The other day my 13 year old son shoved an epiphany down my throat. Don’t laugh. Boys are born with some kind of worm inside them that slowly eats the part of their brain that control the sense of reason, finally finishing it’s meal by the thirteenth year and belching it out as it dies a satisfied death. Try to reason with a thirteen year old boy, explain a situation or something you have learned from life with experience, and it will be accepted with the same enthusiasm as a package of underwear on Christmas morning. Thanks but it’s not what he wants no matter how useful, practical, or comfortable it might make him. My son is thirteen years old and he needs to learn things his own way, on his own terms, and in his own time.
I don’t like watching Nate suffer through his teen years. I try to help him and have tried all sorts of methods to do so – subtle hints, outright advice, demonstration, even telling stories of my own screw ups (the stories are told carefully as they can easily backfire.. After all, Dad did it, so can he). Any time I try to make a suggestion, it is immediately met with a “oh, so it’s OK for you to eat a Big Mac after your bike rides but I can’t eat this whole box of Chocolate Chex in one sitting”. Thirteen year old logic wants to trump all.
Boys do need to learn on their own. That is the epiphany Nate threw down my throat. I can tell him all I want, try to show him so many skills, but experience truly is the best teacher.
Dad, you really don’t need to tell me.
Example really is the best way for my son to learn from me. The school of dad is best when the student doesn’t know that he is being taught. Yeah, he was watching me eat that Big Mac and he is right, even if he is using it as a defense mechanism. But he also watches me ride a bicycle thousands of miles a year and the discipline I demonstrate by getting up early each Saturday morning to ride is the example he sees. The way I talk to my wife, his mother, will speak volumes when he enters the hallowed halls of matrimony. My dedication to my job, faithfulness to God, respect for my parents, sacrifice for my friends, willingness to serve when I am needed, the time I give to him or his sister – all are what he is going to learn from.
There are boys who do listen to their father when he is trying to teach them something. They learn skills, ask questions. My son does want to know, but it’s best for him when it’s him taking the initiative with me, asking for advice, wanting to know.
Here is what seems odd to me — I was not like Nate when I was his age. My dad is a doer, not a teacher, so when I wanted to know something the lesson was usually just watching my dad do whatever it was that I wanted to learn. Of course, I also know now that dad is also a fly by the seat of your pants type, meaning that he learns as he goes. That explains quite a bit. So I want to teach my son what I wish my dad had taught me.
And he doesn’t want to learn like I did. Talk about irony.
Should I get into the topic of learning by failure? Naaaa… I’ll save that one.