Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Next Generation of Men

I have often wondered if the ability to deal with children is intrinsic in women and a learned skill for men, because by all observable evidence it is. I think that it is similar to the chain reaction vomit syndrome; I throw up when I have to witness anyone but one of my children throwing up. It is some sort of internal primal mechanism that allows us to care for our sick young with out barfing on their heads.
But when it comes to continuous screaming and crying, kicking and writhing, it takes a creature with ovaries to manage the chaos. Women react and respond to outrageous behavior differently than men, and it is not only in matters of unruly children. Women react differently when they encounter road rage, rude people in the grocery line, unexpected home repair issues, etc. Once you roll all of these issues into a category and determine one's ability or lack thereof to deal with them, it is a matter of coping mechanisms--and women have them.

It is not meant to suggest that women possess a superiority over men in a general sense, it is merely pointed out here to illustrate what I believe to be a very important skill to teach our young sons, and a behavior or talent to foster in our daughters. Any mother raising a son(s) and a daughter(s) can attest, they are hard-wired differently at birth, and anyone who is married can attest that those differences become more pronounced with age.

I am not offering clear advice here on how to teach this skill to boys, because I do not know myself how to go about doing it. I only attempt to encourage my son to take his time, to take a deep breath, and to remember that the calamity, no matter how great, can be dealt with. There is always a huge eruption when a piece of Lego goes missing, especially a Lego piece that is part of a Star Wars Clone Battle Fighter (seriously, I know this shit now), and if the matter is not taken seriously and met with complete urgency on my part there will be tears. Wailing. Gnashing of teeth, locusts, perhaps floods. The Universe hates missing Legos. His reaction always seems to me to be so totally overblown, and although my daughter is extremely dramatic (she is four and it is what four year old girls do), her reaction to a similar challenge is never panicked.

I think that at the core of this for my son is that his primary reaction is believing that the situation is hopeless and therefore the only thing to do is panic. What can be done? How will I survive? Instead of realizing that the black piece of plastic that he had in his hand and in his sights 20 seconds prior did not grow legs and walk away. There is no measure of time between 1) Where did I put that? And 2) Holy Shit it is gone, gone, gone forever! There is the tipping point. Male humans do not have a pause. They do not stop, adjust, recalculate, and begin. Can we teach that?

I hope so, I am trying. Women live their whole lives utilizing this process. Stop – I got my period. Adjust – these jeans will not zip today and I must select something else to wear. Recalculate – I think that this “Mamas and Papas” style house dress looks pretty. Begin – I can wear this to the party and everyone will think I am being “hip”. Coping leads to recovery.

I do not think that there is a magic bullet, I know there is no one way to teach the process of challenge recovery to our boys, but there are multiple ways to teach them. I firmly 100% agree with the much celebrated comments made by Sally Field when she accepted her Emmy award: “If mothers ran the world, there would be no goddamned wars.” Because women know how to pause. Can we teach this to our sons? Can we all make a vow to at least try? What if that simple skill alone could become part of the one wish we all have – World Peace?

This is a grand over simplification on my part, but we are growing human beings here--which is no small task. We are helping to create the leaders of tomorrow, men and women. I say let's help them embrace the differences and value the skill sets they hold in common and value and endeavor to learn the skills that they do not. What a wonderful generation that would be.

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