I have been known to say that each stage of life has its unique challenges – even grandparenthood! So, while scanning my bookshelves for someone else, my eyes rested on a book that jumped off the shelf and said “read me!”
It is an oldie but a goodie called Raising Boys, by Steve Biddulph (ISBN 0 646314181). It was published in 1997 and I suspect that I first read it soon after that. This book is much better than many others on my shelf about parenting for two reasons, it is written from an Australian context and it admits that raising boys is different to raising girls!
I have two sons, two sons-in-law and three grandsons and this book made it very clear that I have an ongoing responsibility for their development. But where do I start? Steve uses lots of stories and cartoons to make his point about why boys are different and clearly defines the role that we men have in helping them to develop into happy, well balanced men.
In contrast to the classical Aussie approach of leaving child rearing to mothers he puts a strong case for us to get more involved. His observations and helpful down to earth helpful hints on topics such as sexuality, schools and sports are insightful and right on the money.
In a society and culture that has witnessed an unprecedented number of family breakdowns and emergence of more and more single parent (female) households our boys are all too often the casualties. Steve Biddulph supplies a range of suggestions to address this and stresses the importance of grandparents, uncles, sports coaches, male teachers, pastors and other members of community to reverse the negative trends and behavioural issues arising from “under-fathering”.
I could not help but wonder how many of the relationship issues that I get confronted with are a direct result of a lack of an effective father, of not growing up with healthy role models of how men and women, fathers and sons should relate. None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes, the key is to be man enough to admit it and adjust our behaviour accordingly.
For those lessons maybe we also need God’s help – our Heavenly Father to forgive us and enable us to keep growing, following his example of what it means to be a father who cares, understands, disciplines and encourages, knowing when to be tender and when to be tough.
I’m still learning!
Chaplain Ian Whitley