The class I took, “Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Son,” was an amazing opportunity to revisit the important milestones in childrearing and to talk with other mothers about how they were handling the passage of these milestones. While the class was founded on the Proverb which states, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it,” (Proverbs 22:6) we all agreed that the training part is one of the toughest challenges we have ever faced in light of today’s culture.
Conversation One focused on how we prepare our sons to live in the world. We discussed the importance of focusing on their spirituality, in addition to their academic progress, athletic achievements and successful careers. We learned it is the blending of courage and tenderness that create a grounded man. Our conversations covered everything from protecting our sons in their boyish adventures (like when my sons blew up their GI Joes in the driveway) to being “Helicopter Moms” (not allowing them to fight their own battles, learning their life lessons from their mistakes).
Conversation Two explored how we help our sons manage the world’s temptations – sex, drugs and alcohol, and pornography (to name a few) and to learn self-control in their lives. The issues of self-control seemed to focus on video games for the younger children and on cell phone and computer use for the teens. We talked about helping our boys find good peer groups which share similar values and morals related to temptation, as well as the importance of addressing their slip-ups when they happen. The author of our study guide, Vicki Courtney, quotes Mary Pickford, saying, “If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. For this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.” I like to think I have taught my children resiliency when life deals them a blow.
Conversation Three dealt with how to have the conversation about sex with our sons. Many of the moms struggled with having this conversation at all with their adolescent boys, leaving the topic for their husbands to handle. Instead we learned the importance of approaching the topic boldly and confidently, to show our sons how to maintain their spiritual, emotional and physical health in regard to sex. Like the studies about parents sharing their stand on drug and alcohol use, the class cited a National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy survey which indicated that 45 percent of teens said their parents most influence their decisions about sex. We laughed about how taking our sons to a popular chain restaurant and feeding their insatiable appetites might enable us to maintain their undivided attention on this topic. So, if you see several moms alone with their teenage sons in the coming months while you are dining out, you will know what we are doing!
Conversation Four provided tips on launching our sons. Boy, I needed this week’s study the most! Having just talked with our 22-year over spring break about preparing for his responsibilities following college graduation next year, we have realized he will need lots of pep talks to face his college debt and the daunting task of finding a job (or jobs) to pay his bills. He retorted to us, “Whatever happened to easing into adulthood!” We learned about the importance of having a launch plan and preparing our sons every step along the way for their eventual independence from us. My sister-in-law often reminds me that by the time college arrives for our children, we have done our job and must turn over the reins to them to walk the rest of the way themselves. I often liken our job at this point to being the bumpers in the gutters of the bowling alley. Like the bowling ball, our children must get down the lane by themselves, while occasionally bumping into us on their way down for reassurance and balance.
Conversation Five pulled all five sessions together by exploring whether while raising our sons, we parent their behaviors or their hearts. While manners are important (especially during holiday gatherings), I found that tending to my son’s heart is more important to the type of man he grows up to be. Is he selfless and humble in his actions? Is he caring and thoughtful to others? I learned that the conversation must be ongoing as he becomes a man and that my role as a mom will help him develop the discernment he needs in living in today’s world – developing that quiet voice within him that can help him differentiate between good and evil.
I had to laugh last year when I turned my oldest son’s bedroom into a guest room after he moved into his first college apartment. He returned home disappointed to see the change and feeling somewhat like a visitor in his own home. Appropriate to the season we are in, a lesson that was shared with me recently related to mother birds preparing baby birds to leave their nests and take flight. The mother bird brings sharper and sharper objects back to the nest to make the baby birds less comfortable as they grow. Eventually, the baby birds get the message and take flight, prepared to face the world they encounter outside the nest.