In December I introduced the notion of the phases of a boy’s development, with an eye to the father’s role in the sexual formation of his son. There are many ways of looking at these phases and many ways of adjusting them but for the purposes of the father taking care of his boy I will use these five:
The first is infancy to toddlerhood – up through age three.
The second is the young boy – up to age 7.
The third is the boy coming into his own up to age 11/12.
The fourth is the young adolescent boy undergoing the changes of puberty, up to age 15.
The fifth is the boy’s transition into young manhood up to age 19.
The age ranges are flexible and will change, boy by boy, given the multiple factors in play: physical growth, neurological growth, hormone differences, and basic temperament, sibling order and relationships, the home environment of peace vs. stress, and the level and depth of religious practice and whether it is rule-based, or person-based.
Though much of the focus of these blogs on father and son look at the dynamic between them, the strongest and deepest dynamic is that between the father and the boy’s mother. That relationship is the sexual relationship in the family. Though his parent’s physical sexual relationship is beyond the boy’s direct knowledge and happens behind the closed door of the bedroom, the relational and spiritual dimension of their sexual relationship is on full display in family life and conveys powerful messages that continually shape the hearts of their children who “absorb” the parental relationship in its peace and joy or stress and conflict. The father’s greatest “tool” in forming his son’s sexual relationship is, first, to do all he can to make his wife very happy (no matter what external stresses life visits on them).
Likewise, his mother has a powerful impact on her son’s long-term sexual development. If she conveys the message that she is blessed to have his father as her spouse and if she does everything in her power to make their marriage a very happy one for her husband, then the boy will have inbuilt criteria (likely unconscious) for selecting his wife. Having experienced marital happiness in his family’s home he will seek the same for himself.
Through all the phases of forming the sexuality of his sons, the father’s first task is to take great care of his sexual partner, his wife, the boy’s mother. Nothing is more powerful in his son’s sexual formation. The state of their marriage, the fullness of their sexual relationship, is the state of the soil in which the young plant (their son) thrives or wilts. The greater their ease with each other the greater his potential ease with matters of the heart.
All children need such marriages and have the universal human right to such. Though they have a right to this love, it cannot be enforced because it is a gift, from each parent to the other, and then — only then — to their children. One could say that marriage is “well directed sexual fulfillment over a life time,” the benefits of which flow over to the children.
Times of crisis demand getting back to basics. Our search for the most basic has brought us to the sexual formation of the boy by his father. Even here, marriage is foundational.