Our oldest - Maestro - turned twelve this past November. He is rapidly hitting adolescence and what a time it is! So far I have been more than impressed with his concern for how he "should" act, why people (especially teens!) act the ways they do, and for where he should look to improve himself next. His progress has been impressive and inspiring. But even as he mentally moves forward in his journey to becoming a man, he is also moving on his way physically. That really moves him out of the realm of "Momma's Boy"
and squarely into the domain of "Pop's Influence." No longer is Pop primarily there for enforcement but now he's moving steadily into the phase of discipline-as-discipleship of a more cerebral sort.
To that end, I am more than happy to pass the torch. Maestro still comes to me with his concerns, questions, fears... but I have been acting more as a conduit of information so Jeff can address these increasingly complex situations that no female can reasonably understand. Just like asking a man to understand the rigors of labor and child-birth, expecting that I will understand every step of youth from a male's perspective is just not right.
But being ready to take on those "manhood" discussions is only one part of being a good dad.
There are times when Chef does something mindless; it can be a big struggle for Chef to keep his mind in the game of life. Is it because he's ten? Or because he's a second child? Or because I've let him indulge too much in his Yoneze fantasyland? I don't know the answer to that one, but I do know that he notices all the new privileges Maestro has begun to receive and Chef wants the good life too. The part he hasn't accepted yet is that those perks come with a price, with a debt owed to the family and to the household work.
In this way, too, Jeff has been guiding our boy along, walking through the prayers we say, working alongside Chef when he is doing his chores, giving bigger responsibilities for Chef to rise up to. Pop recognizes that boys need to work in order to grow into strong, focused men.
I won't lie - there are times when our third boy gets me so heated I want to slap him. At seven, Bruiser is testing our boundaries, much like his older brothers did. And this is the stage in life when he gets mentored by Pop in what it means to really respect a lady, and more importantly, his mother. Instilling that respect early on is important.
As he is a younger boy, I can handle outbursts and young testosterone-driven anger, but Bruiser will be a strong man one day and needs to have already embraced the knowledge that he will need to use his strength to protect women, not to make them feel threatened. Jeff is there to model strength in this area too.
Jeff works hard to balance being a good dad - one who loves his children enough to be honest when they're not being their best selves, but also one who apologizes when he has misjudged the situation. As any parent knows, it can be a bit precarious sometimes. Sometimes, just as in adulthood, we aren't fair. We do our best and hope we get it right.
I spend a good portion of my day mediating, talking, lecturing, shouting, loving, laughing, etc. ad infinitum, working to help them grow to be good men. And every morning, I pray that I get it right for one more day. Having a good, morally strong Pop in the lives of my boys is one of the key ingredients to success. Of course, mentoring a good strong-headed girl is a whole different journey - we're working on that!