I recently attended my daughter’s high school awards ceremony where dads and grads collided unexpectedly. At the ceremony, four seniors stood up and were inducted into the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). For the moment, as these four young men stood ready to dedicate their lives to service, I thought to myself, “These are just boys!” But I quickly realized that they are not. They are men — our future business, military, government, and family leaders — and must be treated as such.
You may expect this to be written from a father; I am not. But just as my colleague penned the Father’s Day article, “I Am Not My Wife,” I couldn’t help but think the same is true about my role as a mom in raising a well-rounded future father.
We live in an era when good parenting is often measured by our ability to shelter our children, both sons and daughters, not just from adversity but even from slight discomfort. When is the time to cut the apron strings of “mommy hood,” stop trying to avert every sense of adversity, and allow our sons and daughters to feel the repercussions of their decisions? A recent study published by Psychology Today showed that a key factor in success is decisiveness. And how will our kids learn to be decisive if we’re making their decisions for them for their entire lives? It’s a fine line, believe me I know.
Granted, I’ll admit that I’m completely guilty of falling into the trap of “cupcake” parenting, and not just when it comes to making decisions for my daughter. After complaining to my husband that it was too hot out for Little League, I snapped back to reality, recognizing what a poor example I was setting for my 11 year old son and his teammates. Sports are about fun, but they’re also about sweat, hard work, commitment, and teamwork — not always comfort.
At that emotional awards ceremony, as those young men swore to “protect the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” I decided to begin earnestly and thoughtfully doing my part to train my son to become a man. Hopefully, one day my son is going to be someone’s father and someone’s husband. Although my husband has an enormous role in the process of training him, I’m not completely absolved of responsibility. It’s vital that I also teach him now how to be a devoted father, husband, and citizen.
Raising a family, holding a job, and protecting a nation are not easy feats. An endless childhood that rewards great effort in the same manner as minimal effort is wrong. A Time Magazine article once dubbed my generation “helicopter moms,” because all we do is hover. We love them, therefore, we indulge them. That feels right at the moment, but it does nothing to prepare them for the day when we are no longer available to make decisions for them. No one is against lavishing love and encouragement on our sweet little boys, but indeed, we must be intentional in helping them to grow up, and that means slowly letting go. (Sniff, sniff!)
Yes, we are enablers. But parents are not the only ones at fault here. Our government is guilty of encouraging our kids to extend their childhoods and dependency. Consider how comfortable the government has made our youth. For example, in 2010, the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act ruled that men up to age of 26 could remain on their parents’ health insurance plan, regardless of marital status, residency, or employment. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 2.37 million young adults between the ages of 19-26 will take advantage of this privilege.
And I’m sure it sounds great to those youngsters, but is it good for them in the long run? In effect, our young men are being robbed. There is no rush to find a job for insurance benefits, no rush to move out of mom and dad’s house, and no rush or incentive to provide for themselves and begin building a family of their own. This delay in family formation has social consequences as well. In her book, Marriage Matters, Dr. Janice Crouse, Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, writes “Marriage has been called the ‘social glue’ for the way that it binds fathers to their children and unites couples while helping to strengthen the bonds between people and their nation. After forty years of distorted data and misrepresentation about the questions related to family structure, there are, literally, thousands of studies that agree that the best family structure for children’s well-being is the married couple — mom and dad — family.”
Our culture also encourages irresponsible, unproductive young men. TV shows and movies constantly send the message that the “slacker” man is admirable. Independence has been redefined by popular culture as freedom from a wife, kids, bills, and a demanding job. Peter Pan syndrome is alive and well and is embodied in today’s “slacker” persona. Take, for example, the copious amount of support the Occupy Wall Street movement received from Hollywood’s biggest actors, including Susan Sarandon, Alex Baldwin, and Ann Hathaway.
It will be far better for us if we choose to support and encourage the committed men who love and care for us. Not just our husbands, but the future men that are living under our roofs right now. No matter how much they complain, we know that we are giving our sons the most valuable lessons of their lives when we teach them to mow the lawn, take out the trash, get a job, pay their own bills, treat women with respect, love their country and, most importantly, to love and honor God. We do it because we love them and their future families.
So moms, as you take this Father’s Day to honor the dedicated men in your lives, remember you are raising the next generation of fathers who one day will receive their own honor and love in the shape of crayoned cards and #1 Dad coffee mugs. My kids have an amazing father, but that’s not enough. Join me in the inner battle to begin the process of cutting those lovely apron strings. Sigh.