At the risk of oversimplifying a fairly complex issue, I'd like to talk about a key problem in raising boys. I call it the Dad-Gap Principle. Actually, my brother-in-law was the first to draw it, but I stole it. That's how us marketing types roll.
Now, I'm sure that professionals have much better terms (and research) to apply to the topic. But, for a decidedly amateur, yet highly applicable analysis, read on.
When a baby boy arrives, momma is the center of his universe. From meeting physical needs through breastfeeding, to getting up at night to cradling, loving and bathing, that baby's every need is met by his mom.
But, at some point, the tide turns, and the son starts to naturally gravitate toward his father. It might be to learn how to shoot a gun, put a chain back on his bike or shoot a basketball; but around age 10, the son starts needing more of his father's time and attention. As he hits puberty, the need skyrockets.
However, this is when dad is in his thirties or forties and is enjoying career sucesss (=more work, travel, etc.). Or, maybe he's taking a leadership role in church or wrestling with the stress of an unplanned job loss. Bottom line, a bad formula emerges: Son seeks more time. Dad has less to give.
Which creates the gap. The dad should be taking the lead, helping his son figure biblical manhood out, but he doesn't. Young Johnny is frustrated (maybe even unknowingly); and momma gets asked to do perform a role that she's not perfectly built for. Kid-raising stress + marital stress + life in general...
Now, I know there are single moms tackling this superbly. Certainly, an enterprising woman can pull this off - but, with a husband in the mix, she shouldn't have to. And, frankly, I have more first-hand experience in dealing with the hormones and challenges of being a young man than my lovely bride does. It's my God-given privilege to provide leadership and counsel for my boys, especially as they enter their double-digit years.
Guys - let's keep this gap from occurring, or if it's already there, work to close it. Some practical ideas:
- Tonight, ask your wife if she sees any ways you can be more engaged with your boy(s). For most of us, this will be the only step we need to take and we'll be armed with tons of ideas.
- If you travel, stay in touch with your son(s) through text, e-mail or Skype.
- This weekend, give your son(s) an hour or two and let them decide what the two of you do.
- Take your boys on routine, boring errands. Amazing what pops up during those few minutes together.
I'm confident that if you decide to take biblical fatherhood seriously, you'll find more amazing returns on this investment than any extra hours you put into your work, hobbies or volunteer activities.