what they want for someone else. This is due to the example of their father. They see his joy in giving up what he wants to make them happy. This is simple and unfortunately rare. If a boy never learns the joy of sacrificing for others it become extremely difficult for him to function as a father, husband, priest, religious brother, employee, or an adult for that matter.
3. Hard physical work, home repair projects and sports. I don’t care how old your son is- he can hold a piece of sand paper, a paint brush and when older run a floor sander. The results won’t be perfect but he will learn to work in the home and operate tools. The sense of accomplishment sets the tone for his confidence in approaching new tasks. I remember a mother telling me that she would never force her sons to play sports. I on the other hand have “forced” my sons to do things that are good for them. Go to Church. Play a sport. Do their homework. They are not autonomous until they are outside the home and independent. In this economy you will have plenty of time to “force” your children to do all kinds of good things.
4. To protect others. When I had a snake in my kitchen not long after we moved into our charming field stone foundation farmhouse the boys knew it was their job to smite the snake. When our beloved Saint Bernard dog died my oldest son knew he was the man of the house and he buried a dog that he dearly loved. When I fell on my back while ice skating, though well padded by my coat and ahem other things, the 3 boys rushed to me to help me and worried that I was hurt. It was very sweet. This makes boys feel manly and helps them assume their role as protector.
5. To understand that they can express their emotions and that their emotions do not prevent them from acting. I was very touched when in one of the final scenes of “The Help”, and the maid and nurse of the little girl has to leave the little girl she has cared for since birth that all three of my boys cried in spite of the fact that they were 19, 18 and 15. It’s okay for boys to cry, be sad, worry and care about what others think of them. But it’s manly to be able to act in the way that is right, just, caring, courageous in spite of their feelings.