Learning to Love, not Control Our Sons

by Archie Wortham    –show me more like this

It seems dads often feel they have to control their kids. I don’t know why. Moms, teachers and society expect us to, I guess. And dads have been so brainwashed into this being our role, we don’t allow ourselves to think about who can help us. That’s right, dads are so consumed in doing what’s expected, and what’s right, we don’t even think about all the people out there who can help us. And if you’re like me, you need all the help you can get! Why is this so important? Because ‘fathers and sons will continue to fight each other until they realize they want the same thing–respect.’

Now some of you are so mild-mannered and put-together, you wouldn’t get upset in an airplane crash. Me? I get upset when my car won’t crank, or when the local TV stations interrupts my favorite show with a weather bulletin about Atascosa county. At times, I’m 50-year-old baby. And my sons? They replicate what they see. And that’s irritating, isn’t it dad? You hate to see your worst in someone you love. I might be patriarchal when I say this, but dads itch to have sons. Dads love their daughter, but control their sons. Is control a way to show love?

Recently, a dear friend of mine in South Carolina shared the frustrations and loneliness of being a good dad. He didn’t talk about his loneliness, but his loneliness was apparent as he reached out to me, one of the worst examples I could imagine. But I understood his pain. I felt the tears I didn’t see, because I’ve felt them. He and his son felt estranged from each other, though they wanted the same thing–measured respect. Unfortunately, we can’t define what we want, because what we want is often redefined by those around us. Therefore dads and sons wind up being at odds because they want the same thing, but won’t compromise. We get angry.

Are we dads angry because they won’t listen to us or angry because we remember what we were like when we did similar things? We forget. In the process, we lose them, ourselves, and wallow in loneliness. Why? We clam up. We get jealous of moms. Moms have special relationships with their children, especially their sons. Moms can see us in their sons as they nurture parts of ourselves we try to hide. When dads try to nurture ‘our’ way, we get criticized for being wimps, spineless, whipped. Know what I mean? “Rebel Without a Cause” gives one of the most endemic example of a weak dad trying to control his son. And that’s when we start to lose them. Not when we try to control them, but when we fail to control our actions, or lose sight of the moment.

It’s the ‘moment,’ men fail to see as men define their own iconography of fatherhood. Dads are consumed with what will happen to them if they don’t prepare their sons for society. Dads get consumed by the mistakes they’ve made. Focusing on the future and the past keeps dads from realizing that it’s the moment that makes our children so angry. We ignore their music; we fail to get them to appreciate ours. We get so obsessed with my way or the ‘highway,’ that we get left behind to lick our wounds without realizing it’s really about being in the same car. Regardless of where it’s going, it’s about dad and son being together.

So what do we do? Toward the end of the movie, “Finding Forrester,” Forrester talks about friendship and families. He says, “Losing family obliges us to find our family, not always the family that is our blood. But the family that can become our blood.” Think about that dads. Though actions speak louder than words, words hurt. So, choose our words carefully. Support other dads as family. By listening to another father’s son, we can affirm our relationship with our own son as we affirm another dad’s.