Father and Son, Phase 3: Early Adolescence
The good father will help his son to see that that adolescence is the great transition from childhood to adulthood. It is like an iceberg: Though much can be seen on top, the bulk of what is going on lies deep below the surface — for everyone involved, the teenager as well as his parents, teachers and friends.
It as a period of growing self-knowledge about his mind, body and emotions; of learning about learning; of choosing which skills to develop and of where this all fits in his future life.
Even more important, it is a period of learning about how to live well with others: Figuring out what makes some people good and attractive, what makes them comfortable to be with, as friends, as work colleagues, and as members of different communities — family, sports teams, religious groups, schools and clubs. In other words, figuring out the nature of virtue in others.
All this is the background that father will use as he readies himself for the more intense sexual formation of his son that is about to begin.
However, before he begins that direct formation, the good father will remind himself that he has already accomplished the deepest preparation of his son for good marriage later, by his mother bonding well with him as a newborn by him bonding well with his infant son. With these bindings his wife and he have him the firm foundation of the eventual fullness of his son’s sexuality. This is their great accomplishment to date— giving him the capacity to belong to others by belonging to him. They have already made him rich. With this his son will more naturally select as a partner for life someone who has the same capacity to belong — to give to him and to receive from him. She will be seeking someone like him while he is seeking someone like her. The complementary roles of his mother and father are what made this possible. Other adolescents who have not experienced such complementarity between their parents will have greater struggles as they seek to find that other who will complement them.
Having laid the foundation of a strong relationship, the son, as he undergoes the changes of puberty as he experiences a new strange unbeckoned pleasure – orgasm during sleep (wet dreams)– is now more likely to listen to his father as he introduces him to the nature and purpose of sexual pleasure. No one is better qualified to introduce him, because his father is the one who brought his son into existence through the enjoyment of that very pleasure.
Timing it as best he can, the father prepares his son for the changes he’s undergoing by pointing out to him that his interest in girls will also begin to increase. He will put that in the context of the massive amount of new learning his son will be acquiring over the next number of years, as he gets ready to be a competent adult. He will point out to him that during this period his brain will grow massively in size and in the interconnections that are both forming and reforming, growing and shedding, as new knowledge is acquired and old knowledge replaced and that, though this process will continue through the rest of his life, it will be particularly intense through the next 12 to 14 years, during which his son has the potential to become a great man by harnessing these changes, by being responsible to his future self, to his future wife (whoever she be), and to his future children (who are only thoughts in God’s mind at this stage).
During these 10 to 15 years he has the chance to develop strengths and to discover his weaknesses, to make friends, to form a few deep friendships, to explore the world, particularly those aspects of creation that he finds the most intriguing. Through this exploration he will discover his inclinations and gifts and gradually figure out a way whereby he can make a living—- how he can serve others in a way they would like to be served through a profession and in the process earn enough to live well enough.
During this period the father reminds his son that he will become increasingly aware of the two major dimensions of himself: That he is both spirit and body and that one of his greatest challenges in life will be to bring harmony between these two dimensions, that he will find such harmony is easy at times, while at other times difficult, and on a few occasions more like a raging storm, and that he has to learn to sail in all these types of seas — all the time remaining captain, so that if he gets lost he knows where to find his compass and recalibrate by true north.
He will let his son know that from here on, as his son becomes more and more his own man that will bring joy to his father, even as a certain distance must accompany that joy, the distance of independence, of responsibility, a responsibility that the son cannot share, the responsibility of being the self he needs to become.
Sometimes the father will tell his son these things face to face but sometimes in letters—for he knows that the value of a letter lasts a lifetime and can be revisited – even after his father has passed away. For the son of a good father these letters will be a great treasure and may even serve his grandsons (human nature does not change).
So far, the father’s work is about the son’s development of his inner self as a competent man, capable of contributing significantly to those around him who will be sought out by others for the skills he has and the contributions he can make. However, he makes clear that everything in life points towards being ready to give, even as his desire to receive will stay dominant— to receive income, promotions, praise, admiration, honors, enjoyment, friendship and even love, especially love. His father will point out to him the great human paradox: First we all want all these good things (income through love) but that they cannot be had first but only after we give, and that if he ever becomes a wise man he will know that it makes most sense not to think about the receiving but concentrate instead on the giving— giving where life beckon most. His father will remind him (gently but often enough so that it gets through) that life will keep being a major pain until he learns this solution to this universal dilemma. It is a lesson many fail to learn, or learn too late, but that great men realize this early enough in life to shape themselves that way. He will urge his son to look out for such men and when he finds them to get as close to them as life permits.
(As I wrote this, a piece appeared in the Daily Signal on the first “non-binary” person in the U.S. [neither male nor female]. It teaches the same lesson but in a very different way. If you read the story carefully you will see that this man [he has “returned” to his original sex] had a father who was the opposite of what he needed. It is no wonder his sexuality went all haywire. Given the level of breakdown in marriage in our day, more and more young people are at risk for similar distortions in their psycho-sexual development).
Next week I will continue with Phase V of the Father-Son relationship.
For the good of the child,
The future of the nation,