Fathers and Sons
by C. Highsmith Hooks aka Soul Sista
I don't know what it is, but lately, I've noticed that a lot of men bond with their sons by trying to relive their lives through the kids. Some boys allow it; most do not. And of those that eventually conform, many will ultimately harbor resentment towards the father. Maybe the dads don't do it on purpose, but the result is the same-a resentful, angry son who will father the next generation of men.
One father refused to communicate with his son if he did not go to a certain college. Well, the son doesn't have the grades for that school and, while he is a good basketball player and might make the team, he's not scholarship material and could never compete with the level of talent on that team. So dad, oblivious to all of this (or in denial), continues to have this fantasy about his son playing for that school. I suspect research would reveal that the father could not get accepted at the school. Either that, or he attended, but was unable to make his basketball dreams come true there. So the son has inherited that dream and, if accepted at the college, he will be forced to live it out. What a heavy burden for a seventeen year old.
Another father insists on forcing his likes on his 12-year old son. It's bad enough that he, in essence, abandoned the boy when he was born, now he shows up and wants to continue a relationship that was never developed. And he's angry that the boy wants him to take it slow, get to know him first. I hope this father wakes up before the son is 18.
A third father recently considered returning to school and majoring in video production like his son. He claimed that would be his "dream job." He also fantasized that maybe he and his son "could work together some day."
I wonder what brought on this epiphany for that father?
I have no answers, only an opinion based on years of painful observation in my own family.
I suspect that father's desire to work with his son stems from not building a solid relationship over the years. Now that the son is in college, the father realizes he wasted so much time doing things other than nurturing the father-son bond. And he's trying to play catch up.
When my son was growing up, his father wanted them to do things together that Maurice really didn't enjoy. Naturally, our son resisted these attempts and pulled away from his dad. And even when Maurice played sports, his dad spent most of the time yelling at him from the sidelines. So instead of fond memories of fun times together, what exists is a tension between father and son that may never be repaired. Precious years were lost.
Fathers, if you want an everlasting connection with your son, first and foremost, find out what interests the child and realize that your young years are over. It's all about your son now. That NFL jersey YOU always wanted is not the gift for a son who's into wrestling or video games. Take the time to bond with him over what HE likes to do. Use those things as a bridge to communication with your son. Don't crush his hopes and dreams with the awkward weight of your regrets or your attempted do-overs. And don't compete with your son like he's a stranger.
While healthy competition at work is a good thing, too much of it between father and son will strain the relationship. Celebrate his successes and let him know that dad is in his corner. No son wants to see his father as the man he always has to bump heads with; he'll get plenty of that in the outside world. Don't make your home a battleground where your son feels he has to constantly prove his manhood by challenging or being challenged by his father. When you do this, you end up with one of two things: a passive, insecure man who avoids criticism and confrontation; or an overbearing, paranoid-aggressive who seeks out confrontation as a means to constantly validate his masculinity. What you want lies somewhere in the middle.
For both of your sakes, develop a healthy relationship with your son, not an adversarial one. You'll appreciate the results: a son who loves, respects and admires his father, but who also learned life's essential lessons from the most influential man in his life. More importantly, your son will have done this without ending up bitter towards you, future authority figures and the rest of the world.