Jeff Jackson knows that as a dad he is supposed to model “being a man” to his sons. One problem. He is not exactly sure what that is these days. He explores the question.
Tae Kwon Do (TKD) is Korean martial arts and focuses more on discipline, respect, concentration, confidence and speed in movement. Even though martial arts are thought to be designed for self-defense, they are more and better applicable for controlled movement and meditation.
The kids have been practicing TKD for almost 5 months. The hardest part of taking them to their TKD workouts is getting them dressed in their uniforms. The good news is that Archibald (not his real name) and Mortimer (not his real name, either) have not had to use their TKD training as self- defense. The bad news is that they have acquired only a little of the aforementioned qualities, BUT they are getting better. When Sergeant Major Mommy (SMM) or daddy give orders to the little kids , it only takes 5 minutes for them to respond to us. Before TKD, it could take up to 37 minutes before we even got their attention. Hey, it’s a process. They are progressing!
I am personally glad that they are taking TKD and the anticipated residual effects from the training are high, i.e., they will enjoy the benefits for years to come. We have attempted several extracurricular activities for little kids like soccer, swimming, skeet shooting and gambling. Parents don’t always know what their kids will like even and especially, if the kids say they will like something. Try everything or whatever the time and wallets and limo services can afford.
There are a few girls in the classes. Good for them and why not? Nowhere is it written that only boys can practice or perform martial arts. Not all boys take to it naturally anyway.
SMM and I want to encourage the kids to explore things that they might be interested in. Archie likes to draw and color. I asked him if he wanted to take some art classes and he said no, he just likes to draw and color. Morty likes to read and talk. I asked him if he wanted his own word processor that he might want to use to write down some stories. He said, absolutely not, but could I use that money instead to build my own bedroom?
Their choice in TV shows has also evolved over the years. They started out watching various cartoons and animated shows. They would watch certain ones for a few months before they got bored with those and moved on to other ones. At one point, they liked a show called My Little Pony. What can I say, it’s a cute and sweet little show. My sexist viewpoint thought it might be more appropriate for little girls than little boys because most of the characters on the show are female (they’re probably all 50 years old with REALLY high voices) and the color schemes on the show are pink and yellow and more pink and more yellow pastel colors. But, Archie really liked the show.
What was I to do? There is a lot written about letting kids choose their own gender identities. I’ve seen little girls at the kids ’ school who were just as active and energetic as my kids . I’ve not seen little boys who were quiet and liked to read. Ok, Mortie likes to read, but he would rather be running amuck. My kids have never shown an affinity for dolls. So, SMM and I decided (like we decide on everything, she decides and I say yes) to let the kids evolve.
The whole question of gender is a tricky one these days, especially for boys, in my humble opinion. Girls have been getting a lot of press about opportunities and attention, etc. But, not so much for boys, except by the parents of boys who want them to grow up and receive equal attention and opportunities.
Plus, how are little boys supposed to grow up to be men? What does manhood consist of these days? What will it look like in 20 years? I spend a lot of my “free time” on social media, like Twitter and Facebook, and I have seen a lot of discussion about teaching boys about what it means to “be a man.”
There is certainly a faction of the population demanding(?) that boys develop their emotional and nurturing side. I can certainly appreciate that since my nurturing side has been tested for the past seven years of my kids ’ existence.
Society is confusing. I’m confused I will admit freely. I’m not confused about my gender, but in what I’m supposed to teach my boys about growing up and becoming men. The kids are seven now. Their rite of passage will happen in a few years as the nefarious teen years approach. I believe my best offense is my best defense, i.e., I will role model what it means to be a man to them. (Not to put any pressure on myself, of course!)
I am sensitive when I feel it is appropriate to be sensitive. Listen, no matter what anybody SAYS, everybody cried on 9/11 and on Newtown, including me. And if anybody says they didn’t cry then they are either a**holes or worthless or both. (It doesn’t matter that I cried when I watched Godzilla or even King Kong). I felt those times were called for. I didn’t cry, well, I don’t rightly remember the last time I cried. However, when SMM asks me to check the light in the backyard at night, I definitely didn’t cry, except for getting out of bed and discovering one of the house lights was on. Nevertheless, I do purposefully try to be empathetic to people.
I had a fellow daddy pour his heart out to me recently all because I was willing to listen, I guess. He was having a situation at home with his wife and daughter and needed some advice, guidance, reassurance. I gave him what I thought was appropriate advice for his situation (you’ll cleverly notice that I am leaving out all details of the conversation) and I reassured him with probably the best example to fight feeling overwhelmed, i.e., other people and daddies have been through the same thing and are probably going through the same thing right now. You are not alone. In reality, none of us are alone regardless of what our conscious mind tells us. Does this make me a man?
The other part of this equation is that I don’t really care what other people think. I will act as appropriately as I can, cry or shout, laugh or sulk, to a given situation and with other people. I will try to act with as much integrity to my own person as I can. I believe that is the key to role modeling to my boys.
Of course, the question that is literally shouting out to me as I type this out is: WILL MY BOYS LISTEN? Of course, I don’t rightly know the answer to that. Sometimes they will, sometimes they don’t. They will forget and act whatever way they want and probably make some mistakes.
That sounds exactly like me.