Boys imitate their fathers for a reason
This weekend I had a couple of things that needed work and my oldest boy David was instructed to come outside and help. He's six, and what that means for me is that not only do I have an obligation to teach him what I value as important skills, but to model frustration tolerance. This is because he is at an age where he clearly wants to help out with farm chores, but isn't really much help at all. In fact, a commenter on my old blog calls it "anti-help."
The plow on my four-wheeler went through the ringer this winter because it was a rough one. It is operated by a winch behind the grill and it snapped--twice. It appears that Spring may finally be upon us and so I finally removed the plow from the front end, and I bought a kit to repair the end of the winch cable.
David loves the movie "Jurassic Park" and when he was watching me fix the winch, he mentioned the scene where the bad guy loses control of his jeep and tries to winch his way out, before ultimatley being killed by the spitting dinosaur.
So after I made the repair, shown here, I actually simulated being "stuck" and winched up to my truck to pull it out. David was in heaven watching this.
He does everything exactly like I do. We shoveled and picked the horse stalls today--something he really doesn't have the upper body strength to do, but he tries to do it the same way I do. I like to play with his moms hair when we are driving places in the car, and now David likes to plant himself next to her and do the same thing.
But its the frustration tolerance part that really matters. I know I have a problem with patience and frustration. I bought him a model rocket to build today and he wanted it to look exactly like the one in the picture. Here's how close we managed to get it.
Not bad, I guess. But truthfully, David got way into it at the beginning, realized it would take some time and patience, and then got bored. I esentially finished it for him, with no real help. But I made him watch. I talked to him about the time it takes to wait for paint and gule to dry. He likes it, but didn't do much of the work. In the past, I would have been mad about this, scolded him for being lazy, having no follow through, and possibly not even finished it. But I am not sure what kind of example that sets for him.
With our sons, we dads have an opportuntiy to correct the errors our own fathers might have made with us. I loved my dad. He was a heroic, archtype for me--and I will explore archtypes as used in a therpeutic conceptual framework in another post--but he was not super patient with me. I choose not to dwell and perseverate over things that I wish he would have done differently. It is important to understand our dads as fully human, flawed guys who brought us into adulthood with the tools they had available. To improve on that honors them, and does not require us to crap on their legacy.
If you are considering contacting me, and you think your suffering may be related to unresolved issues between you and your father--or because he wasn't around at all--you may be right. But you will probably be surprised at the way we explore those issues. We will start with the presupposition that obtaining masculine virtues over the last fifty or so years has been a perilous, complicated ordeal that most likely did not go according to plan. And that's OK--we just need to get you from here to the version of yourself you want to be by being rational and keeping fidelity with what we know it right.