A Real Man

I have three kids; two boys and a girl. My middle boy is nearly ten and is keenly interested in becoming a ‘young man’. So, I recently took him to a café that, until now, has been the domain of my older boy and I. He was very excited to join ‘team bloke’ and we had our first official ‘chat’. I wanted to make sure I covered off on some important points, so I drafted some key messages to keep me on track. I expected it might take a few sessions to talk it all over, but he was so engaged that we stayed a couple of hours and really chewed the fat. Here’s what we shared:

  • You’re heading towards being ten and that’s the time when you really start your journey towards becoming a man. It’s good to think about the kind of man you want to be, so you can set off in that direction. 
  • I’ll be with you along the way and you need to know that you can always come to me with questions (even if they seem silly) and you can tell me if you’ve done something wrong (I might get cross for a little while, but I’ll always help you). 
  • When you are twelve or thirteen or so, your body will change in a noticeable way. It’s already getting ready for that on the inside. I’m proud of what a wonderful, fit, healthy body you have. Keep treating it well with good food, lots of exercise and sleep.
  • Some men think that it’s not manly to talk about problems or to cry or to show kindness. Let me tell you that’s crap and it’s perfectly okay to feel and show emotions. As you grow, you’ll sometimes feel angry; you’ll learn how to handle that and let it out in positive ways. 
  • You’ve had a special thing going on since you were born. You calm people and they can feel your warm heart. Please hold onto that kindness. It’ll make you, and the people you love, (like your wife/husband and kids), really happy.
  • Your family is going to drive you nuts sometimes. That’s normal:
    •  Remember that you and your siblings love each other. Be kind and forgiving and try to have a better family life than Mum and I did. Charlotte loves you and needs your kindness and protection in life. She’s at her best when she can feel your love. Will is older but he still craves connection with you. He loves to teach you things. He’s had a tough couple of years. Try to do little things to show him you love him and do stuff together that you both enjoy.
    •  Mum and I have to be your parents, not your friend. That means that sometimes you won’t like our decisions. Please know that they come from a place of love and life experience. We don’t always get everything right but we’ll do our best. You can tell us if you think we’re getting something wrong; just approach it respectfully.
  • As a strong male, it’s important to know when and how to stop. For example, if you’re teasing someone or wrestling or having competitive banter, stop before it goes too far and someone is hurt or upset.
  • Sometimes, when you’re having fun with your mates, you can forget to think about what could go wrong (e.g., diving into water). Try to have fun safely. 
  • It’s normal to like things that are ‘cool’, like certain music and movies and words and activities. Enjoy this stuff, but be brave enough to go against the crowd if what they think is cool, is actually racist or sexist or mean or dangerous or wrong in some way. This can be really hard but we’ve seen you do it before and we know you’ll do it again.
  • Teenagers are tempted to lie; a lot. You’ll see your friends doing it and getting away with it. Just remember that, when you lie, you put a wall between us and you tear down some of your own inner strength. 
  • Offer your help if you sense someone needs it. This could be a friend who is sad, a teacher carrying a big pile of books, an older person struggling to open a heavy door, a man who has dropped his groceries, a toddler who can’t reach her toy, your sibling who wants to talk about a problem etc. 
  • Step in if someone is being bullied. You can do this in lots of ways, depending on the situation: by giving the victim your kind eyes, by sitting with them, by telling an adult, and/or by calling the bully out. Ask us for help if you’re being bullied, or if your mate is being bullied, or if your mate is a bully. That stuff can be tough to handle and it’s good to talk it over. 
  • Remember that girls/women are people like you. You might be physically stronger than some of them but, other than that, they are your equal. Treat them how you’d like your mum or sister to be treated; with respect. You’ll have fantastic female friends, relatives and workmates throughout your life.
  • You’re smart at school and good at sport and at music. We’re very proud of you, but remember we love you for more than that; we love you for who you are inside. Understand that and then make the most of your talents. 
  • Always try your best and approach things with the most positive attitude you can muster; it makes each day better. Try to be grateful for the good things in your life and focus on the bright side. This habit can bring a lot of happiness. 
  • Keep dressing well and taking good care of your hygiene. Teenagers can get smelly. 
  • Look after your environment, from your desk, to your room, to our planet. We’re lucky to have all of it.
  • Work hard and play hard. That means, when it’s time to do your best at school or tennis or whatever, give it 100%. Then, when it’s holiday time, hang loose and have lots of fun.
  • Let Mum teach you some tricks for being organised. She’s good at it and it’ll be really helpful in high school.
  • Screens are great but keep reading every day. It truly is the single most important thing in building a wise mind, plus it’s a great adventure to be inside a book.
  • Gaming is a real trap for young men. It’s purposely built to make your brain feel pleasure and to be addictive. Mum and I will be strict about screen time, especially when it comes to games, because young men can’t make good choices about them on their own, and gaming can rob you of wonderful things. We might fight a bit about this, but we’ll all be OK in the end.
  • Talk to Mum or I if you regularly feel sad or nervous or worthless or scared or numb, even if you don’t know why. We’ll listen and help.
  • Take responsibility when you make a mistake. We all mess up and what’s important is that we own up to it and that we learn from it.
  • Being a man rocks! You’ll have some ups and downs but I can already tell that you will become the best kind of man: honest, kind, funny, smart, humble and respectful (not to mention handsome).
  • Let’s keep talking about this stuff regularly. Sometimes, I’m really busy but you can always ask me for a short chat or a long ‘coffee/lunch catch up’ (like this one) whenever you need it. I’m excited for you and I’m here with you. 


11 September 2018


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