My 12 year old son Hunter is a great kid; he’s always been a delight to be with. I think I have done a pretty good job of fathering him but those infamous adolescent years are headed our way like a runaway freight train – sex, girls, puberty, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, grades, driving, peer pressure.
It is tough being a parent in our mobile and frenetic world. Back in the proverbial village everyone was looking out for all the children. Many ears listening, eyes watching. There were plenty of grandparents, uncles, aunts and other trusty adults the kids could turn to for the times when parents just wouldn’t do. And there were many different models for how to be an adult. The pressure was not all on mom and dad.
Nowadays the closest thing we have to this village is perhaps the school. So I called all the dads in my sons class and asked if they wanted to join together and figure out how to collectively father our sons, how we could them make that transition from boys to young men, to become semi-responsible adults. How we could teach them to respect girls and treat their own bodies with care. The response was overwhelming. It was clear that all of us fathers felt the need for help and we were willing to aid others with the task.
The dads group so far it has worked splendidly. Each dad brings a different assemblage of skills, interests, talents and emotions to the table. I take the kids camping and on nature hikes, another one is a great basketball coach, another designs computer games. We periodically spend the weekend together, getting to know each other and the boys. The hope is that the boys will grow to like and trust the other dads and be able to look toward them for guidance or help.
There are two books but that have really helped me lately. Good reading for both parents of boy children. One is Real Boys by William Pollack, sort of the boy equivalent of Raising Ophelia. And The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian, a great read about our delightful and frustrating creatures. The dads are still struggling with all the same issues but we no longer feel so isolated. We are looking out for each other and each other╒s sons. We have created a new type of village and it appears to be working. But it is a bit early to really tell, I will report back in eight years.
This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.