Fathers and Sons in Times of Uncertainty
Turbulent times can take many forms: economic stress, war, and social upheaval are a few of the most prominent. These are the kinds of changes that everybody feels on some level, regardless of where we live or what our occupation may be. The news of the day can cast a shadow over our lives, affecting us even within the relative quiet of our homes. Periods of great stress can force us to rethink our values and priorities in life. They can also prove to be profitable bonding opportunities for fathers and sons.
Sharing the tale of hardships and triumphs has been a long-standing tradition in the lineage of men. A father talks about his struggles during the Great Depression to a son who will grow up to relate his story of social unrest during the Civil Rights Movement to his son. Part of a father’s function is to serve as the son’s bridge to the world. We talk about what we experience in our daily lives, and about where we’ve been and what we’ve seen, and from these bits and pieces of storyline our boys form their own convictions concerning what life is all about.
Some fathers are more taciturn, and have a stoic attitude towards their struggles. To such men, it may seem like a sign of weakness to confide in their sons, or to admit that sometimes they are frustrated or afraid. But this robs sons of the opportunity to be forewarned about the road that lies ahead of them. Confronted with an uncommunicative father, a boy may end up with no choice but to venture out alone and discover the perils and pitfalls of the world for himself. An opening is lost, then, for using hard times as touchstones through which to pass down acquired wisdom and experience over generations.
Troubling periods in our lives can always be fruitful bonding opportunities. Such experiences can make us grateful for what we have. They can open our eyes to the beauties of small moments that we may normally miss. Boys instinctively lean towards their fathers when life feels uncertain. After all, their fathers are their primary mirrors for what their own male identity means. As parents, we can explore this further by speaking more, by opening up about some of the pain, fear and doubt that we may feel from time to time. Many sons will be grateful for this piece of honesty from us, and they may well remember it when the time comes for them to pass down their hard-earned wisdom to their kids.