"Work on it every single day for the next 15 years," I answered with only the very slightest tinge of sarcasm.
And it's true. Just recently, my 21-year-old learned how to hold wrestling matches without anyone crying or needing stitches. Boys hit. They just do. Still, it's our job as parents to help them control their tempers.
I am not a fan of the "let them fight it out" mentality. My husband and I both saw examples of brothers who fought as children and caused lifelong resentment. Also, learning to control the desire to hit or lash out will be invaluable when boys become husbands and fathers.
Preparing for fatherhood begins in childhood. When one of my boys kicks the winning soccer goal or receives a perfect test score, I'm happy, but I'm much more proud when they soothe a fussy baby at church, take a pack of younger visitors out to play on the trampoline or consent to play tea party or princess games with their younger sister. As the adage goes, “A man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child.”
Crude jokes — especially anything objectifying women — have no place among real men. Neither does crude behavior.
When someone burps at our house, they say "excuse me." Old fashioned? Yes, but good manners never go out of style. I believe the old ways are the best ways — opening doors, shoveling sidewalks, giving up your seat on the bus.
Our sons should be "acquainted with grief." This subject requires prayerful insight from parents, but I believe it is essential our children understand the heartaches and struggles in their own home, their neighborhood and the world. For some, it's easier to talk about starving children in Africa than the fact Daddy just lost his job. Our children gain compassion and perspective when they know life isn't easy for anyone. As Plato famously advised, "Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
Finally, maintaining a sense of whimsy leads to kindness. As Gabe loves to say, "My life would be so boring if my parents weren't so immature."
I'll confess to all kinds of immaturity. I think it would be a shame to outgrow or be "too cool" to make valentines, drive through mud puddles, talk in silly voices, watch "Toy Story" and hold water fights in the backyard.
Happiness and kindness walk hand in hand. The more I encourage laughter at home, the happier we become.
And we are, as I love to repeat, made for happiness.
Writer, photographer and Utah's Young Mother of the Year, Michelle Lehnardt is raising five future fathers and one little mother. She writes at scenesfromthewild.blogspot.com on raspberry pie, chicken coops and missing her missionary son in Russia.
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