Manliness in today’s world is almost taboo to talk about. ‘Manning-up’ can be seen as a sexist or chauvinistic statement. I coach almost a hundred boys per week so I’ve learnt a thing or two from them. If you have a son or are interested in the changing dynamics of manliness, please continue reading. Before I start (and probably upset some mothers), I will state that it is very challenging for boys today to know their role in society and what expectations they should place on themselves.
The modern-day boy will experience something very different to the world his grandfather lived in. Should a boy hold a door open for a girl? Should he punch the bully back or tell the teacher? Is it okay to wear pink? Grandpa would have taken pride in holding the door for a young lady and he certainly would have decked the local bully. He most definitely would not have been seen dead in pink! Things aren’t so black and white today and that is causing some confusion amongst boys. There are a few components that have contributed to these changes which include: the media, technology and modern-day fathers.
Despite the fact that serious crime, murder and war continue to diminish year-on-year across the globe (a true fact), there is a perception that things are getting much worse. Just reading a newspaper or clicking on CNN can lead one to falling into a state of depression. It’s little wonder that boys are kept on a short leash today. There are limited opportunities to be a boy. I was lucky enough to grow up beside a huge park and a nature sanctuary. We never told our Mothers but we spent countless hours wondering through marsh land and digging up world war bombs (for real). Despite the clear dangers of being blown up, none of us died and we experienced a pretty awesome upbringing.
For a few years now, I have been running desert survival programs for juniors. Even the most timid, Xbox loving, Iphone hugging lad eventually falls in love with getting dirty, climbing trees and making fires. It’s in our DNA. The truth is that twisted news stories create false fear. This BS is sold to us when we hit the radio or look at Facebook. It keeps our boys behind bars and on the Playstation. They will be safe here.
Talking about Playstation, technology is another red flag we all know about but do little about. Playing a few video games doesn’t hurt anyone but the issue arrises when the boy spends every spare waking hour playing ‘Call of Duty’ and in doing so, erodes his long-range vision, loses the ability to communicate with a fellow human and suffers the death of his gluteal muscles. Son, you’ve been well behaved for the last ten years whilst sat on the computer but you are now testosterone free, physically weak and have less vitamin D than a vampire.
Our final target on the hit list is the modern-day father. Being a rookie Dad, I am no expert on the subject. I appreciate the difficulty in managing a career and a family. It has taken me two years to acknowledge that my habits must change and to ride two horses at once. Coaching kids for almost 10 years has given some insight into their changing world. Here are five big issues that I see with boys today:
1. Most are socially incompetent. They do not say ‘hello’ to adults or look them in the eyes. Their handshake is limp.
2. The craic has gone. The banter has been replaced with a mobile.
3. They squat like old western men. This is the result of glued hips from excessive sitting.
4. One in ten kids can climb a rope.
5. Milkybar kids are us. An indoor existence and fear of the sun has left many kids looking albino.
Now Mothers, I am not saying that every kid is like this. It is a trend that is affecting the majority. Dads, here are five points you can do to reverse the adjacent point above:
1. Show a boy some good old fashioned manners. Lead by example.
2. Don’t take life so seriously and for f#ck sake, put your phone away around your son.
3. Improve your own health and fitness. You kid thinks you are the norm.
4. Same as number 3.
5. Get outdoors and play with them. Invest as much time as you can with your son.
Manliness is very difficult to define. Its meaning is different to the individual. To me it means that I acknowledge I am a man. I have several responsibilities which I should meet. To become a man, a boy needs a range of mentors who lead by example. Ideally one of these should be his Dad but that isn’t always possible. Parents can separated, fathers can work excessively or simply put, fathers can just be plain arseholes. A boy also needs time to be a boy, i.e. a childhood. This includes trying new hobbies, frequent immersion in nature and plenty of active pursuits. Please note that none of these include a father’s financial wealth or social power. Inmy experience, there is a diminishing return when it comes to a family’s income. Quite often, the worst childhoods are amongst the richest and most powerful fathers. In a nutshell for parents, it’s about living the life now that you hope your son will follow with his future family.