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Monday, November 12, 2012

Personal Excellence, Smack Talk, and the Link to Our Sons

As a teacher without kids, I did a lot of reading.  Some was helpful and some was ridiculous.  I'm currently rereading this book:

It's necessary.  I'm trying really really hard not to screw up my kids and right now, the boy is making me the most confused in the parenting department.

I read it in the bath...with a glass of wine...while I'm trying not to look at my tummy.  After about 5 minutes, I'm seeing my son in a new light and thinking of all sorts of ways I could be a better parent.  After about 10, I'm convinced I've already screwed him up for life.  After about 15, I realize I should have brought a notepad into the bath because I'm going to forget half of the stuff I've learned.

Anyway, I've started to dogear quotes from the book that resonate with me.  Here is this week's quote:

Boys need to compete and do combat, they need to feel tested in the physical and interpersonal world.  Our job is to help them navigate - not squash - this need.

One of the most difficult boundaries for me to approach is how physical Matt is.  He's a total nut sometimes.  He can be such a joy to watch with his unfettered joy as he throws himself around a field of grass, but he can also be dangerous to himself and others.  So, when to step in?

This book very effectively reminds me that boys NEED to do this.  They need to experience everything in a very physical way.  They need to bounce, jump, bang, stomp, pound, and punch everything in their way.  We need to release the "victim philosophy" of being a victim and, in turn, allowing others to victimize our boys and embrace that combat and battle isn't always bad or negative.

It hits on the smack-talk in which so many males engage.  It's really necessary for them to act this way with their peers if not a sort of ritual that leads our boys into adolescence and beyond.  With no formal introduction into their teenage years like so many cultures have, American boys are left with little boundaries and need to be given as many as possible.  

The one thing that really struck me and that I want to take away from this part of the book is that boys engage in communication more often in a shoulder-to-shoulder manner than any other manner.  There was a woman given as an example whose son wouldn't talk to her and she was beginning to worry.  Their therapist recommended that she start inviting her son to run with her in the mornings and that opened the line of communication.  Boys don't want to "talk about their feelings" or be questioned about their emotions.  They work best if they're doing something and have a set of rules (even if it's a lose set of rules) to respect.

What I've found with Matthew is that given a task, he is eager to participate.  If he feels like he's part of a team and that he's being relied upon, it's a different kid.  If he can see the purpose behind what I'm asking him to do, it's so much easier for him to relent.  

I've also found if I ask him how he feels about something, he grunts.  If he is frustrated and doesn't know what to do, he grunts.  If I give him a pillow to punch, he's much happier within 60 seconds.  It's amazing.

I'm trying.  I'm trying to raise a son who is respectful, strong, smart, and eager to be a part of something.  I'm trying to raise a son who will be gentle with women while not letting them walk all over him.  I'm trying to raise a son whose friends will respect him, but also give him shit when deserved.  I'm trying to raise a son who can dish it out, but can also take it.  I'm trying to raise a son who can deal with failure and not let it keep him down.

I will continue my research on my son as long as I can.  I think I'll always learn new things about him and about my relationship with him.  I'm also sure that I'll read a book on raising girls and will bore you with that shit too.