Monday, April 21, 2014

Like Father, Like Son. Is that bad?

“I can’t believe it; I’m beginning to sound like my father!”  Ever hear that line repeated in a sitcom or in a movie, often said with pain and dread?  Of course you have.  It seems a universal truth: All sons dread becoming like their fathers.  Has anyone considered how sad that sentiment is, respecting fathers?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I have not been a model father.  Thus, it wouldn’t do to have my son become “just like dad.”  Like any and all men, be it husbands or fathers, I am flawed.  So, no, I’d rather not have my son turn out just like me.  I’d rather have him become his own man and perhaps turn out better than me.  (My son is presently in his mid-twenties, and so is well on his way.)

On the other hand, I also believe it would do him well, even in his mid-twenties, to listen and observe and learn from me.  Not everything I do or say, or have done and have said, is nonsense or too old-fashioned and outdated to be taken seriously.  There are things I can still teach him.  That is, I believe that I have gained enough wisdom in life to still be a good influence in his life.

I guess what I am trying to say is that “age and experience” means something.  With experience comes wisdom.  And only years under one’s belt, i.e., time, plus age, bring the opportunity for experience that lead to greater wisdom.

Yet I’m amazed at how many sit-coms and movies depict husbands and fathers as idiots and buffoons.  Now, I’m not asking that we go back to the “Father Knows Best” days, but would it hurt to show husbands and fathers with a little more dignity and respect?

Indeed, would it hurt to depict anyone that is older than forty as people who have learned from their mistakes and have become a bit smarter and wiser for the weathering?  Is it that impossible to imagine the elderly carrying their years with grace, dignity, and self-respect and with much to offer to the next generation by way of wisdom and experience?  Alas, I suppose the problem is that such a depiction of the elderly lacks in comedic substance.

I think what I long for in our society is an appreciative balance of intergenerational respect.  The young are not as asinine, birdbrained, and boneheaded as many elderly imagine them to be.  But neither are the elderly as foolish and vapid, and worthlessly out-of-date as many young people imagine them to be.  Each generation, young and old, can learn and indeed should learn from the other.

Fearing change and refusing to catch-up-with-the-times, the older generation tends toward rigidity and stagnation.  Thus, sometimes the old do need a kick in the pants from the younger set.

On the other hand, the younger generation will often regret not having taken their elder’s advice more seriously and soon admit that they should have listened and learned from them, so as to avoid needlessly repeating the mistakes of their forebears.  Indeed, sometimes old, slow and deliberate, is much more productive than young, fast and furious—and with better results.  Somewhere in there, there must be an ideal balance between the two.

What seems to be lacking is an ideal model.  What does a mature, wise, and respectable “old” man look like, one that young men and even younger lads would aspire to become “just like”?

    Is he strong?  If so, is it physical strength we speak of or a deeper emotional and spiritual kind of strength that is of more value here?
    Is he intelligent?  And by that, we should mean more than mere head-knowledge?  That is, is he insightful, perceptive, understanding, and wise?
    Is he loving?  No, we’re not talking about a Don Juan.  And neither do we mean mushy, sweet and sugary all over.  That is, does he care, is he concerned, is he sensitive and responsive to the needs of others—especially to that of his wife and children?
    Is he courageous?  Does he have the courage to do what is right, even when it hurts or calls for personal sacrifice to do so?
    Is he humble?  He is willing to admit to his mistakes, own up when responsible for things going wrong?
    Is he respectful?  Is he kind to those who have less power or status than he does?

So tell me.  What are the characteristic traits of a manly and/or fatherly role model?  Just what does a good man, or husband, or father, look like?  And why don’t we see more of this type depicted in the media?  And why can’t we readily think of immediate examples of this type, when asked to provide one?  Why is the cliché, “the last thing I want to become is ‘just like my father’”?  And what does that say about men in general, in our society and culture?

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