The Father/Son Staredown

To Fathers of Boys:

When you look at him, you see yourself. But in raw form.

When he looks at you – if he’s around kindergarten age – he sees a hero.

To maintain that title, all you have to do is show up and follow your instincts. Goof with him. Toss him around. Play Rock/Scissors/Paper. Read picture books. Marvel with him about bugs, dandelions and shiny rocks. Get down on his level and really talk to him. Shazam! You’re an instant superhero. I recommend you bask in that title as long as possible.

As he approaches the teenage years, some of that is going to change. A maturing son should look at his father and still see a hero. But now in human form. Blue jeans instead of tights. Car keys instead of telekinesis. A steady income instead of super human strength.

You’re still a champion of sorts, but your relationship shifts from fiction to fact. You offer stability. You’re a reliable resource, someone he can trust.

To keep that hero status, you need to be honest, respectful and even vulnerable.

Your teenage son’s admiration for you has nothing to do with being invincible. You’re a hero every time you listen, show appreciation, exhibit patience, solve problems, overcome challenges, and even admit when you don’t have all the answers. The result is a relationship built on shared consideration. You respect him. He respects you.

Too many parents buy into the myth that raising boys is one frustrating confrontation after another. Some look at a teenage boy and see nothing but trouble waiting to happen. Don’t believe that lie.

Next time your son enters the room, don’t say a word. Just look at him. Notice his slight swagger. His clear, curious eyes. His mischievous smile. His jaw line. His strong shoulders. If you don’t see it all, that’s okay. It’ll come.

Keep your eyes steady until he says, “Whatcha lookin’ at?” Then respond, “You. Just thinking about how awesome you are. Wondering what your life is going to be like in ten years. I’m looking forward to it.”

I don’t know how your son will respond. My four sons are all out of college, married, and making the world a better place. But I remember how they would shake their head and say things like, “Crazy old man.” And they wouldn’t be wrong.

My friend, I implore you to enjoy every minute of the great father/son stare down. Don’t blink. It’ll be over before you know it.

(To continue this thought, you may want to invest in 52 Things Sons Need from Their Dads.)

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