Monday, September 17, 2012

Rambling About Role Models

One of the first times I can remember seeing my nephew Tristan play soccer, when he was very small, I said very quietly to myself, "Damn! That boy can play!"   He's pretty awesome to watch out there, and I will not be in the least bit surprised if he ends up playing professionally.  Zane worships the ground Tristan walks on, and he will listen to Tristan when he won't always listen to his parents. But Tristan is growing up. It makes me sad to think that Tristan will be going away to college very soon(he's in high school), and then he will be completely absent from Zane's life, probably just when Zane will need a positive male role model the most.

Boys need role models.  Fathers can be role models for their sons, and they often are, but only for a little while. At some point all kids decide that their parents are clueless, as part of the whole parent-child separation thing.  Even Mark Twain commented on how much smarter his father became after he(Twain) became an adult and was out on his own.  As much as a dad might like for his progeny to follow in his footsteps, every child must separate and find their own path.

Mothers cannot be role models for their sons, although some try.  I seem to be the one showing my son how to catch bugs and other creepies, for instance.  However, this is one area where gender differences must be considered.  There are just some aspects of being a man that women, by virtue of their anatomy, cannot provide to their sons, and that is just a stone cold fact.  Fathers can't be role models for their daughters, either. 

Boys need male role models.  Boys need someone they can imitate, someone they can emulate, someone they can relate to.  Someone they can talk to about 'stuff'.  Role models who are real people, not actors on television.  Role models who aren't just sports stars.  Zane loves several soccer stars, but those guys aren't always the best people, and certainly some of them aren't reliable**.  Boys need positive role models.  Role models who aren't on a pedestal, or held up as ideals.  Comic book heroes help a bit--Superman certainly is an ideal, and impossible to emulate.  Batman, on the other hand, is flawed, but has quite a few admirable qualities that a boy can relate to.  Spiderman is also close enough to earth. As wonderful as they are, however, literary archetypes cannot substitute for the real thing.

Boys need male role models who make mistakes, who take responsibility for those mistakes, and who learn from those mistakes.  Kids learn how to handle mistakes from their role models as well as their parents. Our sons are always watching us, as are our daughters, and vicarious learning is still learning.  We all make mistakes, but not everyone learns from their errors.

The reality is that some people continue to make the same mistakes over and over, and they never, ever understand why the results are always the same.  A person with an addiction comes to mind, but that's certainly not the end of the list.   There are people who want others to cater to them, and people who treat others like dirt, and people who want to control everything, and everyone, with their fists. Let's not forget the pedophiles; they specifically look for boys who are without role models.  Those men are certainly not role models, but sometimes they're the only ones around. 

I know that Zane is only four, and he will have many years of looking at his father and seeing him as Superman ahead.  But I think that I will start looking around now.  There may be some other male role models out there that I can let my son get to know.  I just haven't found them yet. 

**Zane loves David Beckham, and we went to an FC Dallas game specifically because they were playing the Galaxy and David Beckham was supposed to be there.  Zane wanted to show Mr. Beckham his new blue turf shoes.  Except that Mr. Beckham was a no-show.  He disappointed my boy, who only wanted to show off his shoes.  Olympics be damned, role models should at least be punctual and consistent, if only for the benefit of a single four year old boy.  end rant/

1 comment:

  1. I think you probably know this, but we can do a lot to foster relationships that distance is trying to weaken. Keep talking Tristan up...he will still be viewed as that super awesome dude!


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