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Our son, who just turned 11,  is a wonderful guy with a beautiful soul and a great, deep intelligence.  He is smart, kind and empathetic; funny, a gifted draughtsman, musically talented and a good actor too.  He's lanky and has broad shoulders and long legs and is tall for his age (always has been).  He's handsome, too (if I do say so myself), with smooth fair skin, hazel eyes that look right into you, full lips, and straight hair that is one of those colors you can't quite figure out, like a mix between strawberry blonde and light brown, or between gold and mouse, and when he's in the sun, it glows like yellow fire with deep red and gentle brown underneath.  Women have come up to him since he was a toddler, reaching out to finger his hair and to say how gorgeous it is.  This has embarrassed him, until recently.  

I say until recently, because he's probably starting to get interested in girls, and so he understands the attention he gets in a changed way, lately.  He doesn't object when the women do it-- now, instead of recoiling or making a face, he rolls his eyes and says "that's what people ALWAYS say to me."  He's taking it in stride.  It's what women do.  Girls like his hair.  And I'm starting to think that our son is starting to like girls.  Though we have very good conversations about a lot of things, and though he shares with us as he tries to figure out the world, he would never admit the girl thing in a straightforward way.  

Liking girls-- standard for growing up into a "guy" or a "man," right?  Unless one is gay, or transgender, which we don't know yet, he doesn't know yet, it could take him years to figure out, etc. etc.   Most of the other boys in his cohort now come out and admit that they like some girls, and they have started to talk about girls all the time at recess and lunch (making "boob" jokes, etc.; at least, that's what our son reports).  So this is par for the course and normal---- but what I want to know is, how do I teach him the wisdom he needs to know, to be not only a "guy" or a "man" in this process of getting interested in girls, but also, a mensch?

My father (who died in March 2010, of complications from a fall-- he was taken from us so quickly) had so many positive qualities as a man/guy.  He was a great role model in many ways for my brother and for my son.  He was polite, generous of spirit, didn't say unkind things about people, liked to give people the benefit of the doubt, tried to make other people feel comfortable and put them at ease.  Physically, he was a clean, very tidy person, always with his shirt tucked in, a belt, cuffs buttoned, etc.  Dressed right for whatever occasion; acted appropriately for the places he was in.  He loved his children, was a family man who would rather hang out with the kids or grandkids than go someplace else.

How did he learn these things?  My father's father died when he was 9, after a long illness.  My father's father was definitely not your typical "guy" guy.  We're talking a socialist labor organizer in Brooklyn in the 1920s and 30s.  A guy who was out of the house trying to organize workers in shoe factories, rather than spending time with his kids.  He left behind a wife who had to take in sewing and work round the clock to try to put food on the table for her kids.  So she couldn't be there for her kids in terms of teaching them stuff about life or showing them (my father and his sister) how to do the "guy" thing and the "girl" thing in life.

My father drew a lot of inspiration from his uncle, his mother's sister's husband, who was an elevator operator in one of the office buildings in Manhattan in the 30s and 40s.  Uncle L** was a loving, hardworking, attentive and gentle man who was full of lively humor and who must have been a great role model for my father when he was my son's age, around 11, 12, just entering puberty.... But I have no way of knowing, as I can't ask my father anymore.

My father also had a bunch of guy friends, guys he grew up with in the neighborhood.  The gang he'd play streetball with, and baseball on city abandoned lots; the fellows with whom he went to grade school.  These guys all came from the same kind of poor immigrant families.  They all stayed in touch as they grew up and as they learned to make their ways in life.  (Until a a couple of years ago, this gang of guys would still get together every single year, usually in Florida, to spend a weekend together keeping their bond alive and following their lives' development.)  One dropped out of high school and went into the merchant marine; he went to college on a military grant after WWII and got a degree, and went into ground-level scutwork on Wall Street, ending up, after working his way up, as a billionaire by the 1980s.  One became President of a nationwide chain of grocery stores.  A couple became lawyers.  They all married and had kids and grandkids and (some of them) great grandkids that they lived to see before they died.  These guys would also have been great role models for my father; huge touchstones for him as he tried to figure out how you become not only a "man," but a good person who does the right thing as a "man."

Our son has two moms.  He doesn't have a dad.  He knows that I got pregnant through anonymous insemination, and we have told him as much as we know about his anonymous donor (which is actually quite a bit).  He calls the donor his "biological donor" and he likes to think that the donor is somewhat related to him as a father, which is fine with me, though we've had long conversations about the subtleties at play here, as obviously the donor is not a "father" in the sense of being involved with our son's upbringing, caring for him, helping him, etc. etc.  But nonetheless, it makes him feel good to know that he has a donor, a man who gave part of himself so that someone might try to make a family; and to know something about this male element that is 50% of him.

Here's my issue:  A part of me feels as though, because there's not a "man" in our son's life, and because my brother doesn't live near us (we see him only a couple of times a year, even though he and our son love each other), and my father is dead, that there must be some sort of "guy" knowledge that we're supposed to be imparting to him at this sensitive time of growing up---  but we just don't know what that might be.  

What should I be telling my son, encouraging my son, to do, or to think about, or to remember, or to strive for, as he grows into this new stage of his life, where he doesn't think girls have cooties anymore, and he is starting to like them, and he is growing hair under his arms and on his pubis (I know this because he told me-- it freaks him out) and on his back?  What might we tell him to help him keep his cool, keep a clear head, keep his eyes on the prize of becoming a good man, a great "guy," as he enters the confusing years of pimples and girls and kids calling each other uncool or nerd or loser or fag?  


Originally posted to concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 09:22 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  oh, can we start a support group? (27+ / 0-)

      My son will be twelve in another month, and my husband and I deal with these issues all the time. I would say, the short answer is, stop sweating it! Your son is an age when he will make his own decisions about what a man is. What you show him every day is your respect for the man he is becoming, how good behavior makes a human. Raise a good citizen, and you raise a good man. This is a rocky time, confusing, moody, and yet he will need you to be solid and calm.

      We got our son through adoption from China, so he also struggles with some "unknown parentage" issues. Message me anytime.

      by Chun Yang on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:48:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you so much. What you said about (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stein, Chun Yang, TexH, k8dd8d

        "raise a good citizen" is something I try to keep in mind.  Male, female, or anything one is--- it's about raising someone who values community, and knows how to respect others.

        That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

        by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:11:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  also, share those memories of your dad (4+ / 0-)

          I took some time in the 90s to interview people who knew my grandfather. I learned a lot, got a bunch of great stories, but also found myself inspired by different lessons he learned in life. He was a Texas sheriff, not perfect, but a complex person with a lot of strength. I have been sharing those stories with our son, just funny things about him and about my dad(who passed away when son was 6). The thing to remember is that your son will find his own role models, teachers, coaches, etc.(my son admires Mark Zuckerberg - I let him watch movies about geeks who make good to counter all the athlete successes!) and we talk about what they did right, what mistakes they made.
          This is the age when you CANNOT do it for him. Trust this process; it is what he needs. Just be there, be willing to listen and bite your tongue!

          You know, I saw that film, "The Kids Are Alright" and my first moment came early in the film when I thought, "Oh, man - two moms hovering like moms do! What kids dread most!" ;-)
          Remember your middle school and show some sympathy.

          by Chun Yang on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 03:01:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Funny you say Zuck is one of your (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Chun Yang, marathon mom

            sons role models...he's one of my sons too as is Bill Gates and other computer "nerds".  One thing he's realized, the geeky guys can make money too and brainy is cute.  I let him know he doesn't need to "dumb down" his enthusiasm for knowledge.  Sometimes kids get called names for being smart but I see it as success.

            "If you don't do it this year you'll be another year older when you do"-Warren Miller

            by fishgirl26 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 03:08:48 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  education= more freedom (5+ / 0-)

              This is how I frame it to our son. If he wants to go through life with people telling him what to do, he does not need education. However, he is a smart, independent soul who wants freedom in life, to try different things, travel, etc, then he needs to learn and keep learning. The more he knows and the more skills he has means the world is open to him.


              by Chun Yang on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 04:30:30 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Our son wants a good job and wants to be (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Chun Yang

                able to have options, and so he knows that he will have to have a job with decent pay so as to pay rent, eat, and be able to do some stuff in addition.  We've been talking to him about how a good job means getting an education.  I've stated flatly that it is not an option for him not to go to college.  We've talked with him about how good grades are important.  He has one more year of elementary school and then he starts middle school.  We've talked about how high school grades count when colleges are examining one's academic record; and about how once he gets into middle school, he's not only in it for the learning, but also for learning how to study better, get organized, and do "doing school" better each year, as a way of looking toward trying to do well in high school.

                He's doing a good job academically this year, and part of what has made it better for him has been that things are going well for him socially.  What I've also been telling him is that, no matter what kind of school year you have, bad or good, up or down, it will all get better when you get to college, which is like opposite land from high school.

                The trick is to keep your eyes on the prize....

                That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

                by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:05:48 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I am not the only one here (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  concernedamerican, john07801

                  Who thinks you are an awesome mom with a wonderful son! Middle school changes things - but a good kid like yours can manage okay if you just trust him and be there. It is rocky at times (we had to change some classes to avoid a pair of bullies, and I got to know the counselors early)but with time our boy has adjusted and is doing fine. He does not want to talk about his girlfriend(of two years), another Chinese adoptee like himself, but I just back off until he wants to talk.

                  The good news is that he still wants hugs from me. In public, even.


                  by Chun Yang on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:26:26 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Regarding Zuckerberg (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Chun Yang

            He's a decent role model in some ways, but if your son's seen The Social Network you might want to ask him how he perceives Zuckerberg's treatment of women as portrayed in that movie, because it sure raises a lot of issues.  (I don't know if the portrayal is accurate and of course your son may already have spotted that.)

            Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

            by neroden on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:23:08 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  oh, we discuss it (0+ / 0-)

              I think it gives a good lesson on the dangers of "drunk blogging" better than a stern lecture ever could. We talk about his mistakes, but also how his intelligence and focus on creating something and perfecting it shows how it can be done. And if ever there was a weapon against the upper class, it is that portrayal of the Winklevoss twins.
              My boy thinks in pretty simple terms, so the idea of a smart guy getting to have success and lots of fun is appealing. It even has him thinking Harvard might be a good school. Of course, my husband went to Brown!


              by Chun Yang on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 08:22:08 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Agree (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Chun Yang

        Although my son is twice the age of your son, he has other challenges (Asperger's) as to how to raise him.

        I believe that the prime goal of parenting is to raise a self sufficient human being, able to earn an honest living, to be responsible for his actions and to use his gifts to uplift others.

        11 years is such a lovely age for boys: they are maturing curious, but not yet so jaded as to not need their Moms.
        Hard to believe that in 2 years the same person will be this churning pot of testosterone, physicality and growth spurts.

        Even though they've gotten some knocks lately, I found that the Boy Scouts did offer that man-boy experience you are looking for. Not all are in churches (ours was through the local school) and it is up to you how involved you want to be

        Never underestimate the ability of the Right to over reach.

        by never forget 2000 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:47:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  About girls: instinct, culture, and free will. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden, WarrenS

      Something like this:

      Most guys grow up to like girls, some grow up to like other guys, either way is OK with us.  This is how people end up falling in love and becoming a family.  There are three parts to this: one is animal instinct, one is cultural learning, and one is your free will by which you establish your character.  

      Animal instincts produce love and also physical desire: you feel for someone in your heart, and you feel for them in your body, and you want to be close.   But at times they can also produce selfish attitudes toward others, for example grabbing food, butting in lines, and thinking of a girl as "belonging to you."  

      Humans have the ability to make choices, and humans have empathy: so you can put yourself in the other person's shoes and think about how they feel, and treat them the way you would want to be treated if you were in their place.

      Cultural learning enables people to function in their societies by understanding what is and isn't allowed or appropriate.  In some cultures, men treat women like property.  In most cultures they don't, but sometimes that attitude comes across with sexism for example in music and film.  Cultures always have a dynamic tension around the boundaries of what is and isn't OK.  

      Sometimes there's a tendency toward the lowest common denominator: people giving each other pats on the back for bad manners and bad attitudes toward others and so on.  But you'll feel better about yourself for not indulging in that kind of nonsense.  Sexism and possessive attitudes toward girls are examples of bad manners and bad attitudes.  People who promote that kind of nonsense aren't helping each other, and they end up going nowhere.  Living up to the highest values of our culture, rather than giving in to the lowest, will enable you to have more choices.  And that includes treating girls as your equals and friends first, rather than as sex objects.

      Free will comes from the physical structure of how our brains work: it's part of the same processes by which we're conscious.  People who are religious also believe it comes from the soul, which they say resides in the body while we are alive.  Science doesn't know about souls, but in any case we should respect others' beliefs even as we are still discovering our own.  

      Moral conduct consists of making choices: exercising your free will for better or worse.  People are known by the choices they make.  Very often these choices have to do with how to respond to our instincts and our cultures.  For example you want a slice of pizza: do you butt in line or wait your turn?  Empathy for others, and the rules of our culture, say you should wait your turn.  For example if you have a girlfriend and want to give her a great big kiss in the hall in school: do you just go ahead and maybe end up embarrassing each other, or do you do something else like hold hands and ask her how she feels?  Or for example you want to be physically intimate when you're alone together: do you just assume she does too, or do you ask and then respect her feelings if she says she doesn't?  Sometimes it's difficult to make the right choices, but if you do, you'll feel better about yourself and others will respect you more.  


      Now the easy part: about hair.

      Most animals grow fur all over their bodies to keep them warm.  Humans don't have that ability, so we learned to make clothing.  However, our bodies still produce the signal to grow some fur, and that's why we get hair here and there.  The signal comes from hormones produced by our reproductive systems, as part of physically becoming an adult.  So that's why hair grows between your legs first, and then under your arms and on your face.  It might be itchy and so on, but after a while you won't notice it, except to be glad that your body is working the way nature evolved it.  

      The not-so-easy part is figuring out the age at which a young man should start carrying condoms, "just in case, because even though we think you should wait, we also think you should take safety and health seriously beginning earlier."  

  •  I have to go to work so won't be able to (13+ / 0-)

    respond to comments until I get home later this evening-- thanks for any advice, feedback, stories, etc. you might want to make!

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 09:24:52 AM PST

  •  You Ain't A Man Until...... (20+ / 0-) stop thinking it's funny to be annoying. Until then, you are still just a kid.

    Some guys never make the transition.

  •  My son is 11, too (25+ / 0-)

    And though I don't have any concrete advice for you, I do have this thought.

    All eleven year old boys (and girls) have "something" that makes their life different from their peers/difficult/problematic/whatever.  You are aware of the situation, enough that you've written this diary.

    Don't over think it, and try not to lose too much sleep about it.  You obviously are loving, committed, concerned parents.  That's what counts.

    Being 11 is rough.  Being a teenager in this society is rough.  It makes it somewhat tougher when you are "different", but I tell my son all the time that it's these differences and these tough times that make you grow up to be a man that people look up to, and want to be with.

    You sound like an awesome mom.  Just remember that when you're awake at 3am thinking "what have I done?"  I do that all the time and have to tell myself that it'll be all right, it will all work out, deep breath, think of something else and go back to sleep!

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 09:38:38 AM PST

    •  I constantly remind myself that we (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chun Yang, coquiero

      won't know if we have made the right decisions until 30 years from now when they are posting on a blog about us, or chatting with a friend or whatever.

      We (any parents) have to go through everyday, making the best decisions with the information we have at that moment, then get up and do it the next day, and the next day.

      Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

      by k8dd8d on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 03:21:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  here's the #1 thing I wish someone had told me (58+ / 0-)

    (note:  individual experiences may vary.  These things could be time and place dependent)

    In my experience as a guy growing up, unless you are really good at sports or have a shocking amount of charisma right out of the gate, the world constantly tells you that you are complete shit until about age 25.  There is a lot of attention paid in our discourse to the low self-esteem of girls, but I don't see how this doesn't apply to boys.  Basically everyone has it in for you, I'm talking teachers, random adults, employers, you name it - and of course one's peers.  

    Some of the reason I think is that the qualities by which society at large measures male achievement - career success, financial success, atheletic success, sexual success - are just kind of out of reach of most young men, again unless they are really good at sports.  For instance how many dudes have a good job by age 20?  How many men are financially ok at age 20?  These are the criteria by which society still judges men.

    Also, I think that young men are a good target for those that want to take down others, whether they be teachers, bosses, or other young men.  Nobody wants to see a girl cry, and you can't hit a girl, but those same protections don't apply to boys.  

    As we get older though, things completely turn around!  In the 20s we start to move into careers, our shoulders fill out, we've accumulated experience with women, and all of a sudden, in my experience , it becomes more of our world.  I can't emphasize how much people - just random people, but also including co-workers and authority figures, not to mention females - started treating me so incredibly differently by my late 20s.  

    So... after that long set-up, what I am getting to is that I wish that when I was a teenage boy, or about to be a teenage boy as in the case of your son, it would have been nice of someone had told me all of this.  To summarize: society has a weird way of treating boys versus men, and that success in high school, in whatever criteria one might define success apart from academics, is in no way a predictor of future success, and in fact it might anti-correlate.  Don't sweat it too much if it seems that people aren't treating you well or you are getting the message that you are a disappointment - it all turns around for men who stay the course and get an education.

    •  It gets better (23+ / 0-)

      Advice for all teens, of both genders, and all sexual persuasions (including the most common one: massively confused).

      In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

      by blue aardvark on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:38:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes, but I think it especially gets better for (14+ / 0-)


        Here's the sad truth:  The criteria by which much of society unfortunately still jugdes men - whether it be career success, financial success, and/or sexual conquests, say - mostly get better and increase with age, often times dramatically.  On the other hand, the criterion by which much of society unfortunately still judges women, ie physical sex appeal, decreases with age.

        So in a sense as men age past the teenage years not only do they get all of the gains that come with maturity and experience, but their sub-consciously perceived value by others can go way up.  The same cannot be said of women.  As far as the shallow criteria that still guide much of society consciously and sub-consciously, men start way low down and increase dramatically, whereas women start high and decrease.

        That is why I think it is of the uttmost importance to raise daughters with the constant message that their worth is in no way tied to their sex appeal, no matter how much society and the mass media is trying to tell them otherwise.  

        •  Well said. (7+ / 0-)

          I'm a guy, but I've seen the subtle effect of our societies pathologies about femininity has had on a couple of my nieces (age 9 and 28).

          Lady Gaga crawling around in her panties on MTV isn't helping matters. Neither is the neo-victorian moralizing on the right. Young women are growing up in a very strange world, and in at least some respects I think it is worse than the one my sister (age 46) was a teenager in.

          The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

          by mftalbot on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 01:45:00 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm 46 and I would like to remind you of (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Stein, mftalbot, pat bunny, Chun Yang, neroden

            1970's tv. Charlie's Angels was the worst, but pretty much anything you turned on had young women who were perfect examples of the US ideal of sex appeal…er bouncing through the episode.

            Really. I turned on an old Charlie's Angels recently and I was shocked. When I look back, the prevalent message was Have Sex! Do Drugs!

            I don't watch a lot of tv anymore, so maybe it's still just as bad, but I can't imagine it being worse.

          •  If I were raising a little girl....or a boy.... (9+ / 0-)

            ....she'd attend martial arts classes from an early age, even during her "little princess" stage.  She'd be encouraged in all her endeavors, but most especially her intelligence, cunning, and creativity.  And lastly, she'd be aware that women in this society are often viewed as a prey species.  I'd point out to her that her pretty pet kitty has fangs.  It can fight back and kill if need be.

            If I were raising a little boy, I'd encourage a mild interest in participating in sports.  I'd encourage kindness and sportsmanlike behavior.  I was both a science nerd and an athlete in HS.  My favorite memory of football isn't in the game, it was in practice.  A friend of mine who was not an athlete wanted to be "one of the boys" and tried out for the team.  I was already a shoo-in (I was 6'1" in middle school, 6'3" 180 lbs by the time of my freshman year) and on the varsity squad.  The try-out squad had to play our squad.  I had one of those "KILL EM ALL" coaches, who encouraged maximum aggression on the playing field.  "NO MERCY!"  That sort of guy.  Yeah, they exist outside of movies.  I warned my nerd buddy, who wore thick glasses and was very short and skinny.  He told me to butt out, he wanted to do this.  So there he was across from me, my friend.  The coach was standing behind the varsity squad screaming things like:  "Take em out!  Make em hurt!  No mercy!"  The center hiked the ball.  The guys on either side of me obliterated their opposite numbers on the tryout team.  I pretended to smack into my friend.  I gently muscled him back.  He'd slam into me again and again.  He just bounced off of me.  The coach was screaming in the background, so to make it look good, I put a little extra oomph into my next hit.  The impact knocked my friend's glasses down on his nose.  In the middle of a scrimmage, he straightens up, adjusts his glasses under his helmet, then crouches down and comes at me again.  I let him.  I could have taken him out, humiliated him at that moment.  I didn't.  I didn't listen to the coach, I had mercy on my friend.  Another thing I didn't do:  I didn't ever mention this to my friend.  He didn't make the team.  He shrugged and went on with his science-loving ways.  We never talked about that day, and I never let on what I had done.  I've come to realize in later years that this was the first time I acted like a real man.  That's what a real stand-up guy does.  He helps his friends with no thought of reward, he behaves honorably, he acts mercifully, and he never, ever, pays attention to the malicious voices telling him to do otherwise.

            If raising a man, stressing honor and gentleness.  If raising a woman, stress cunning and protectiveness.  You have to negate certain societal messages.  You have to put them into proper balance with the rest of humanity.

            This is as preachy as I ever get.

            "It was like that when I got here." - Homer Simpson

            by rbird on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:37:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  I'd add one thing: nobody's the enemy (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Predictor, coquiero

        when you're 11, the world wants you to think that everybody's your enemy.

        (Faux Noise wants you to think that no matter how old you are, but we already know they don't tell the truth.)

        Girls are not the enemy. They're not some exotic alien species from another planet, either.

        Parents and teachers and coaches (and grownups in general) are not (mostly) the enemy. (Politicians and perverts are special cases.) Doesn't matter what color or faith or shape they are; they're people too.

        Animals -- be they horses, dogs, bears, snakes, snails, whales, eagles, or pupfish -- aren't the enemy.

        Once that word percolates through, all else is gravy.

        LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

        by BlackSheep1 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:43:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  This!!!!!!! (9+ / 0-)

      In my experience as a guy growing up, unless you are really good at sports or have a shocking amount of charisma right out of the gate, the world constantly tells you that you are complete shit until about age 25.

    •  Yeah.. good advice.. (7+ / 0-)

      And I wish I'd had someone tell me that as well..

      But, I think it has to come from a man.. and someone the boy respects.

      Now, I'm not saying a boy cannot be raised by a woman or women and not turn out great - my father died when I was 13 and my mom did a pretty good job with 4 boys.

      But I do think around 11 is when a boy needs to start having male influences.  Becoming a man is as much observational as anything else.  Having someone give advice is nice and probably would have helped relieve some of the angst of being a teen.  But being around older people who are not your parents is, IMHO, very important.

      So, my advice would be to allow him to experience as much of life as he can away from organized school activities.  (Although not to the exclusion of those activities)

      I grew up in a big city and city kids grow up faster.  I had jobs from a very early age - paper route - summer jobs - after school jobs in high school.  

      Aside from earning some spending money and learning the value of working and saving, a job with public contact lets a boy (and this applies to girls as well) interact with a wide variety of people.  It lets a kid know things are kinda different out here in the world outside of home, but in small doses.

      And for a boy, he will hopefully get that observational time in seeing how men act in different situations.

      Sorry about the length and the rambling nature of this..

      •  This is actually a really good point. We have (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stein, Chun Yang, Victor Laslo

        been hiring the 17 year-old son of a coworker's, to come over on most Sundays to hang out with our son for a few hours and just be "guys" together.  They play video games, kick around the soccer ball, etc.  And our son gets to observe this guy, who is a great guy, a good athlete, a good student, a responsible and kind person, a good citizen---- we've been hoping that this guy time will be helpful to him.

        As to any advice that this person might be giving our son, or what they might talk about.... I don't know.  We know that it's a deal where it's "guy time," and he takes that seriously when he's with our son.  A good thing at this point.  

        That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

        by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:19:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If I may say so (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Victor Laslo

          it is nice that your son has an older teenage friend, but my 2 cents would be that this is not a substitute for having exposure to and counsel from a male who is older than 25.

          As I stated in my comment, my perspective on the trials and tribulations on growing up male - about how things change uniquely for males - only really came into focus once I had passed into my late 20s.  

          My father was a wonderful person, but he was not in tune with the social aspects of life and did not give me this kind of perspective.  I had to find it out all for myself, and I was really despairing at times in my teenage and early 20s years.  Like I said in my comment, I wish someone had told me the way things are, and I think it would have to be someone who had been through it all, ie well into his 20s.  

    •  OMG thank you so much for taking the time (6+ / 0-)

      to share this.  I never would have figured this out for myself or known this aspect of experience that some men go through.  And what you've related fits in with something I've been telling him, which is, "hang in there through high school and it will get so much better when you get to college."  But even so, your point is really a good addition to this-- there are so many social pressures about being successful as a "man," that don't develop until after one is of college age, or after one is in one's twenties.  I will reinforce the idea that he needs to hang in there, be patient, enjoy his own path, and that things will begin to make sense.

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:14:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Also, bullying is different among girls and boys (0+ / 0-)

        in US schools, post-elementary.  You probably know how it manifested for girls, but it's very different for boys.  More violent and less subversive, generally.

        Find someone who knows how it manifests itself and talk to them.  It will probably happen to your son, and it's something you should be ready to help him with.  I won't say "protect him from", because although you should, you will not be able to do so except by targeting the worst of the worst if something really egregious starts happening.

        Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

        by neroden on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:01:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think I would add this addendum (0+ / 0-)

        "Hang in there through high school, it gets somewhat better in college, then keep hanging in through your early 20s, and if you work hard in school, work hard at forming genuine friendships and relationships with people, and work hard at being the most well rounded person you can be, it will all pay starting in your late 20s."

        And this is a crucial piece of advice for a son:
        Do not get married before you are 25.

    •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)

      I'm going to print out this comment, among others, and ask my son to read it.  I know he really feels alone.

    •  This feels a bit off to me (0+ / 0-)

      I know that the core of your message is "it gets better".  That's an awesome thing.

      Here's another thing I read in what you were saying, which may not be what you mean at all: that since he's a guy he has privilege and he just has to wait and he'll be rewarded because he was born with a penis.  Remember, this is me reading in to what you said perhaps more than what you mean, but since I don't have a penis, it doesn't automatically get better for me as I age, it gets worse.

      I would stick with the "it gets better" message, personally, and say that you should always treat people the way you wish people had treated you when everyone was picking on you.  See everyone as a person with a valid point of view that may be different from yours, and respect them.

      Active Listening practiced here.

      by CA coastsider on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:32:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes and no (0+ / 0-)

        In raising children I believe it is our duty to both a) prepare them for the reality they encounter, and b) to instill in them the perspective and tools to change that reality for the better.

        Part of the way things are is that, as I've outlined above, a large train of thought still permeating society is that men are evaluated on the basis of things like career success, financial success, athletics, maturity, and sexual conquests, and women are evaluated on the basis of sex appeal and youth.

        That's not the way I want it to be, for sure, but it is the way it is, these notions are still with us and inform a lot of peoples' interactions with us and each other, conscious and sub-conscious and everything in between.  

        So the way it is is that men - again with some exceptions of those who excel at sports early - start low with nothing, are treated like crap by everyone, get lots of negative feedback, but then have the opportunity to go much higher in the realm of these notions, whereas women start high, get treated like princesses and get lots of positive attention and feedback, and then go down in the realm of these notions.

        Again, this is a bad thing, it does damage to both men and women, and I wish it were different, but this reality is part of what is out there in the world.  I would prepare both my sons and daughters to be fully informed when they encounter this reality, that it is out there and they will have to navigate it.  

        As we grow up and progress in adulthood, it can get better for all of us if we lead our lives right, we can have more independence, knowledge, experience, maturity, and all of the other things that make it better.  We can all - boys and girls - navigate the waters to a healthy, happy, successful adulthood.  

        Again though, part of being successful is navigating what is actually out there in reality.  I would tell my son that as far as the generic base societal attitude towards you, your hardest days will be as a teenager and young adult.  Whereas I would tell my daughter that as the generic base societal attitude towards you, your easiest days will probably be as a teenager or a young adult.  

        With this information on the way things are my son might despair less while young, and realize that there is a large eventual reward in education and maturity, something that is not at all obvious when jocks and assholes are getting all the positive feedback.  And with this information my daughter might realize that there is high value in cultivating independence, education, skills, and real deep relationships with people, and not coasting by on sex appeal, the temporary easy way out, as many young women unfortunately do.  She may become wiser earlier as to who is someone of actual value, and who might be giving her positive feedback for shallow reasons.

        One of the keys to a successful life is recognizing things like this that are out there, and navigating them, without perpetuating them onto others.

    •  People who are really happy in HS (0+ / 0-)

      are (very often) people who  peak too soon.

      I was suicidal at 14.  Every year since has been better.

      Founder Math and Statistics Geeks . Statistics for progressives

      by plf515 on Wed Mar 09, 2011 at 04:25:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I raised a boy as a single mother (29+ / 0-)

    He's 42 now. The biggest mistake I made was thinking I needed to be both mother and father to him. Unfortunately, I had an autocratic, sometimes mean father who could lose his temper and be way too physical with my brothers. I wish I hadn't tried to copy some of that. I did, eventually, see the error of my ways when someone suggested to me that I should read Tough Love.  As I was reading about how it's sometimes necessary to kick your child out of the home, I began to see how ridiculous the premise was.

    The way society treats boys vs. girls is changing. My son had a "girlfriend," by 3rd grade. My grandson who is about to turn 6, doesn't see that much difference between boys and girls. He likes "boy toys" (e.g. cars) but doesn't see any reason that should preclude sweeping the floor with a broom. Some of this may be individual, but I suspect it's also generational.

    There's a lot of talk about how a child needs both a mother and a father, and how criminal behavior coincides with being raised by a single mother, but I suspect that has more to do with being raised in poverty which is where a lot of single mothers live.

    You sound like a great mother to me, too.  I'd say just follow your instinct to be nice to your son and you'll raise him to be a nice person. Others may disagree, but I think that's the most important thing.

    Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction. -- Blaise Pascal

    by RJDixon74135 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:12:26 AM PST

  •  Mom, you can't "teach" being a man. (38+ / 0-)

    As a woman you have no insight into being male; you only know interacting with males. Show him, by example, what a good person is, and how one behaves.

    This is universal. Let him see kindness, empathy, respect, joy and sorrow, balance, perseverance, acceptance of variety, and gratitude. When he sees and learns how to be a good person, he will then apply these lessons to his own life and experiences.

    He can't be a good lover or husband - to a partner of any gender - without being a good person. Nourish his goodness as a person, show him how to open his heart to life, then simply trust to leaving the rest up to him.

    I'm the plowman in the valley - with my face full of mud

    by labradog on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:15:20 AM PST

    •  Thank you. This is beautifully said. n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:19:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would add to labradog's comment (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        concernedamerican, neroden, Jantman

        to also say - point to other people's behavior as examples.

        My son and I will run errands or watch news or sports.  Via these ordinary activities, we see a variety of behaviors - some great, some less so.  I'll find an opening and we'll discuss it.   Those talks are some of my favorite memories. Kids are amazingly wise.

        I'm willing to bet you already do this.  It just another way to help your son grow into a wonderful person.  

        "We live in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

        by Stein on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:58:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep, we do this. We don't watch tv in our (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Stein, neroden

          house.  But we will sometimes watch a select program or two.  For example, maybe twice a month we'll all eat dinner in the family room and watch "America's Funniest Home Videos" together.  We talk a lot together about the behaviors we see, what we think of them, etc., while we're watching.  And not just in terms of their being funny, but also in terms of whether that's a good thing to do, or a hurtful thing, or good for a family, etc.

          And you are right.  He always blows me away with how wise he is.

          That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

          by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:53:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  In German, "mensch" means "person" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Just to emphasize that point.  Most life lessons are not gender dependent.

      When it comes to the really gender-dependent physical stuff, what you want is good sex ed, and personally I always point to

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:56:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I can think of of few things (15+ / 0-)

    -a sense of humor, especially for the hard times
    -being comfortable with holding a baby so that baby's mom can have 15 minutes to eat using both hands.

    you and your partner sound like great parents!

    Anyone who scoffs at happiness needs to take their soul back to the factory and demand a better one. -driftglass

    by postmodernista on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:17:09 AM PST

    •  At least one other thing (5+ / 0-)

      Teach him to be unselfish.  Teach him to attempt to see the world through the eyes of others.  Encourage him to be curious about the perspectives of others who are different from him in any way.

      Current culture will teach him to selfish, self-absorbed, self-concerned, self-promoting, self-interested, etc.  You will have to double down in order to reverse that momentum.

      Get him involved in some community service projects.  Its also a great way to meet girls and others who are probably being stretched to go beyond the selfishness all around them.  Good Luck!

  •  I have no idea! (16+ / 0-)

    I raised one child, a daughter and can talk about the ups and downs of teenage girls till your ear falls off. Boys? Yowza! My daughter has two and one is 12 so I guess I get to watch her navigate those waters. He has a great dad who grew up with 3 brothers, so she will have help.

    The one thing we did with our daughter that I am the most proud of is we raised a good person, a smart, compassionate, intelligent girl, now woman. We made her accountable for the things she did, we never ran interference for her. If she needed support she always had it, but we didn't want to fall into the trap of over protection.

    We were open about sex and did our best to make her comfortable with herself. When she began dating I bought a box of condoms and spermicidal jelly and put it in her drawer with a note that she could talk to me about the pill any time she wanted.  

    She came of age during the 80s and I remember ranting about videos and how they objectified women. She fought me on it but recently told me that she sees the same thing now that her boys are watching them. She had a flash back.

    Speaking of flash backs, we were also honest about drugs with her. We told her what we thought about all the lies and what the real dangers were. We were hippies and I know she did some experimenting because she told us but it was never a problem.

    I worried most about drinking and as she grew older we instituted the "no questions asked, free ride home for you or your friends" rule. We had more than one of her friends call us to get them from a party and then go bring back their car.

    I guess what I'm getting at is keep talking even when your kid thinks you are stupid and/or embarrassing and possibly the dumbest parent on earth. Keep talking, they listen.

    "But much to my surprise when I opened my eyes I was the victim of the great compromise." John Prine

    by high uintas on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:19:48 AM PST

  •  We raised two sons, (24+ / 0-)

    who are now wonderful grown men.  It's been my experience that maybe a quarter of what you TELL them sinks in, but ALL of what you SHOW them sinks in.

    Always and forever BE the kind of person you want your son to be.  Model honesty and integrity for him every chance you get.  If you get too much change, or an extra order of fries at the drive through window, go back and make it right.  They are watching everything you do and say, even if it doesn't always appear that way.

    Show him how to compromise with those around you.  Laugh as much as possible.  Be happy yourself.  Be generous.  Be kind.  You can say anything you want, but they will learn from what you DO.

    And something my husband told me proved true over and over again.....if they know that they are loved, everything will turn out just fine.

    There will always be negative genetic predispositions to certain behaviors that you will wonder where they came from, and when this happens, love them anyway.  Always, always show them love, even when you feel disappointed or let down.  

    Gosh, I could go on, but one last thing....make sure your eyes light up whenever you see them.  I heard that on Oprah many years ago, and wondered why anyone would need that advice, but I suppose that's naive.  It was an easy one for me, and one that's also easy when I see my husband.

    The fact that you care enough to ask folks here for advice tells me you're exactly the kind of Mom that will raise a wonderful son.  It goes so fast.  Enjoy every second of it.

    •  Showing them is great advice (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      majcmb1, Jantman

      An important area all parents can show our kids is voting. I've made it a point to take my son with me to vote.  My parents did it with me.  It made an impression.

      I hate the mail in ballots for that reason only.  However, they do have drop off locations.  I make it a point to deliver mine with him in tow.  

      It's my hope he'll grow up to be a good Democrat.  

      "We live in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

      by Stein on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 03:08:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Some thoughts... (19+ / 0-)

    1. Hear that noise the girls make when their mouths open? Those are words and sentences, and they probably express something the girl is feeling. Listen and pay attention to it. It's kind of important.

    2. You will be told a lot of things by your peers about what it is to be "manly". They are almost always full of crap. Especially when it comes to rites of passage. You don't need to smoke, drink, treat girls/people like crap, snap towels at people, assert dominance by being a bully, or any of the other stupid stuff kids come up with. Real men don't depend on their peers' validation.

    3. The right choice is almost always the hard choice, and real men do what's right, even if it hurts them in the short run. It's easier to pick on someone unpopular than to tell your friends that picking on the weak isn't cool - guess which one is the right choice?

    4. Real men dance. Haters stay on the sidelines and mock.

    5. The brain is stronger than the penis. Think with the former before doing anything with the latter.

    Honestly, there isn't any great secret men learn from other men. Strong ethical and moral lessons can be learned from any gender. I used my father as my jumping-off point, as he is a decent, intelligent, hard-working, fair, and tough (mentally and physically) human being who demonstrated through action much more than he taught me through words. As I look back on it, there were no great lessons I learned from him that I couldn't have learned from my mother - and often, what I observed in my father was reinforced with my mother.

    Relax. As long as you have love, respect, integrity, and decency in your household, you're already doing 99% of the hard work. Luck you you and yours. :)

    The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there. - Yasutani Roshi

    by lotusmaglite on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:28:20 AM PST

  •  He's going to need a male role model (10+ / 0-)

    A coach, perhaps, or a youth pastor, or a male friend. Someone who models menchhood.

    He needs to see men who treat their wives / girlfriends with respect.

    He needs to see men who control their tongues when angry.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:36:48 AM PST

  •  I had good hair too! (6+ / 0-)

    Although not the amber? color of your sons.  It grew out fully around the time of the Beatles, and about the time that I rebelled (age 12) against Dad trimming me up to look like a Nazi yoot member ......

    Reading your diary you have, I think,  touched on many of the answers to direct you to whomever/whatever will be what your son needs as a mentor and experience teacher.  

    Let's see.... you spoke of brother as loving and caring and interested - that would be someone who becomes a cheerleader periodically when he can visit;  you didn't mention sports - but the coach if talked to can be one who understands you want development of team/fair play concepts; then there will be those who help your son understand responsibility (teachers, employers, playmates);  lastly - there could be hetero-couples who should show your son what love and play mean between caring males/females in a bonding experience  (and they can also be your friends too!).

    Don't get too desperate - you are thinking on the right track already.

  •  Boys to men (12+ / 0-)

    Teach your sons, and daughters for that matter, independence and respect for others.

    How many women take over in being a 'mother' to their men?
    How many women wish that their man would help with household chores?

    We shouldn't  raise our children to believe that there's woman's work and man's work.

    There should be no gender equation when it comes to laundry, or dusting, or vacuuming, or changing a fuel filter, changing oil, and replacing a car battery.

    A woman can mow the grass or do yard work just as easily as a man can wash the floors and scrub toilets.

    In a relationship equality is essential, in my opinion.

    In a female/male relationship, there are differences when it comes to brawn, but there shouldn't be a difference when it comes to brains.

    I moved out at 18 years old, and I wish very much that my father had taught me how to change spark plugs, change the oil, replace the battery, tackle simple plumbing tasks, etc.

    I did know how to clean the house, cook meals, and do laundry, but I wish that I'd have had some knowledge of caring for my car and doing routine home maintenance.

    So, my advice is to teach your son how to do his own laundry, clean his room, and clean up after himself in the bathroom.
    Teach him to set the table and clean up after a meal.
    Teach him how to cook.

    His future partner will appreciate him doing basic household chores.

    And if there's a way, teach him basic car maintenance!

    •  My Mom always said it (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      majcmb1, arizonablue

      was a good idea to raise our sons to be good husbands.  

      My Dad raised his girls to know no gender barrier. I didn't learn how to change the oil but I remember the day he taught me to change a tire.  I've been grateful for that lesson on more than one occasion.

      "We live in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

      by Stein on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 03:38:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You will do fine. Love him and stand strong when (10+ / 0-)

    you must.

    I have a 20 y/o son. He's had a couple of low level brushed with the law. All in all, he's laid back and decent young man.

    Two things that are connected:

    - The concept of consequences for your actions. Own what you do. Dont lay off problems on friends, teachers or anyone else when you mess up. Stand up, be honest, fix the problem, move on.

    - Become a serious person. Not unfunny, just serious about your life and serious about what you hope to achieve. Serious about the life you wish to lead and serious about how you plan to help yourself and others.

    Question: can you be tough-I mean really tough-on your son when its called for? Failure to follow through, as parents, when consequences are called for, is something all parents struggle with.

    No home. No job. No peace. No rest.

    by A Runner on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:48:49 AM PST

  •  Teach him to treat others (11+ / 0-)

    like he wants to be treated, to look adults in the eye, say please and thank you and mean it, and talk about what this means:

    This above all: to thine ownself be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.

    Oh and teach him how to cook enough so that he won't starve , how to do his own laundry and how to clean a toilet!

    We moved to DK4 and all I got was this sig line

    by Vita Brevis on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:55:01 AM PST

  •  I agree with everything said so far..... (4+ / 0-)

    Kindness to all, and especially gentleness, generosity, and respect towards the weak, is very important.

    I do want to add one thing I have not seen yet:

    Sometimes, when it's important, it is necessary to stand your ground.  A lot of testing goes on and maturity is to some extent the process of knowing when the stakes are worth it. Reasonableness is very important but there are times when you must choose to be unreasonable.

    I'd say that that advice applies to girls as well. They are tested differently but they are tested.


    We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

    by bmcphail on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:01:20 AM PST

  •  Some rules? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican, DaytonMike

    Be in control of yourself.

    In the context of personal relationships, respect when someone tells you 'no' the first time they do.

    Be a civilzed human.

    You don't like it when someone does xyz to you?  Don't do that to someone else.

    Behave with courtesy to all.

    Be loyal to the people you respect.

    Don't assume you know what someone is thinking.

    Don't assume you know anything about a person's life and/or challenges.

    Be generous with yourself and others.

    "There are always 10% screaming about something"--Hollydem's Dad.

    by pvlb on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:08:02 AM PST

  •  Show him kindness and respect and he will (7+ / 0-)

    see the importance of those two behaviors/traits. They will become natural to him.

    Teach him to have a firm handshake but not to firm that it hurts. And to look people in the eyes when shaking their hands.

    Teach him to answer questions and look people in the eyes. It will help his confidence.

    Teach him that the only thing worse than being a bully is to be bullied.

    Teach him to defend himself and to protect those who struggle to protect themselves.

    Teach him to treat others like he'd want to be treated.

    Teach him to DANCE - lead!  Women like that.

    Good luck - try to just be you and truly believe that he is not lacking.

    Deferment Dick -The Happy Torturer

    by Mr Magu on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:10:22 AM PST

  •  This comment: (4+ / 0-)
    standard for growing up into a "guy" or a "man," right?  Unless one is gay, or transgender, which we don't know yet, he doesn't know yet, it could take him years to figure out, etc. etc. my mind, shows you're pretty well along your way to raising him to be a good person. Most kids are never so lucky to have calm and understanding on these fronts, and that goes for heterosexuals as well as non-heterosexuals.

    Otherwise I beleive that if a parent can also demostrate that one does not objectify those to whom they are sexually attracted, and view all of these folks with respect and develop relationships based on mutual partnership, then you will be in the top 10% even if you screw a bunch of other stuff up (and we all do/will/have).

    Pionta Guinness, le do thoil!

    by surfbird007 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:11:35 PM PST

  •  I could get flamed for this, but... (7+ / 0-)

    try the Boy Scouts.  I am a veteran Scout leader, currently the chair of the committee at a Boy Scout troop sponsored by a local Catholic church, and I'm not Catholic.  I'm also the training chair for the District (a larger geographich area with about 80 units in it) and have a seat on the Council training committee.  There, I usually work with adult leaders.

    There are a few hard-core right-wing types in Scouting, but there are also liberals like me too.  There's also a MUCH larger number who are militantly tolerant, like the very Catholic Assistant Scoutmaster who took our youth chaplain aside and told him in no uncertain terms that catholic prayers are not allowed at troop meetings and campouts because the two newest boys to join the troop are Jewish.  The boys' father wears a yarmulke, and hangs out with me (an active Episcopalian) and a Libyan Muslim immigrant as part of my training team.

    Boys between 12 and 18 often need to break away from parental authority, in order to become their own people.  Later, they often return to the values of their parents when they've tested them out themselves.  For those teenaged years, it's good for all boys to have other adult role models to pattern themselves on.  The vast majority of Boy Scout volunteers have chosen to be those role models, and they take it seriously.

    I have my own proof of how well the program works.  my son was a Cub Scout and then a Boy Scout.  he tended to look at other leaders (and not to me) as he was going through the Scouting program.  He made it all the way to Eagle Scout.  He's in his last year of college, is still registered as an adult leader in his troop, and works at the Council's summer camp.  he still has a close relationship with his Mom and I.  And he still ended up liberal enough and tolerant enough to keep any Kossack happy.

    The Scout Law (trustworthy, loyal, helpful...) is a GREAT liberal manifesto.

    by DaytonMike on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:19:20 PM PST

    •  Can't agree with you on that one (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stein, concernedamerican, Kodiak54

      Your troop and your area may be the exception, but for the most part there are a lot of fundamentalist christians and a lot of homophobia in the Boy Scouts.

      I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

      by coquiero on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:25:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It depends on the local area, and the sponsors. (6+ / 0-)

        I've been a Scouting volunteer for 13 years, and we have NEVER had an issue about homosexuality in our Council.  A few heterosexual offenders (who offended outside of the Scouting program) who have been banned.  There's a few leaders I know who I suspect might be gay, but it's not my business if they don't say so.

        Yes, there are fundamentalists sponsoring troops as well, but our formal training comes down very hard on religious intolerance and exclusivity.  Our Interfaith committee has Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jews and a Muslim on it, and the only time I've seen us fight is to jump on a camp chaplain for being too one-sided in his religious teaching.

        The Scout Law (trustworthy, loyal, helpful...) is a GREAT liberal manifesto.

        by DaytonMike on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:32:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Don't suppose you are (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      located in Sonoma County by chance?  

    •  Boy Scouts (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stein, coquiero

      can be a hotbed of abuse, in the guise of "roughhousing" and stealth religious proselytizing. At least that was my experience. I have hated the Boy Scouts all my life for the indignities I endured at their hands. When I look around our culture, my guess is that my experience was not unusual. "What it means to be a man" has been a notion that has spawned a lot of fucking crazy behavior.

      •  My job as a trainer is to prevent these problems.. (0+ / 0-)

        We actually have an excellent program of online and live training courses.  Our online courses are at  You'll have to create an account to take them, but you don't have to be a registered Scouter.  Check out the Youth Protection course, which we require every leader take before they become a leader, and repeat every two years.  Our Guide to Safe Scouting is also online, with required safety checks.  We now have a system of outside volunteers periodically monitoring each unit, to make sure that the hazing you describe does not take place.  Finally, while we insist that every Scout is reverent, we do not mandate any specific religion.

        The Scout Law (trustworthy, loyal, helpful...) is a GREAT liberal manifesto.

        by DaytonMike on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:16:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  No flame here. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I loved scouts growing up. It's not for every boy, but for a lot of boys, it's terrific. Nice suggestion.

      "Democracy is like chicken soup. You have to stir it up often or a scummy oily film forms at the top."

      by StratCat on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:28:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Things I learned the hard way... (6+ / 0-)

    Here are a few things I learned the hard way and there are other things I wish I had known. I am a 46-year-old man. I can't complain, really. My parents did the best they could and I was raised with plenty (not spoiled, though).  I am not going to edit this list...I'll just throw it out there:

    1) Relationship to violence and anger.  I moved schools in 8th grade and got picked on.  No matter what people say about pacifism and not fighting, the only way I stopped people from picking on me was to fight back, and it was a lesson that stuck.  I hope your son doesn't face this (I think in my case it was because I was the new kid on the block)...but I think a lot could be learned in a martial arts program that teaches force BUT ALSO restraint. I wish that someone had taught me about both.  I didn't need so much to learn about restraint, but I did also use fighting against weaker classmates (I know why I did it then, but I am ashamed as I think back).  Lest you think I am violent: I haven't fought anyone since that year.  I've also had to face the fact, though, that from time to time traffic makes me, well, there's no other way to say it: crazy.  Road rage.  

    2) Sex education.  Part of it, I hate to say, is that there are women who will get pregnant to trap you.  This happened to me. Thank god it was when I was older (and should have known better) and I love my daughter more than life itself and stay involved in her life every other day (and in fact am usually grateful that this "accident" happened to me, but for being connected to my daughter's mother).  This is probably not a necessary lesson in his teen years, but it's a part of the education process.

    3) Have you read the Male Brain by Louann Brizendine?  

    4) Peer pressure and its pitfalls.  There was an article in the Well section of the NYT within the past month or so about teenagers and how when in crowds they do stupid things.    

    5) I really needed a male role model who was in my court, not judgmental.  And I sort of had one for a bit, but he was removed from my life -- an uncle who lived across the country. I spent part of a summer building a solar house in Colorado with him, though, and the memories and connection helped me through tough times in my day-to-day life.

    I also needed someone who didn't say that my job was to mechanistically pursue a "good career" no matter what, but that I needed, first, to know myself and know what would make me happy and then look at the practical realities and my dreams from there.

    6) You've already figured out the most obvious: he is different from you.  Boys, and men, aren't typically able to verbalize their feelings as well -- or even to know how they feel.  Don't press him too hard.  Give him space. Let his feeling bubble up, take shape, if need be, over a greater time than if he were a girl.  Listen, listen.

    These are just a few things.  Hope they help....The fact that you've put this question out here gives me a lot of faith.  I do the same all the time about raising my daughter...(who is now 3.5).  Being a parent is not necessarily intuitive.

    •  I'm happy for you re: the relationship (0+ / 0-)

      with your daughter.  Definitely sounds like lemonade.

      As a female, I know what other females are capable of. I've struggled to figure out how do I educate my son to be wise but not cynical. Well, one of his female classmates helped me on this topic.

      He's 12, in 6th grade.  

      Just this week, she announced to the class she wanted to marry a rich athlete. She would divorce him a couple of years later. Then she would be rich. WOW!!! I'm happy she said it because I don't think my son would believe me if I told him that is how some people think.

      He and I spoke only briefly at the time he shared this.  But her comment will allow us to talk more later.  

      Good advice on the other areas and thanks for the link to the NYT article.

      "We live in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

      by Stein on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 03:58:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a former eleven-year-old... (7+ / 0-)

    ...I think being socialized with girls in a platonic way, being encouraged to read books and watch movies that show women as point-of-view characters or otherwise three-dimensional, and otherwise reinforcing that women are actual people just like him is the best thing for it. And it wouldn't hurt to talk about these things, too--that is, to try and get him to think about why things are the way they are and why he believes the things he believes.

    Raising a kid with empathy for others and with an ability to rationally examine their own thinking and the thoughts or actions of others is the best achievement you can make, I think. Empathy + Critical Thinking = Good People.

    •  THIS IS CRUCIAL. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If he has platonic female friends -- not just a few, quite a lot -- and his reading is full of realistic 3-dimensional female characters -- and is generally brought up to believe in equality of men and women, he will not view women as "the other", and that goes a long way.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:06:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  FWIW, I was a single mom through divorce. (5+ / 0-)

    Our family ties were very close.  My dad and my brothers were a constant in my son's life, as were his older male cousins.  He also had a Big Brother from the organization of the same name.  All those guys had a very strong influence on him and kept him on the straight and narrow when he thought about drifting off course, so  to speak.  I don't wish adolescence on anyone.  If your son gets through that life stage unscathed, he can get through anything.
    He also had a male, married teacher who took a life long interest in him.  Sad to say, his father took no interest in him and they had no relationship, whatsoever.  But, the other males in his life more than made up for it.
    My mom, his sister and I were his female stalwarts and he was taught to respect and honor us.
    He has served his country in the military for 28 years.  He has been married for 21 years this month and according to my dil, he is a wonderful husband and father.
    He needs two basic things from you and your partner:  roots and wings.  Best of luck to all of you.

    Character is who you are when no one is watching.

    by incognita on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:34:27 PM PST

  •  some lessons: (6+ / 0-)

    character is built through overcoming adversity. Getting what you want all the time leaves you feeling unfulfilled and unable to appreciate the value of things.

    We learn by making mistakes.  If you're making a mistake, it means there's an opportunity to have learned something.  This applies to everything from drinking too much alcohol that you throw up to getting low marks on a school exam.  Mistakes can be good things sometimes.

    think ahead to the consequences of your actions.  Some mistakes can't be undone.  Some mistakes can be horrible in outcome.  The horrible ones often can't be undone.

    Don't be afraid to question what others tell you is absolutely true.  Question everything.  Demand evidence.  Think critically.  Make up your own mind.

    The number of people who believe in something adds no weight to the likelihood that it is true.  The entire world once believed the sun orbited around the earth.  They were all wrong.

    Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does wisdom.

    Your gut/feelings are not a reliable indicator of the truth.  I've read scientific theories that have been tested ad nauseum and turn out to be proven false despite a plethora of evidence in support.  Just think of how much out there is never questioned with far less evidence in support of it.

    The divorce rate in the U.S. is over 50%.  If one day all of your friends are married and you start asking yourself what is wrong that YOU are not; remember that over half of your friends will one day pay through the nose to get out of their marriages.  Bottom line: don't rely on others to show you what you're supposed to be doing with your life.

    Always consider how your words, actions, or politics will affect other people.  A virtuous person is one who can argue in support of something that benefits someone else other than him/herself: a man supporting women's rights.  Anyone aruging for civil rights.  A rich person supporting increased taxes on the wealthy.  A government official arguing for more oversight.  Or a soldier supporting human rights.

    "All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour." -Julia, 1984

    by pullbackthecurtain on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:37:04 PM PST

  •  My advice (4+ / 0-)

    As the mother of 3, a girl and 2 boys, now all grown up (but always my kids to me).

    Big thing is empathy. Your son sounds like a fine young man gifted in many ways. There are lots of people out there who aren't so gifted whether in intelligence, looks, talent, height or even just maleness.

    Teach him to appreciate where such gifts have allowed him to skate where others couldn't. It might help keep him humble.

    When one has lots of advantages you can make a big impact by pointing out and helping the disadvantaged. Include the excluded, welcome the strangers.

    Be a leader rather than a follower. Most kids and many adults have no idea what they're doing and are looking for someone to show them the way. Be that person and be an example for ethical, kind and moral behavior. And I'm not equating morality with sanctimony.

    Don't have sex too young. Even though you're thinking about it all the time, you or your partner aren't ready for sex if you're not ready to discuss and use contraception. If it embarrasses you to think about having that conversation, you're not ready.
    And that's okay.
    Masturbation is an okay activity. Old enough isn't a number either though you made need to discuss things like statutory rape laws with your kid.
    Eleven isn't too young to be having this conversation.

    Like others said, try and practice the golden rule. When you realize that you haven't, apologize sincerely and then don't make the same mistake twice.

    And finally, though this one will probably fall on deaf ears. Remind him that he is not indestructible.
    Bad things can happen to both good people and people who didn't think anything bad would happen just this one time.

    Actions have consequences. And we have to live with the results of our actions. As he grows he will become more and more independent and will have to rely on his own judgment. Get him into the habit of working out a plan of action for given situations that involve more mature issues.

    Just like you may have rehearsed with him what to do if a stranger tried to lure him into a car when he was younger, you rehearse with him what to do if he's with his friends and they want to smoke pot, drink, have sex, shoplift or beat someone up etc.

    As a parent I'd also say that you need to know what your own boundaries are and make sure you don't let your kids cross them. Don't sweat the small stuff but also don't be too anything goes. Kids need to rebel, to differentiate from you.

    As an example, when my daughter wanted to dye her hair when she was 13 I made it an issue and she had to wait until Gr 8 graduation. It wasn't that I really cared, but I would rather deal with her outrageous behavior with a bottle of dye than have her rebelliousness explode out in some other far more dangerous way. I saw the consequences of that with too many of my friends who had really strict parents.
    It's not a perfect solution in my experience, but I think still helpful.

    I didn't let my kids get tattoos or piercings (beyond their ears) underage (my uncrossable line) because of health risks. They all wanted them, but only one has gotten any now that they are adults.

    Good luck! Remember every age comes with its own set of challenges. Just when you're wiping your brow with relief that one stage is finished, the next will smack you upside the head. You're doing your best every day given whatever else is going on. That is enough.

  •  I don't think you can teach him to "be a man." (5+ / 0-)

    The best you can do is to life your life the way you want him to live his.  He'll learn.

    Funny you should ask now, because I'm nearing the opposite end of this journey.  I'm approaching 60 and my own father is rapidly fading into Alzheimers.  I think of all the things I know, all the skills I have, and all of the experiences I've enjoyed; and I can't remember my father ever teaching me any of it.  He was just there, showing me life and how to do it.  We lived it together.  I became his son because he was my father; and that's not a bad thing for any son to be.

    You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

    by rb608 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:44:15 PM PST

  •  There's no manual for parenthood (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican, coquiero

    Which is unfortunate, as I could greatly use one.

    Regardless of what you tell him, he'll likely take his manhood cues (good and bad) from the men and peers he sees.

    He certainly won't listen to you, especially in a couple of years, because you don't know anything. Welcome to "The Final Revenge of the Parent." ("One day you'll have a kid, and...")

    Encourage the good and discourage the bad is all the advice I'm afraid I can offer.

    And keep a sense of humor - you'll need it.

  •  My above comment notwithstanding, (4+ / 0-)

    I can offer a one bullet point that will serve anyone well (son or daughter):

    Don't be afraid to say hello.  There's a lot of baggage behind that, fear of failure, fear of rejection, etc.; but take the chance.  Say hello to people.  It's the world's best "pick up" line for dating as well as the best way to introduce yourself to business contacts.

    My own offspring make jokes about how I strike up conversations with complete strangers anywhere about anything.  It makes life fun and interesting.

    You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

    by rb608 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:51:00 PM PST

    •  OMG - do I know you? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Teasing - A friend jokes that I could get a paper bag to talk.  

      Agreed re: hello.  Another way of conveying the same is a smile.  Smile at people.  It's a simple act but people usually respond.  Never underestimate the power of a smile.  

      "We live in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

      by Stein on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 04:33:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A few book recommendations (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican, Nulwee

    Take these with a grain of salt: I've never raised a boy, I've never been a boy, I've never taught boys, but I did look into this topic a few months ago when a friend was looking for a book to give her preteen son to help him understand what's happening to him.  I like the idea of a book that you can give the kid to read, he can read it in privacy, reread the parts that don't make sense the first time and then come to you with specific questions if he still has any.  Anyway, these are a couple that I found that I recommended to her:
    Boy's Body Book (I liked this one mostly based on the 1-star review from the fundamental mom who thought it was too scary for her kids)
    AMA's Boy's Guide to Becoming a Teen (seems like a solid book for preteens)
    What's Happening to My Body (may be a bit old for your son, it seems to be aimed at teenagers)

    Frugal Fridays, where the cheap come to chat.

    by sarahnity on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:57:56 PM PST

  •  I raised a son alone. (5+ / 0-)

    My son is now 26, finishing his MS, married 3 years, 18 month old daughter.  He is the kind of man I would like to find for my own companion.....but haven't.  How did he get there?  Sometimes I think he is such a good person in spite of me, not because of me.  But then I listen to him and watch him and I see and  I was always honest with him, and for a period of time he was my closest friend.  he heard me say "I don't know why, it just doesn't feel right" and he also heard me say "I'm sorry" plenty of times (my own father and two brothers NEVER used the word "sorry").  

    When he is in the mood to talk (might be a little early yet) let him know your own fears and worries, then he knows he isn't alone and even adults don't have all the answers.  Tell him to listen to his heart.  Ask him when you observe someone acting kind or that made him feel and that he should remember those feelings, they are telling him the best way to act toward others.

    Did you see the video of the young man (18?) who testified at some state legislator recently?  he has two moms and he was proclaiming to the world that they raised him to be a good person and he was glad of all he had learned from them.

    Bottom line: Listen, Love, Apologize when necessary, Love some the example you want him to be.
    The fact that you are here means you care very much and will do the best you can.  In the end, you do the best you know how.........and he makes his own choices, hopefully they will be compatible with his family, but the choices are his.

    "Life is a tragedy for those who feel, a comedy for those who think" - Jean de la Bruyere

    by Tinuviel on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 01:10:12 PM PST

  •  While it's nice to have an open relationship (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican

    with your son, which is something I didn't have as a child, there are going to be things he's going to uncomfortable talking to you about. That's ok. He doesn't have to be open to you about everything. He probably knows that, and you probably do too. But in daily life, uncertainty makes a parent nervous.

    I do believe that younger men desire and benefit from older men in their life.

    That's a problem for me, because I believe the same is the case for women (that they need women in their life). If I ever am secure enough to start a family, I will probably adopt and raise children on my own, without a mother-figure for my daughters.

    However, I do know that lesbians raise sons awesomely, so no, I don't believe there's anything wrong here.

    The quality of the role model is so important, too. Guys learn a bunch of bullshit ideas about how to be a man (dangerous activities, aggression, competition) that are a waste of time. Your son probably hasn't been so strongly affected by that kind of toxic environment.

    I wish I had more answers.

  •  himself and other people (who happen to be male) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican

    He is going to need his self-respect. Life is full of pressures but encourage him not to create a sense of weakness by letting himself down.

    And something like the opposite applies to how he keeps his perspective towards the guys around him - especially when he sees their weaknesses and inadequacies. He should consistently develp his intuitive ability to read guys without being too harsh in his judgements. They didn't have two great moms. They're just busy being themselves. "Fitting in" might or might not be on the table as a possibility, but there's no need to spread aggravation. Big shoulders (metaphorically) help protect a sincere big heart. Chances are the other guys will do a lot he can condemn or think ill of, but it sounds like he can nourish his own good-natured depth in a way that doesn't antagonize even the jerks.

    Now for the bad news. I joke with my mom who raised me by herself after my dad died when I was 6 that nothing could overcome her inadequacy as the leading male figure in my life. My son and I joke that my mom had bigger balls than all the other men around me. You sound great. He may never be influenced by a better "man" than you. But he shouldn't hold it against the other guys/men/boys/etc. when they don't measure up to you. My advice to you - ALWAYS hang in there (and remember that's setting an example).

    All meant with love,
    PHIL :)

  •  It's not too late (0+ / 0-)

    Unfortunately there is only one way to get your son to amount to anything, and that is to mistreat him.  A disproportionate number of history's great men were mistreated horribly as children, or they claimed to be. Presidents Lincoln, LBJ, Clinton, and Reagan fall within this fortunate group,  not to mention Charles Dickens and Howard Fast and any number of other driven and successful men. To be regularly beaten and starved, or at the very least raised in humiliating circumstances, is every boy's right. Consider his life a future pearl; it is your parental duty to make what remains of his childhood into a small but jagged and painful bit of shell.  Good luck! :-)

  •  He sounds like striker material. (0+ / 0-)

    In addition to picking up lots of Spanish and a little Bosnian; when you coach soccer, you also see the way other boys (and girls, of course) interact with each other and parents.

    If you put him into sports, you can see the way other boys' parents act.  And, of course, you will want to do the exact opposite in many cases.

  •  I'm very short on time today (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican, k8dd8d

    So here it is from a guy:
    Hook him up with Big Brothers of America.
    You learn about unexpected erections during puberty and dont freak out when it happens...he can't help it and is embarrassed as hell about it. Every guys unspoken horror during puberty.
    You sound like a great mom, don't sweat the little stuff...just love the kid and he'll be great!



  •  Maybe you make too much of an issue out of it? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican, lgmcp

    Teach him to treat others as he would want to be treated.  Teach him to be patient, generous, kind and hard working.  Teach him to be respectful of people, whether they are like him or different from him.  That is what a man is.  That is what a woman is.  You are just as able to teach him that as any father.  I think the wonderful folk singer Dar Williams said it best.  Her words, not mine, are below:

    I won't forget when Peter Pan came to my house, took my hand
    I said I was a boy; I'm glad he didn't check.
    I learned to fly, I learned to fight
    I lived a whole life in one night
    We saved each other's lives out on the pirate's deck.

    And I remember that night
    When I'm leaving a late night with some friends
    And I hear somebody tell me it's not safe,
    someone should help me
    I need to find a nice man to walk me home.

    When I was a boy, I scared the pants off of my mom,
    Climbed what I could climb upon
    And I don't know how I survived,
    I guess I knew the tricks that all boys knew.

    And you can walk me home, but I was a boy, too.

    I was a kid that you would like, just a small boy on her bike
    Riding topless, yeah, I never cared who saw.
    My neighbor come outside to say, "Get your shirt,"
    I said "No way, it's the last time I'm not breaking any law."

    And now I'm in this clothing store, and the signs say less is more
    More that's tight means more to see, more for them, not more for me
    That can't help me climb a tree in ten seconds flat

    When I was a boy, See that picture? That was me
    Grass-stained shirt and dusty knees
    And I know things have gotta change,
    They got pills to sell, they've got implants to put in,
    they've got implants to remove

    But I am not forgetting...that I was a boy too

    And like the woods where I would creep, it's a secret I can keep
    Except when I'm tired, 'cept when I'm being caught off guard
    And I've had a lonesome awful day, the conversation finds its way
    To catching fire-flies out in the backyard.

    And so I tell the man I'm with about the other life I lived
    And I say, "Now you're top gun, I have lost and you have won"
    And he says, "Oh no, no, can't you see

    When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
    And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
    And I could always cry, now even when I'm alone I seldom do
    And I have lost some kindness
    But I was a girl too.
    And you were just like me, and I was just like you"

    "He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that." - J.S. Mill

    by dmsarad on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 01:39:21 PM PST

  •  I'm a single mom with a college freshman son (4+ / 0-)

    ...and I completely understand your desire for some hints as to the road map you will want to follow.

    I got pregnant totally by surprise and chose to follow through with it. The dad did not, nor would he have in any way been even barely adequate as a dad, he had wayyyyyyyy too much drama in his childhood and adolescence and was way too damaged.

    In some ways it's been easier, in some ways harder to be flying solo on this. But it got tougher when my precious father died when my son had just turned 8, because the two of them were the best of pals. That was devastating.

    I made a decision right at the beginning, because I believe parenting starts in the cradle, not to reinforce any gender stereotypes. I never said "pink is for girls" or "girls don't ride motorcycles" or any of that stuff. And yet at an incredibly early age, when he could barely talk, he seemed to have absorbed that stuff from the world around him. Go figure. So my job got a bit harder, as I always knew it would eventually -- I just didn't realize how early those things work their way into little minds.

    I also decided that no subject was off the table. I wanted him to feel free to think and share his thoughts. That said, obviously there are ages when kids can handle certain information and when they can't, and so I was guided by only what I felt he could handle at the time, and tailored my answers in such a way that I was being honest but not always entirely forthcoming. I'm sure you can imagine why.

    I was intolerant of intolerance, feeling it important to take a strong stand on certain things, including how women as well those who are different or less fortunate than we are should be treated and spoken of, etc.

    It's incredibly challenging to prevail against the garbage they hear from other kids, other adults, TV, video games, etc. every single day. I often thought I'd eventually have to resort to whispering subliminal messages to him as he slept. (Once in awhile I actually did.) But you have to be persistent. Oh, lawdy, do you have to be persistent.

    I also felt it important to assure him that while I will always do everything I can to protect him, I can't be everywhere all the time, and he has to evolve into a person who looks out for himself. In this I have not been entirely successful, but overall he's pretty cautious now, having had a terrible tragedy befall him in freshman year of high school at the hands of an older boy who assaulted him at knifepoint in the boy's darkened basement. Two years in and out of courts and that boy was and still is locked up, but this left its mark, and while I hate that this is what it took for my son to understand what I'd been trying to tell him about protecting ones self, I think he's less naive now. I sure as hell hope so.

    There's so much work to do in raising kids, and I don't think any parent ever really feels they have enough time to do all of it as well as they like.

    For me, the bottom line is: Keep it real. And let him know you love him and admire and respect him and are on his side every single chance you get. Remind him of what makes him so unique, so special, and encourage him not to change that.

    Ich bin ein Wisconsiner!

    by Apphouse50 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 01:40:17 PM PST

  •  A lot of great comments here. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican

    Fizzicks really nailed it. Let's see, what else....

    There's a pretty good quote from St Francis de Sales: “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” That quote meant a lot to me growing up. In fact, I saw quite a few good quotes on this page.

    Then there are the things that John Wooden's father wrote on a card for him:

    1. Be true to yourself.
    2. Help others.
    3. Make each day your masterpiece.
    4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
    5. Make friendship a fine art.
    6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
    7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day.

    I'm not religious, but the other ones work for me. Especially number three. Wooden also said: "You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."

    I'd give him one of Wooden's books. "Never let what you can't do prevent you from doing what you can do." "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

    He had a lot of those. And an amazing life story. And yet, he put it all out there, what he thought it took to live a rich, rewarding, successful life. So Wooden, along with some other great people, would be someone I'd want my son to know about.

    Also, it gets better. Teen years are really a rollercoaster but then things stabilize. I wish I'd known a little better that everyone else was going through the same thing.

    I also wish I'd really learned to dance, not just disco dancing but real steps. Try to get him into a few lessons before his resistance goes up!

    Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... --RFK

    by expatjourno on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:07:44 PM PST

  •  Raised two boys myself (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    concernedamerican, mrblifil

    One is now 26 and a professor at UConn, soon to have his PhD in mathematics. The other will turn 20 in a few weeks and is an engineering undergrad.

    I used to give the advice that you should just teach him to be a good person, and let nature take care of making him into a man. I still think that's the best advice. Don't sweat it. Don't obsess over it. You'll only make him uncomfortable.

    One thing I did read once was that boys need to find their place in the "hierarchy of boys" and I actually do think this may be true. He needs to be good at something - literally almost anything - where he can be successful competing against other boys.

    My older son was extremely competitive at everything - sports, school, music - and as a result, always had a lot of prestige. But he has recently talked to me about how all that competition always ground away at him and made him exhausted, and in the end made him more aware of his inadequacy than of his competence. However, having watched him grow, I still think it was the core of his identity as a man. He is an impressive person.

    My younger son was extremely NON competitive - but always seemed to have prestige because he was tall and muscular and girls loved him. He also had a beautiful bass singing voice and won prizes for it all through high school. So he got his place in the hierarchy even though he didn't really strive for it. He was also very bright, 4th in his class - again, not really the result of competition, but another "prize" he could claim as his.

    That's about all I've got. Good luck. And love really is all you need. He'll be fine.  

    •  My brother told us about the hierarchy of (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stein, Chun Yang, RyanBTC

      boys, soon after our son was born.  He said something to this effect:  "every time a guy walks into a room full of guys, they size him up to see where he is in the hierarchy.  Guys will respect guys who are taller than them, smarter than them, stronger than them, more athletic than them, funnier than them, better looking than them, richer than them, or more successful than them in careers.  If [our son] doesn't end up able to rank in this hierarchy on at least one of these criteria, he may be in for some regular beatings on the playground."

      I have often thought about that.  

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:44:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sounds like he's got plenty (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stein, concernedamerican, neroden

        You mentioned music. Nothing - and I mean nothing - elevated my older son in the "hierarchy" more than his musical ability. Especially the guitar. Drums are also very cool. What instrument does he play?

        You also mentioned he's tall. Hate to admit it, but that's a big thing right there. My younger guy was always the big tall guy and it made him seem more mature. It was an unearned asset, but it's a big plus for any boy to be tall.

        Acting is also another place to "win". It may not be the most respected trait by other boys, but it gets a kid a lot of attention - and a lot of girls. Being popular with girls is always a step up in the hierarchy. If he gets along well with girls, which he probably does, this should be easy for him.

        I notice a lot of people talk about the sex aspect, masturbation, etc. On the one hand, I'd say play it really cool with that. They get a lot of education in class and you definitely want to mention - some years from now - about being safe and responsible. But don't get too close with that. Let him have a private life. However, do be prepared for porn on the computer. I made a point of telling my kids I didn't like how porn portrayed women, but I never tried to interfere with it or monitor it in any way. They have a right to privacy.

        •  Actually do NOT trust sex ed in school (0+ / 0-)

          It was OK when I was a kid in the 80s, but by all accounts it's been TRASHED in most of the US.

          Get him a good book or two and point him to scarleteen.

          Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

          by neroden on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:16:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Sports (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I forgot this one. Sports are good for all kids. If he's not into team sports, see if he would like to run cross country or track. To this day, my boys love bike tripping, rock climbing, running. They also both work out quite  a bit and are always trying to add muscle. That's a confidence builder.

        Sorry. I guess I did have more to say. I love my guys and am super proud of them. Most of my fears never came to fruition and I'm enjoying the backstretch. You'll be here someday, I'm sure.

        •  If he hates sports (0+ / 0-)

          Don't force him into it, but do try to see if he can find SOME physical activity he would like regularly (martial arts, hiking, even dance if he can stand the "girly" associations).  After elementary school schools get EXTREMELY sedentary.

          Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

          by neroden on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:18:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  True, but it gets worse. Read this. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If you are smarter, taller, funnier, etc. you are also in for regular beatings if you're decided to be an "outsider" and they want to "take you down a peg".

        Teach your son not to respect the people who want to enforce the hierarchy.  He can certainly go along and let them view him within their hierarchy with their views of him if it makes his life easier -- or if it gives him power.  

        But it's crucial for him not to respect that hierarchy, that constant jockeying for status -- to view it as bullshit that he has to deal with only because he doesn't have the power to ignore it.

        If you raise a boy who doesn't respect the hierarchy and jockeying for status, who values what is worthwhile for its own sake, and who is willing to use what power within the hierarchy he has for the purpose of promoting what's good even at the expense of the hierarchy, you've raised a mensch.  You've raised someone who will help dismantle the "patriarchy", as feminists call it.

        It's worthwhile as a goal, and he'll be a happier man if he is not obsessed with status jockeying.

        He should learn the conversational tactics, though -- he probably already has, but I advise reading You Just Don't Understand by Deborah Tannen if you want to know what I'm talking about.  I can converse in both status-focused and connection-focused styles, and it's important to be able to do both.  One-downmanship is particularly important as a skill.

        Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

        by neroden on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:13:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  When he was younger, he went through a (0+ / 0-)

          lot of agonizing over the social guy hierarchy he was observing at school.  This was about three, two years ago.  He has mild Asperger's, and until this year it was the pits for him socially at school.  He was totally the outsider-- but he could see very, very clearly the hierarchy and relationships, and it galled him that he didn't see any way to break in, or fit in.

          That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

          by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:50:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh, geez. Maybe I can help. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I have realized, late in life, that I have pretty glaring Asperger's.

            My biggest advantage was massive, unwavering self-confidence.  Part of that was innate -- I never wanted to "fit in" particularly, as long as I had a few friends I didn't care -- but part of it was incredibly supportive, rational parents.  I knew I could trust them to help me, even if they didn't understand my problem at first.

            Many parents simply do not respect their children; they assume that the complaints their children make are not well-founded, rather than listening and trying to understand them.

            Also many parents do not explain things to their children -- while this is crucial for all children ("because I told you so" translates into "ignore this rule when I'm not looking", but an explanation of why to behave in a certain way sticks) -- this is crucially important for kids with Asperger's, who tend to need a more formal explanation of emotional things because they don't "pick things up" emotionally from what's going on around them.

            Your son might actually like the academic work (or popularized-academic work) studying the society of kids at schools in the US.  He might be able to figure things out from it.  I loved the Deborah Tannen, I can't pick out any other references for you right now but someone else might be able to.

            Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

            by neroden on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:08:10 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  We did years of behavior, social skills (0+ / 0-)

              therapy with him around just those kinds of things-- this is what people mean when they do x; when people say y or z, these are the kinds of things they are trying to communicate.  It was extremely helpful for him.  Partly that's what helped him have a better year this year-- things began to "click" after his having been in social skills therapy, both individual and group, since he was diagnosed 7 years ago.

              That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

              by concernedamerican on Wed Mar 09, 2011 at 04:37:01 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  to be honest with you (0+ / 0-)

        I always thought that this automatic assessing of hierarchies was worse among girls than boys.  The stories I've heard from girls of locker rooms and first days in dorm room - OMG.  

        I think your brother might be engaging in a bit of hyperbole here.  Still, it is a good idea to excel at something.

  •  Having raised two exemplary boys to fatherhood (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican, neroden

    my wife and I are rather self-congratulatory.  We think that it starts in infancy, being pretty strict, but fair, setting limits, and listening when they argued against strictures (we gave in often enough and praised them for their arguments--as I said they were exemplary, having reached the age of reason at 18 months).  

    Unconditional love.  You show that in spades.  (But please pardon me,  I find that many mothers' excessive adulation of sons is a little uncomfortable to me--they are sons, not boyfriends, after all--daughters scare me to death, glad I never had any, I would have had no defenses at all!)

    Support with a healthy bit of scepticism.  'Have you thought this through?' 'If you really, really want this, and can argue for it.'

    Support through any failures.  Sometimes the first go doesn't work.

    Don't overdo it.  Smothering is not mothering.  Kids need their space to grow up.  But do appreciate a sturdy wall to lean against when needed.  Interestingly, my father was the smothering one, but I knew he had a good heart and my interests uppermost in his thoughts.  Maybe a little embarrassing and worthy of an eyeroll, but I knew I could depend on him and not hold me back (though I did all the conventionally right things, and was never indicted for a major crime, not even once!)

    Good sex education.  Girls can be a not good thing for boys of tender years.  My poor kids grew up in the 80s-90s when AIDS was new and their school sex ed was basically 'sex = death'.  Rather awful, but they were careful, and managed to grow up without being warped.  It is very hard for parents to help out here, BTW.

    Lots more but logical extensions.

    BTW, my kids are 34 and 36, have PhDs, jobs, wives and kids.  Could be we were lucky, but we certainly worked hard for it.  Also, they don't even hate us.

    I hope this doesn't sound too sententious.  I don't mean to be prescriptive, but it worked for us.  I really wish you and your son the very best in life, and hope he becomes a kossack diarist too, soon.  It is very refreshing to hear about life from a young folk's perspective (seeing as how as a community we are seen as crusty old male dudes!)

    Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

    by triplepoint on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:18:18 PM PST

  •  I don't have any real advice (3+ / 0-)

    Because I'm in a similar boat.  Instead, I'm going to be reading every comment with interest.

    My son is almost 13 (one month from now) and we are entering the rocky adolescent years, where one minute all is well, we are co-existing peacefully and the next it's all gone to shit.  

    I have many of your same questions.  My father has been a wonderful role model and thankfully we see him frequently.  His dad has been an okay role model, but leans right and in my view, often views life negatively and nothing is ever his fault.  I surely don't want my son picking up those particular traits.

    My dad came from humble beginnings, but I think a stint in the Army taught him a lot about proper grooming, how to dress appropriately for the occasion.  After that, his college years and I believe his desire to move upward led him to think about how to dress, how to act, how to fit into social situations.  He already had the good manners and graces that run in the family for generations.  For other things, he would emulate someone that he admired.

    I can only hope the same for my son, for those areas that I can't teach him by example, or he doesn't learn from his grandfather.  

    Right now, I just want to help him survive the 7th grade, survive having cowlicks that other kids tease him about, survive being one of the short kids, and on and on.  I thought I'd never forget how awful it was to be a teenager, but it's all come back to me, even worse, as I watch my own child go through it.  Painful!

  •  Can I point to a favourite website on this....? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican

    I have to say I love the website is full of great tips and advice - often in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner but with a real point behind it - aimed at bringing back the positives of a past where men bore their responsibilities well, and respected the values of learning, taking care of themselves and others, manners etc.

    It manages to avoid the pitfalls of chauvinism or harping back to a mythical golden age while forgetting the negatives of times past.  It's a fun site your son might enjoy some of the articles on...

    No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood

    by ResponsibleAccountable on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:23:50 PM PST

  •  I'm a single mom, raising a boy (4+ / 0-)

    I'd like to think I'm doing okay.  I chose single motherhood over staying with his father because, well, his father isn't much of a MAN.  He has a hard time keeping his hands to himself when he's drunk and angry, doesn't hold a job, etc.  So it's always been just me and Ben.

    We also don't have family around where we live.  I have some male friends that are around, but no one who has really taken him under wing and mentored him.

    I decided to teach him some self-awareness.  When the kids start picking on him, he has to know himself well enough to know it's not true, to know that the person picking on him is probably hurting in ways we'll never know, that the things they're saying are a reflection of the person doing the commenting and not a reflection of any truth about Ben.

    For me I just got a handle on the values I wanted to instill in him, and have let him know what kind of person I'm trying to teach him to be.  I love having a son!

  •  If you teach him to be (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican, edsbrooklyn

    a decent human being, being a good man will follow by default.

    Teach him to treat other people with respect, give full effort in whatever career path he chooses, use critical thinking skills in evaluating everything from toothpaste commercials to political speeches, laugh and cry at the appropriate times, show compassion to those less fortunate and hold those more fortunate to a higher standard -- that and more will go a long way.

    Now to try to end the wars we ask our gay and straight soldiers to fight. -- Chris Hayes

    by Cali Scribe on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:29:35 PM PST

  •  Only one comment (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican

    I taught my son to have girls as friends for a while before he had girlfriends.

  •  As a mom of two sons: 18 and 14, I can tell (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican, mrblifil

    you it takes a village.

    Our oldest went through 2 1/2 years of rebellious hell in 8th, 9th and 10th grades. Finally, we moved him to the home of a good friend who had also raised a gifted son. After a month at Jill and John's house, Jimmy discovered that all households have rules, structure, etc. It was the best thing we ever did. He came back to us a 15 year old man and hasn't looked back.

    Our youngest is also the youngest in his class and we recently moved to a tiny tiny rural village, so his issues are completely different.

    Mostly I would say: be there. Love him. Model for him positive relationships.


    When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. -- Jimi Hendrix

    by MidwestTreeHugger on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:30:41 PM PST

  •  "It's OK to masturbate" (5+ / 0-)

    Zombie Reagan gives the most peachy speeches.

    by The Dead Man on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:38:39 PM PST

    •  Another mom gave me great advice (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stein, neroden

      recently re: this.  She raised two sons to manhood and is now raising a son in our son's cohort.  She said that she taught her older sons to do their own laundry when they turned 12 or 13 and that way they could keep whatever was happening in their beds (as concerns masturbation) private, and she didn't have to confront the physical aspect of it as they did the laundry.  She said it worked really well for everyone.

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:50:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  HA! My kid started doing his own laundry at (4+ / 0-)

        8.  I also had him start cooking (my mom used to say if you don't know how to cook you don't know how to do anything) and keep his stuff in order.  Now it's backfired and he keeps everything WAY cleaner than me.  Each kid is different however, there is one underlying thing kids want...rules.

        "If you don't do it this year you'll be another year older when you do"-Warren Miller

        by fishgirl26 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:54:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  hell yes (0+ / 0-)

      If you want a calm, well adjusted teenage or young adult male with a minimum of anger, this is the way.

      It is too easy to receive the message that masturbation is  perverted, or pathetic, or both.  Religious conservatives and greeting card companies have a vested interest in discouraging the practice, and it shows in our discourse.  But if you want a teenage or young adult male who is more calm and less angry than he would be otherwise, counter this propaganda.

  •  My son is 14 and his dad died when he was 8 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, concernedamerican, fizziks

    I have been raising him since then.  I have a boyfriend but he doesn't really call on him for advice.  My dad has been a great resource as has my brother in law however, when it comes to some stuff he prefers to defer to me.  I think about how my dad raised me and my sister and he wanted us to be independent girls.  My mom always wanted pig tail clad "girly girls" but instead ended up w/ two tough tom boys.  Here's my advice.  Tell him what you expect from him.  Explain how he should treat the women in his life and that disrespect (even in the company of other boys) is very crass and unacceptable. I always tell my son that if he is with a girl in a intimate way that it is not to be talked about amongst his friends because that is a private matter between him and the girl and he shouldn't talk outside of class (if you know what I mean).  The communication lines need to remain open and let him know that he can talk to you about anything.  It's surprising what they will tell you (my son came home one day and exclaimed that one of his friends had sex and his parents caught them and why would he do that?) and he just wanted to hear me say that that kind of behavior is not what he needs to engage in.  Also, let him know that girls aren't always what they seem and that they can sometimes be mean and cruel.  My son experienced this and we talked through it.  If kids know what you expect from them and it's verbalized they tend to understand the consequences.  You'll be fine as long as he keeps talking and you keep listening and not judging but just offering tid bits of advice.  My brother in law did "the talk" with him and had visual aids which embarrassed him but got the point across about why protection is so important.  Let him learn the lessons but be there for advice.  There is no "guy code" but as parents I understand your concern.  Enjoy him now in his pre-teen time and prepare for later by talking now and not waiting.

    "If you don't do it this year you'll be another year older when you do"-Warren Miller

    by fishgirl26 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:39:44 PM PST

    •  Also, I tell my son that high school is just (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stein, concernedamerican

      high school and normally you'll never see those kids again nor will you care so be yourself.  Don't worry about it, pursue your own path.  College needs to be a time to get to know yourself.  It's tough, high school, but when you think about it's 4 year time-span it is so short in the grand scheme.

      "If you don't do it this year you'll be another year older when you do"-Warren Miller

      by fishgirl26 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:43:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Guys, thank you so much for your comments (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, Chun Yang, neroden, coquiero

    and your wise, thoughtful, feeling advice and feedback.  I have been able to answer some of your comments, but have to do homework with a certain 11 year old right now, so won't be able to respond more until later tonight.

    And the diary is in the community spotlight!  Thank you so much for that.  There's so much great insight in here from everyone's comments, and so much life-wisdom being shared.  Thank you to everyone for your community of giving.

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:47:59 PM PST

  •  What kids don't get at home (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    they pick up from the world around them. You may be right that a man living at home might pass along a kind of unspoken set of rules regarding "what it means to be a man." But there are millions of boys being raised by absentee fathers, guys who ignore their kids throughout the day, even though they share a domicile. So where do those kids learn what they need to know about "maleness?" From the people they encounter in life.

    My dad was not too involved in how I turned out, but my best friend in high school had a Dad who was very involved. I didn't get to spend a lot of time with my Dad's friend, but I learned from the brief times I spent at his home and with his family what being an involved Dad looked like. When my friend's Dad died recently I got to articulate to my friend how important his Dad had been to me growing up, a fact which he was surprised to learn.

    But if you have male friends who you can trust to be around kids, see if you can arrange to have them around as your son gets older, so he can be exposed to the widest range of role models possible. It's a process that is unconscious and ongoing, even in adult life, so see what you can do to be conscious yourself about your son's process. And don't spend too much time worrying, because your boy is his own person and is going to reach his own accommodation with the world, no matter what you try to do to influence his path.

  •  A study abroad program in a few years? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, Chun Yang, neroden

    You don't have to think the U.S. is a screwed up place to benefit from gaining another perspective on life. It certainly helps one see American culture as one of many cultures with strengths and weakness. Like a lot of things, it's hard to see it until you step outside it.

    Since moving abroad, I've made lifelong friends from a dozen countries. Wherever we were from, we all had in common the fact that we were not from the country we'd moved to.

    And you find out that every culture is unique and yet people are the same everywhere. It just depends on your field of view.

    Maybe something to think about for his junior or senior year of high school. Wouldn't hurt to start planning and saving now. And what a great discussion you could have about what places in the world he'd find interesting and why.

    With all the mistakes I've made in my life, the smartest thing I ever did was try living in another country.

    Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... --RFK

    by expatjourno on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:55:27 PM PST

  •  Easy for me to say: but I really don't think (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, ranger995, Chun Yang

    you are going to have a problem...I say that because you are already showing concern in your son's life.

    Be active in his school's activities, his education, and talk talk talk when you are all together.  Encourage him to express his feelings, ideas, and pay particular attention to his natural abilities.  Don't force him to participate in an activity, sports or otherwise, that he doesn't seem to like.  As you know, education is far more important than hoping to be a professional ball player.  However, he may be just that: a natural at sports.  Support and encourage his natural abilities and interests.  

    Expose him to a wide variety of different interests, sports, fine arts, music, reading, science and mechanical type things to develop his fine motor skills. Encourage his excitement and enthusiasm for the natural curiosity he will have about his social and physical world.  Talk about ideas, how things work, why they work.  

    Have fun and remember to enjoy these times with your son.  In the blink of an eye he will be an adult and you'll wonder where all the time went.  

    Best Wishes from a guy who never had a father and turned out pretty decent.  

    "It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak." President Barack Obama 3/24/09

    by sfcouple on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 03:29:17 PM PST

  •  One thing that keeps my head straight with my (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    boys is to remember I'm not just raising my sons, I am raising my grandchildren's fathers.  They need to be someone their own children will look up to.

    Don't be afraid to have expectations, and to convey to him that certain behavior is expected in certain situations.  I think our culture has done a disservice to boys in recent years with the attitude that "boys will be boys" and so it is ok to be rude, to act out, etc.  I get comments all the time about how well behaved my boys are (at 14 and 10) and I'm always perplexed by it.  Isn't this how children should be expected to behave?

    The doubts and fears you express are have those particular worries because of your situation, but EVERY parent has doubts and fears that revolve around their particular situation.  For example, in our case, we have never and will never live near family.  Oh, Shit, are we screwing them up because of that?  How do we make up for it?  Will they never want to be near us when they grow up?

    Different circumstance, same parental-fear-we-must-keep-tamped-down-in-the-gut-every-day.

    It sounds as if he is a great kid.

    Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

    by k8dd8d on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 03:46:00 PM PST

  •  Gender doesn't make a mensch. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, neroden

    I'm a man, and looking back, I don't think I learned much at all about being a "good man".  I suspect that this is the case for at least half the men out there.  What exactly are the distinctively "manly" traits you are hoping for?  I suspect that you are thinking of fortitude in the face of difficulty, self-reliance, enjoyment of physical exertion and adventure.  I could go on.
    You can encourage these attributes by modeling them yourself, and verbally identifying them when you see them in your son.  As one who has always detested the standard team sports, which tend to inculcate some of the worst male attitudes, you might let him try rock climbing, or backpacking which may enhance your son's "masculine self image", and are certainly physical enough to qualify as "manly".        

    •  "Mensch" is actually a gender-neutral word. (0+ / 0-)

      German for "Person", neuter gender.  Adopted into Yiddish to mean a person who lives up to the best standards of being an upstanding person.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:14:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think the issue is that males face challenges (0+ / 0-)

      and pressures that are different than those that girls face, and the diarist rightly assumes that she may not be in tune with all of those pressures and the subtleties of being a boy, and is asking for advice on how to best raise a boy such that those waters are successfully navigated.

      One need not want to have their son be a stereotypical male of some sort to seek out advice on how to successfully raise a male.  

  •  You know, it seems that your son is going to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    be just fine, because you are very concerned about doing the right things.

    A lot of it is going to be up to him and how he handles adolescence. You play the part of providing a stable, loving, household or foundation, that's all he needs.

    My mother got divorced when I was about 9, and I was a really angry and defensive young man. My father loved me, but was far away and I only saw him infrequently.

    I got into a lot of fights and things and was a pretty bad kid in general, I think partly because I felt insecure about being a boy. I always questioned my own toughness.

    Maybe that's because I didn't have a positive male role model close by, but it is more likely because my mother worked more than one job to support my sister and I, and wasn't around all that much, and tired when she was.

    I played a lot of sports, and it really bothered me that all the other boys' parents came to games or matches and supported them, while my mom was very busy working. I understood, but it was still a lonely place and I resented it. I don't think you'll have this problem. I am sure you'll be supportive of whatever he wants to do, and have the time to be there.

    Your son's situation seems a lot different, and I think just having a loving secure family will make him confident when he needs it. I don't think boys need anything special or different from girls, just a loving stable home is great.

    OK, this is rambling. Good luck

    "... the Professional Left, that is simultaneously totally irrelevant and ruining everything" (Glenn Greenwald)

    by ranger995 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 04:06:29 PM PST

  •  learning to be a good "man" isn't any different... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, ranger995, neroden

    ...from learning to be a good "human."

    notions to the contrary are sentimental garbage and vaguely sexist, imho.

    disclosure: i'm male, straight, married, with kids.

    •  However, if you watch movies like (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jethropalerobber, Stein

      the Karate Kid, you'll get the idea that boys need a male role model. Isn't that the mantra?

      I agree with you though, just a stable loving household is enough.

      "... the Professional Left, that is simultaneously totally irrelevant and ruining everything" (Glenn Greenwald)

      by ranger995 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 04:17:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm sure you'll agree... (0+ / 0-)

      ...that a big part of being a good human is having something to bring to the table.  However, society's take on this is significantly gendered, in the sense that it considers useless men disgusting, and useless women merely annoying.

      On a distinct but related note (re: the comment downthread about male role models)--while I wouldn't say that goodness in women naturally manifests itself without outside assistance, what makes male role models of especial importance is that men are primarily judged by their actions, and proper actions are learned by imitation and practice.  To put a finer point on it, the inner life of a woman is "allowed" to exist independently of said woman's actions, whereas the inner life of a man is only valued to the extent that it nourishes his actions.


  •  Well, how 'bout not telling boob jokes? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stein, neroden

    I'm not saying that he should try to give his pals sensitivity training, but it would be nice if he learned to keep in mind that women, before they are women, are human beings and all human beings deserve a bit of respect.

    Teach him to be a good person and he'll be a good man.  Probably better than most. I won't worry too much about not having a man in the family for him to model himself after; a lot of single women have brought up very fine men, just by teaching them the basics every person should know: how to be decent human beings.

    Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

    by Sirenus on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 04:19:45 PM PST

  •  Advice in the form of a poem (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 04:21:34 PM PST

  •  The best (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    advice I could give anyone would be to help your son find his special talent. It seems that any kid that knows that they can succeed at something be it soccer or piano or martial arts has a much easier time going through puberty and the teenage years.

    My son had horrible self esteem and we still fight it until he found he had a talent for working on cars. It is something that he can succeed at it has really risen his self esteem like nothing else.

    It's the policy stupid

    by Ga6thDem on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 04:32:55 PM PST

  •  Have you considered summer camp? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I will say that I am biased as I work full time in the industry. We're a boys camp and I grew up there, too, parents were divorced when I was young. Many of the male role models that I had were the counselors and other male staff that I grew up with. Camps can be anywhere from one week to two months and while many parents (usually mom's) get scared at the idea of sending their most prized possession off for a month or more, it may be the greatest gift you can give to your child... the time to develop independence, social skills and other traits vital to interacting with others.

    I'd recommend looking at a camp, likely a single sex camp where your son can learn from role models without the pressures of the opposite sex. There are thousands of camps in this country. There are religious and non-religious, specialty and traditional... and everywhere in between. The camp that I work for has two new families this summer where the camper has two mothers.

    Happy to answer any questions on this subject!

  •  I made sure mine could do his own laundry (0+ / 0-)

    and I taught him to question authority and to dissect media.  I don't know if it will make him successful, but he won't be a sheep.

    If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much stupid costs

    by Sychotic1 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:11:37 PM PST

  •  Teach him kindness and caring (0+ / 0-)

    and if he needs to learn to fight send him to a dojo where he can learn to defend himself while learning respect and caution. But if he learns kindness and caring he will rarely need to use fighting skills.

    All of the so-called male things don't amount to a hill of beans unless as a man he learns to respect others rights and feelings, and is able to listen and communicate effectively with compassion.

    As far as macho, my dojo sensei told us what the best defense was--to avoid conflict and never be afraid to walk away from an insult. Or run if necessary. The idea was to never surrender to your own anger or that of others, to survive, and fight only when your life or the lives of those you love are at stake. Not so macho, but good advice.

    BTW, a friend of mine was raised by two moms. He is an excellent person, with a happy marriage, and the two moms are now proud grandmothers with more love than you can shake a stick at. Seems like a successful outcome to me.

    Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. Groucho Marx

    by marketgeek on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:24:31 PM PST

  •  Things I taught my kids (0+ / 0-)

    Pool:  It's important to know how to make a tight rack and a clean break.  The boring "straight in" shots might be less interesting than the flashy shots, but in the long run attention to boring details wins more games.  There's a philosophical lesson in pool.

    Skiing:  Learn to maintain poise and look cool while never quite mastering a difficult and dynamic skill.

    Martial Arts:  Learn balance, fast thinking, and the ability to take a hit and smile afterward.

    Fishing:  Boredom, practiced long enough, becomes zen-like and cool.  Sometimes you even catch something.

    Geoduck digging:  Nothing teaches engineering like extracting a 3-pound clam from a sand & boulder substrate while racing the incoming tide.

    Gardening:  Sure, it's supposed to be about life science and self-sufficiency, but it also teaches that manual labor sucks and the best bet is to study hard so you get a good enough job to hire a gardener.

    Wood cutting:  See gardening

    The art of picking a good restaurant:  This teaches everything from research skills, to appreciation for good food, to setting aside your wants in order to please the one you're with

    Camping:  Communing with invertibrates is important to character building.  So is consuming food that contains a significant amount of wood ash.  One learns to appreciate home and kitchen.

    Eat what "they're" having:  In other words, when in Thailand, eat what the Thai eat--right down to the pickled chicken feet.  There are more lessons in this than I can enumerate.

    Read:  The more we read, the better armed we are to communicate the written and spoken word.  Reading matters.

    Hear: Learn to listen deeply.  Early in life it helps in remembering boob and fart jokes.  Later in life it helps in arguing with the boobs and crotchety farts one encounters from time to time.

    The above list is what I taught my daughters.  I figure it will work as well for sons.  The rest of life they will figure out for themselves.

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Ghandi

    by DaveinBremerton on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:40:45 PM PST

  •  I'm gonna watch "Jackass 3" with my (0+ / 0-)

    2 boys(14 and nine). I have very little good advise to impart.
    Make sure he learns to like vegetables...and learns to enjoy physical exercise. Gotta learn stunts and skilz. A good sense of humor is required in my household. Teach him to cook for God sakes!..and know how to operate a flashlight.

    -4.38, -7.64 Voyager 1: proof that what goes up never comes down.

    by pat bunny on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:44:09 PM PST

  •  Don't be concerned -- there is no secret "guy" (0+ / 0-)

    knowledge.  Guys don't talk to each other about important things as a rule.

    A part of me feels as though, because there's not a "man" in our son's life, and because my brother doesn't live near us (we see him only a couple of times a year, even though he and our son love each other), and my father is dead, that there must be some sort of "guy" knowledge that we're supposed to be imparting to him at this sensitive time of growing up---  but we just don't know what that might be.  

    You might want to try to explain to him about the nasty fights and homophobic slurs and macho contests of aggression and general bullshit behavior which are likely to come up.  More as inoculation than anything else.  Tell him to feel free to come to you if he starts hearing or seeing anything which feels.... wrong.  The problems he'll encounter will depend on where he is, you know.  But if you've raised him to be ethical in his friendships, he has a solid head start.

    Get him a good sex ed book (or point him to, of course.  And make sure you get something which covers basic physical development (like the 'what's happening to my body' book). And

    Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

    by neroden on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:53:25 PM PST

  •  Father of a 15 yo boy (young man) here... (0+ / 0-)

    It's a bit of a cliche, and probably been suggested a buncha times already, but I will go ahead anyway.

    Sports are where young men learn a lot about the good and bad of being a young man. Working together, discipline, how to win, and how to lose. Team sports or individual, they have their respective strengths and weakinesses, and different boys will have their different preferences--My son likes golf, and I have never played a round in my life--go figure! He also loves basketball, which we share.

    And get this, it's obviously a way to get your son some contact with male role models, but it's not as male-dominated and towel-snapping as you might think. My son's coach for two years of AAU ball was a young woman, real supportive and kind to the boys, and a damn good basketball strategist too. She was terrific. And the assistant coach for his frosh team at his high school is openly gay, and just awesome with the boys too. It sure ain't like the high school basketball program I played for, and that's a good thing.

    So check it out. Talk about it with your son; there are so many options. Team sports, martial arts, gymnastics or dance, or bmx riding, or golf lessons for pete's sake! A lot of great community programs are available for little or no cost. If your boy shows aptitude you can go for private lessons or some of the more elite stuff, there are scholarships and ways to raise money for it if you can't provide funding yourself.

    I can go on for awhile, but I think you get the gist. Let us know how it plays out.

    "Democracy is like chicken soup. You have to stir it up often or a scummy oily film forms at the top."

    by StratCat on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:26:05 PM PST

    •  Sports develop character (0+ / 0-)

      Organized sports are good for young men growing up. I would say football more than others. A good coach will teach them discipline, respect, sportsmanship, courage, strength and most of all self worth.
      As a young man playing football you're not allowed to cry, you're taught to tough it out and fight thru the pain. That's how one builds character. Knowing what your physical limitations are and then exceeding them.

      I can't say enough of the bond that players form on a team and the camaraderie of the brotherhood. I still talk to my old team mates even after 20+ years.

      It's definitely a character building life changing exercise. I'm sure there is local YMCA or InTown football league you can investigate. Most under-13 football is Flag Football so you don't have to worry about injuries too much.

      Good luck.

  •  Write again in about 10-15 years (0+ / 0-)

    Let us know how things turn out! ;-)

    "We live in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

    by Stein on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:47:32 PM PST

  •  Another recommendation.... (0+ / 0-)

    In our community, there is a sex ed class taught at the Congregational Church call O.W.L. for Our Whole Lives. It goes way beyond any sex ed. class that can be taught in public schools. It basically teaches that sex is all about love. And it is very upfront about the many different combinations in which people in our society find love. For my son's class, there were couples of every type that visited and were interviewed by the class. They were free to explore and talk about every aspect of sex. Besides this, there was a great deal of exploration of societal aspects of growing up--objectification of women being one example.

    I think when my kids are older, they might well look back on this class as one of my gifts to them. It wasn't something that I could have taught them, as kids of this age don't usually look to their parents for this sort of information.

  •  Hmm, did you not get the memo about being a woman (0+ / 0-)

    when you wre growing up?  Other than not letting him watch television, i would just beat him whenever he starts to cry.  Real men don't cry. At least they try not to.

    The real problem is that private economic power - primarily money - is not distributed equally among all citizens. Douglas J. Amy--Govt is Good

    by catchnrelease on Wed Mar 09, 2011 at 11:42:12 AM PST

  •  Raising a man? Hmm... (0+ / 0-)

    Hi Concerned:
    I read your post, and some of your comments.  You sound like a great mom.  Very loving- your son is lucky to have you for his mother.
    I'm a single dad of a 15 y/o son.  I'm very blessed b/c we have a good relationship and communication is, for the most part, pretty easy for us.
    One poster above mentioned encouraging your son to be a good citizen as a path to manhood. That's good: and these days, vital.  Other posters talked about gentleness and other qualities.  Another mentioned sports- that's fine is your son has an interest in athletics (I liked the poster who talked about the female and gay individuals who coached his child).  All these are very important.
    This diary makes me think about the conundrum of sexual identity, as well as, sexual politics.  On one hand, we all want folks to be treated fairly, equally.  On the other, if we are all equal, are we all the same?  Do girls need to be treated differently than boys?  There have been many arguments on this subject, and permutations of those same arguments, ad infinitum.  I'll never solve those arguments here.  
    So, what did I stress with my son?
    Honesty and Honor.  
    Honesty- He was raised knowing that he was so loved, that he was safe to be himself.  He was free to be honest with me, to tell me the truth.  
    Sometimes, it wouldn't be what I wanted to hear.  Sometimes, this involved telling me things he shouldn't been doing and, then me coming up with a punishment.  Fortunately, those times have been relatively few.  He's a good person, and one of the kindest I know.
    Most often, this honesty was the freedom to speak his mind, and know that it was ok.  When he was three, he had gotten into a spot of trouble.   After the discussing the incident, he told me, with his eyes tearing up and lower lip trembling,"Dad, you've really upset my feelings."  Hugging him, I told him I was genuinely sorry he was upset by the situation, but I wasn't changing the decision I had made to corrrect the situation.  Then I told him I loved him, held him and rocked him till he finished crying.  He cried, we fixed the problem, and then he ran off to play.  That's sort been our paradigm, with the occasional: "Son, I'm sorry.  I was wrong about that."
    Honor- I've told him that a honorable man follows through with his committments-if he says he is going to do something, he does it. If he can't do it, that's ok, too.  Just be upfront about it.
    An honorable man treats women with respect. An honroable man watches out for others who may need help.  
    A man with honor is someone who likes himself; he doesn't need to make himself feel good at the expense of another.  A man with honor is a man who tells the truth.  So much so, that his reputation for truthfulness is taken as a given.
    Before I end up sounding all Moses-and-the-Ten-Commandments, we also joke a lot, horse around, discuss music (I'm not so much for the DangerMou5), watch animation together.  He remarks that I'm often pretty silly.
    He also knows he is the joy of my life.  And that he is truly loved.
    Y'all be well.

  •  Well, I never figured out most "guy" (0+ / 0-)

    stuff.  Partly because I'm learning disabled, and my LD involves not picking up this sort of thing.

    I'm never sure how to dress, I have no idea what age a kid should start carrying condoms.  I've never learned to shave (I just have facial hair on my upper lip and chin, I don't use shave cream).

    But there is a Yiddish saying

    Vos macht ein mensch?

    That is, what makes a man?

    And here is my answer, from Israel Salanter.  

    Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls, when we all ought to worry about our own souls and other people's bellies

    If you can do that (even most of the time) you are a true mensch.

    A rather easier rule for mensch-hood comes from Hillel:

    That which is repellent to you, do not to your fellow man.  That is the whole Torah.  The rest is detail.  

    And, going to another tradition, I'll quote my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Grace Kumar:

    "Be gentle.  That is a human you are playing with".

    Founder Math and Statistics Geeks . Statistics for progressives

    by plf515 on Wed Mar 09, 2011 at 04:23:05 PM PST

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