You all probably know this by now that I have 4 sons. Yep, no daughters….until now (more on this in another post)! That means that we all still laugh when someone farts, make noises, forget basic things, struggle with our manners, and frankly do dumb things!
I have read books on parenting. Not too many, but a few. Mostly books that were recommended to me by someone I trust. I haven’t gotten caught up in any of the modern parenting techniques, blogs, books, and sociological ideas. There is a lot of noise out there and the up-and-coming parents, those that are in their twenties and early thirties, will have more tips and tricks thrown at them than any other generation before them. It is going to be tough to navigate the treacherous “How do I parent” waters.
Since I am a part of Gen X, I have the benefit of being a member of one of the last generations to know what it is like to play outside, all day, until it is dark out without having to check in with my mom every hour. I walked to school, to the park, and to the pool. I spent hours in the hot Spokane sun frying my pale skin to a gentle crisp with SPF 15 and some real aloe vera plant smeared over my torched shoulders and back by my mother. I learned to fish, hunt, play all kinds of sports, fix my bike, play with my dads tools, “invent” things, and when I was older I learned to change the oil in my car (and then dump into the alley with no fear of repercussion), wash and wax it, and so on. This was all before email. Did you see that? I said before email.
I learned this stuff. I don’t remember how or where. I mean, I know my dad and mom taught me some of it, and I suppose I picked up a bunch of the rest from friends, or trial and error. Not really sure. What I do know, though, is there are a lot of things that have been forgotten. Things that may be just a subset of a particular lifestyle and not the norm any longer. For generations a lot of things were just taught or caught. Now with all of the distractions for boys, we are losing some of the basic skills that I believe all boys should learn.
I don’t care what the reason is. You teach your boys these skills for fun, or because you feel you have a moral obligation too. Or still you can teach them these skills so that they are not embarassed when they meet other people when they are older. I don’t know. I just know that there are 10 things that you should absolutely teach your son.
- Sing in the Shower – To me, singing in the shower represents two things. One, that your kid feels comfortable in his home. Even if he is tone-deaf, if he wants to belt out the latest country ballad or top 40 hit, while washing his armpits, I think he should. The second is that I think this is caught, meaning, if you don’t do it, he won’t do it. So sing in the shower and let him hear you attempt those high notes in your falsetto.
- Throw a Ball – I am sure the new batch of parents will panic over this one. Those parents that are anti-competition or think that Americans are too caught up in sports, and that everyone deserves a trophy, and that there should be no losers. The tough part of this logic is simply that that the real world isn’t like that. So I think your son should know how to throw a baseball, football, and shoot a basketball. I think all boys should be “forced” to play a sport or three when they are young. Yeah, you heard me…forced. Why? Because it may be there first experience outside of the home or in the bubble that is early childhood education. He will learn teamwork, have to respond to another person in authority, and can learn about working together for a common good. If you still don’t want to have him join, you should still teach him how to grip the baseball across the seams, put his hingers on the strings of a football to throw a spiral, and how to shoot a basketball properly. We don’t need to create all-Americans here, just boys that can play a little bit, even for fun.
- Hook a worm/tie a fisherman’s knot – this is one I fear we will really lose if we don’t watch it. The big sporting good stores already have so many parts of this process done for us, that if we aren’t careful, there will be noone left who knows how to take a slimy earthworm (and if you pick them out of your garden instead of buying them, you get bonus points), and wrap that sucker through and into the fish hook. Growing up in Eastern Washington, our lakes were full of trout, and trout like worms better than almost anything else. The fisherman’s knot? A tad complicated, but worth the effort to learn to do it right because you don’t want that fish you are trying to land to rip your worm, hook, and line right off your pole because of shoddy work.
- Shine Shoes – this is an either/or for me. Ideally, you teach your son how to shine his own shoes complete with cleaner, polish, brush, and cloth. At a very minimum, it is important to take your son and his nice shoes to a gentleman that shines shoes as his profession. There is something strangely calming and therapeutic about sitting on that big chair, usually higher up than everyone else, reading the paper or a magazine, and having the gentleman go back and forth with his brush.
- Shuffle a Deck of Cards – with all of the game options around, on tablets, phones, and video games (oh I know…my kids do it too much), the art of playing cards is losing its appeal to todays children. Teaching kids to shuffle is an important part of growing up. My mom and aunts taught me and guess what? Once I learned how, I may have gotten rusty over the years, but it comes right back. Which leads me to…
- Card Games – Blackjack, Solitaire, Hearts and/or Spades – I still have work to do with my own sons, but these are at least three card games that you should teach your sons. Great for camping, after Sunday dinners and holidays, these are basic card games that anyone can learn with just a basic Poker deck of cards. Always fun, healther competition, and a great way to connect with friends and family, old and new,
- Make an Omelet/Cook Eggs – Eggs are abundant and cheap and full of protein. Don’t have a budget for steak, then add some eggs to your diet, gents. Your kids should know how to make a fried egg, soft and tender scrambled eggs, and an omelet. They should know how to make it for themselves, their family, or their sig other.
- Use a Knife – Modern parents do not like knives. It wasn’t too long ago that boys were given a pocket knife through scouts, or from their grandpa somewhere between 8-12 years old. Boys were able to cut, carve, and pretend for hours at a time with a simple blade. If you cut yourself, usually it wasn’t too big a deal. Now? Rush him to the ER! My sons received various pocket knives from my dad ove the past few years. On top of that, my 13 year old, when we were in Switzerland, bought a Swiss Army knife of his own. Because I cook so much, I try to take a little time each week with the boys to teach them how to hold, cut, chop, and slice their way through veg, bread, meat, and more. TEACH them to be safe and ALWAYS use a sharp knife. More accidents come from dull knives that slip or give then does a knife that is sharp!
- Open a Bottle of Wine – Some time down the road your son will want to impress his girlfriend or wife by buying a bottle of wine (I am partial to Pinot Noir and Burgundy). That is the right thing to do. He should learn how to use an entry level wine bottle opener with corkscrew and hinge and knife for label trimming. After they master the wine, they need to properly open a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne. There is a simple and effective technique to be safe and enjoy!
- Pour a Proper Pint – Just like wine, drinking a tasty craft beer is part of growing up to be a young man. Teach your son to chill the glass, hold at the 45 degree angle, and pour from your growler or bottle slowly down the inside and when about 75% complete, slowly turn to full vertical and you will get the proper head. A properly poured pint is nothing short of spectacular!
There are so many other things we should teach our sons but I thought this quick list was a fun way to remember how we once were and all of the “manly” things our dads, grandfathers, uncles, and others used to teach and now seem forgotten or sadly, not worth the time.