"yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!"
A little while ago I listened to an interview with the author of a book titled, Rules for My Unborn Son. The author explained that he began to compile a list of rules for his son (before he was born) that he believed would make him a well rounded and polite gentleman as he grew. Some were serious, some were light-hearted and comical. ‘The best thing you can do for your neighbour is mow your lawn’ was the gist of one. ‘A man never uses wheeled luggage’ was the idea of another. The entire book laid out a list of things that a man ought or ought not do.
A number of weeks before I heard the interview, I bought a small journal and wrote on the inside cover, ‘To my dear son.’ What I began to write in its pages was not to the tune of ought or ought not. What I wrote on the first four or five pages was the beginning of a lengthy letter of promises to my unborn son to uphold my responsibilities to him, his mother and his siblings that come after him. I pledged accountability to God and to him in the undertaking of my new role as his father and husband to his mother. I told him that the best thing I will ever do for him is to love his mother unconditionally and in such a way that he will be prepared by my example to love the mother of his own children unconditionally when his time comes. He will not understand these things until many years from now, but to verbalise these things will, I hope, show him how important these things are. There are many things that are intrinsic to the hearts and minds of men which need to be articulated for them to be realised and materialise.
If one was to Google a list of websites specifically for Australian men, hours could be spent scrolling through style, fashion and lifestyle websites. I want to cut through the shell - the mask - that society insists that young men wear. That is the heart of my letter to my unborn son. It is not my intention to build a facade for him to wear, it is my intention - my responsibility, rather - to base at the core of myself strength of character and principles that he will readily emulate by my example, because the fruit of character is a responsible, decent lifestyle and sense of self-worth and direction. These are the things that I most want my son to learn from me. I am reminded of a poem by an unknown author that I read some years ago which reads as follows:
A careful man I want to be — a little fellow follows me. I do not dare to go astray, for fear he’ll go the self-same way. I cannot once escape his eyes. Whatever he sees me do he tries. Like me he says he’s going to be — that little chap who follows me… He knows that I am big and fine — And believes in every word of mine. The base in me he must not see — that little chap who follows me… But after all it’s easier, that brighter road to climb, With little hands behind me — to push me all the time. And I reckon I’m a better man than what I used to be… Because I have this lad at home who thinks the world of me.
I can either fuss about my appearance and in doing so teach my son that self worth is found in image, or I can simply look after myself and dress well without a fuss. I can pretend that there is nothing that I don’t yet know and teach my son to be arrogant, or I can humbly condescend to company and learn from all. I can wish for fast cars and big houses and teach my son to live above his means or be content and, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, take my place wherever I am, be somebody and get action! The latter parts of these examples are the internal features of masculinity that determine the external appearances of manhood. A careful man I want to be - not to make for my son a cloak of rules and precepts of outer appearance while leaving his internal character uncultivated and barren of principles. When all is said and done, the only ought that I will hold myself accountable to is that I ought to be able to say to my son, “yours is the earth and everything that’s in it, and - which is more - you’re a man, my son!”