I, on the other hand, was terrified.
Being faced with even the prospect of taking responsibility for making a man out of my son literally kept me up nights. My father wasn’t around at all when I was growing up and, other than my grandfather and great-grandfather, the majority of my male role models were my mom’s gay friends. I think I turned out just fine, clinging to what I could glean from the older men in my life. But these men built character the old fashion way – literally. Conversely, I grew up a relatively normal middle-class kid during the 80’s. There were definitely some bumps along the way, but my mother did a great job raising my brother and me, basically alone.
I wasn’t raised on a farm with siblings numbering in the double digits. Nor did I teach myself to read before eventually moving to the big city, to battle racism and segregation just to provide a decent living for a family, as my great-grandfather had. And I’m not a Navy officer with a fondness for jazz who became a college Literature professor, like the grandfather I grew up with. I don’t even have the sort of character forged from bitterness and pain that my maternal grandfather had, which was based on separation and loneliness from an early age, and eventually led to jail time for a crime he didn’t commit. I’ve had it easy compared to these men.
What wisdom do I have to impart?
I learned how to be a man from my mom. It is not my intention to discredit the great job she did in raising me to be the man I am today. But, to be completely honest, I don’t want to be the guy in the Volkswagen commercial, laughably trying to teach his son how to throw a baseball. I’ve given my daughter the gift of Godzilla and Spider-Man (of which I am insanely proud) and I look forward to sharing these things with my son as well.
It was five years ago that we found out we were having a girl and, to my own surprise, I was elated. Up until that point, I had feared the possibility of raising a girl who would eventually grow to loathe me. But the sonogram technician said “it’s a girl” and I started grinning like an idiot.
Now I realize that the joy I felt then was relief. “Thank GAWD I won’t have a son who will actually be looking to me as a model on which to base his own life!” Not to diminish the effect I will undoubtedly have on my daughter’s adulthood but, as a woman, she is going to look to my wife for inspiration on how to live her life. All I can do is hope that I provide enough of an example of how a man should treat her, for her to be able to choose a man who will make her happy.
And even if I never am able to teach the boy how to throw a baseball, he will:
- Know how to tie a bow tie
- Experience the unbridled joy that is Comic Con
- Appreciate Shakespearean language
- Understand how to properly organize his book shelf - separated by genre, alphabetized by title, of course
My son will know all these things and a myriad others that I am uniquely qualified to teach him. But most of all, I will pass on to him what I have found to be a corner stone of happiness and success – just be yourself.
Yeah, I think I can do that…