Writer’s note: I wrote this not to advocate any position, or to say anything in particular. It’s simply a collection of observations, stories, hushed chats and whispers. There’s stories in here that aren’t my own, and it’s certainly not my intention to sound like I’m advocating a position. It’s in a minor key, it’s a bundle of observations and a collection of mumbles.
Bekka’s turning 18, coming of age, party at mum and dads. Scotty spins the tunes and dad throws up the fairy lights, mum caters to fill teenage stomachs – it’ll come up in the front paddock in a few hours anyway.
Mason’s got a new truck, lifted with an LED bar light to be seen from space. He’s the first to arrive at this festive event, and his country dimples cover valleys of insecurity. Cowboy hat bent at the front, ma and pa secretly hope he’d turn his eyes towards their Bek – if only they knew.
Stace, Maria and Bree tumble out of someone’s back seat, pre-loaded. Dressed to the nines, their heels sink into soft country soil, squealing with each squelch, their lives work to snob you off.
Jase makes an entrance, circle work in his beat up ute. The joker, always the laugh. Bekka’s beau, the half bottle of cheap bourbon held by it’s neck. He’s the joker, but she’s got a creeping suspicion the joke’s on him. 20 years old, on the same an hour, with no prospects of increase.
Family comes, smiles abound. Uncle Frank and Aunt Nina, there’s grandma and gramps. Cousins of all ages. Dad playfully grabs Danny in a headlock, trying to explain that his sodomite son is merely creative, like you can try to explain the gay away. Thanks dad, but they both grieve, unable to move past recent revelations.
Raye and Chrissy sit in the tray of Mason’s ute, necking cheap vodka straight from the bottle. He could have both in a heartbeat, but his sights are set on other targets, perhaps tonight he’ll pipe up the confidence to tell her.
Dwayne sings along to the country ditties, he’s unusually talented that way. Laughing off the compliments, he wonders how life might be different if not yoked with three generations of expectation breathing down his neck. Still, he hums along, wondering, even for a second, if things were different.
Kal, as everyone agrees, is classic wife material, the mother hen of the group. She chats CWA with mum, half an eye on Danny, blissfully unaware he’ll make no woman honest. She mistakes his compliments for flirting, and the thought crosses his mind that perhaps he could fake it, until he made it.
Speeches, and mum and dad praise their perfect Bekka. She spies Jase, he’s getting amorous with Raye, and way too close to his bourbon. She pats her tummy – a week late, and she wonders how daddy will react if she breaks the news to him.
And the party continues, and the fire crackles. They all continue to live their lives together, all in secret.
Picture from https://www.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lovethispic.com%2Fuploaded_images%2F108685-Bonfire-Party.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lovethispic.com%2Fimage%2F108685%2Fbonfire-party&docid=2BomfXY3f8L2kM&tbnid=ahC-QHXakHIw-M%3A&vet=1&w=500&h=332&bih=708&biw=1517&q=teenagers%20party%20bonfire&ved=0ahUKEwiY4ePVj7_SAhVrrFQKHcKHDpgQMwhFKCMwIw&iact=mrc&uact=8#h=332&imgrc=ahC-QHXakHIw-M:&vet=1&w=500
You’re answer is probably the last 007 movie you watched!
I got the title of this blog from a news article. You can read it here. It talks of a teacher in America who, on Wednesdays, holds the ‘Gentleman’s Club’. On that Wednesday, he dresses the boys in shirts, ties and jackets. He teaches them things like how to shake hands, how to make eye contact, open doors and address adults. The take away quote from the article for me is this:
“I know a lot of them struggle because a lot of them don’t have men at home, so I just want them to grow up and think of the things that I teach them…A lot of my students perform well when they know someone cares about them”
A lot of them struggle because a lot of them don’t have men at home.
A lot of them struggle, because a lot of them don’t have men at home.
You can read the correlation between the outcomes for children who don’t have their biological father living at home. Do some reading for yourself, and investigate the family patterns of people who are incarcerated, have higher rates of illicit drug use or dependency, teenage pregnancy and mental illness. One of the strongest indicators for these is a child not having their biological dad living at home with their biological mother.
Sociologists and politicians, I’m sure, will have a lot to say about this, most of it claptrap. The solutions inevitably will focus around building a bureaucracy, programs, incentives, studies and commissions to support the drug dependent, the criminal, the mentally ill, the pregnant teenager.
Here’s what it comes down to for me however.
Self control. Specifically, a man displaying self control. This is probably one of the rare times feminists and I will agree, but for different reasons and different outcomes.
It begins with a man displaying self control around women. Around his girlfriend, the girl at the party, the girl down the road, the girl he sees every now and again. Self control that he doesn’t put himself in a situation where he could get her pregnant. Self control to stop way before that inevitable temptation starts, because honestly, once he gets that girl pregnant, his choices are limited, and his responsibilities increase. We know from the boys in the abovementioned story how much they suffer not having an active, committed, hands on dad at home.
It begins with the man who finds himself getting frustrated with his partner, and pushes her once. Then again. Then it’s a shove. Then it’s drinking, and another shove. Before he knows it, he’s lost control. He’s out of control, and the people who should be trusting in him for their safety and security fear him. His partner doesn’t know how long this good, or bad turn will last, and life is lived on eggshells. His daughter learns that this is how men are, his sons will have this destructive path imprinted on them. Because he lacked self control, his missus leaves, he’s involved with the courts, the police, the law. Who will teach his sons self control?
It starts with a promotion, and a payrise. It comes with a bit more prestige. A bit more entitlement. Maybe a business card, maybe a car. He finds he gets more fulfilment from work than his family, more adoration from the juniors than his wife, more respect from his peers than his kids. He finds himself surging in a tide of success, and his control at home diminishes. It becomes an annoyance. His influence at home becomes transactional, not relational. Who is there when his son needs loving guidance and firm direction? Who is there when his son loses his cool?
The path of a dedicated husband and father is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to do. There is a delicate balance between just providing and influencing. There is an ongoing tension between taking the easy road, to loving guidance, to punitive discipline. There’s the unrelenting and oppressive lure of sexual temptation, available literally at the tap of your fingers. A man has access to instant credit. Gambling on his phone in real time. Endless entertainment on the computer or TV.
I started this article talking about the Wednesday Gentleman’s Club, and how one teacher influenced these precious boys just by meeting some BASIC needs – providing good clothing, teaching them to shake hands, teaching them to open a door. These are BASIC needs – needs these precious boys hadn’t received at home, because of an absent father. Because a man lacked self control, because he used a woman to gratify his own selfish desires, and now isn’t taking up the mantle of his responsibility.
The purpose of this article isn’t a critisism, it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge to all the dads and fathers out there. It’s a challenge to the single guys. It’s a challenge to me. What is the Wednesday Gentleman’s Club in your life? Are you the one teaching your boys to dress like a man, talk like a man, shake hands, open doors address others with respect? Are you the one teaching your boys the enduring gift of self control? Are you practicing self control now, so you can teach it later to your sons?
I know you can’t be everything to your boys. I can’t be my son’s footy coach, on account that I can’t kick a footy to save my life. Here’s what I can do though. I can teach him to respect his coach. I can teach him to be a team player, to share the ball around, to win with grace and to lose with dignity.
Who will be teaching your sons about self control? Will it be you, or someone else. Will it be the boys in blue? A gang? A magistrate? Their teacher?
I firmly believe that as a society, we will be stronger when more men exercise self control.