Of all the possible combinations of family relationships between a parent and a child, I think that the most misunderstood is that between a father and his grown son. Perhaps it is that men expect more from their sons then they do from their daughters. A daughter can stay a child in their father’s eyes forever, but a son is expected to become a man at some point. Perhaps it is that men are inherently competitive. I do not know, I am just exploring my thoughts on this matter and welcome your perspective on this, as well.
Boys who grow up and feel that they have in some way failed their father, whether if in fact they actually have or not, never really get over that. If boys grow up admiring their fathers, they work their whole lives striving to live up to their father’s expectations. If boys grow up not respecting the man that their father was, they spend the rest of their lives trying to make-up for what their father lacked.
The misunderstanding may come from the way boys are raised to hide their emotions and “man up” when things get tough. The relationship becomes complicated in its simplicity. It is a relationship that is filled with expectations and has little tolerance for explanations. On one hand, men seem to bond well on shared interests like music and sports. But they don’t tend to sit together and have discussions about their “feelings” like women do. When a father dies and a son is left behind, the son may feel lost without this man who has always been the pinnacle that all other men have been judged against. A pinnacle that they themselves feel they can never match. Or, if a father dies before a son is able to resolve issues with him, he may wander through life still trying to prove that he is, in his own right, a man and all that goes along with being a man.
Boys know they are loved by their mothers, they are not always sure that they are loved by their fathers. There is an exception though, there are fathers who raise their sons without a mother, and those fathers may allow themselves to show their love for their sons freely. Some fathers may show that love freely when their son is young, but they stop showing it as their sons grow.
Perhaps this is something that is changing as it becomes more and more acceptable for men to become enlightened and in touch with their own feelings. I hope so. Fathers should be able to express and show their love for their grown sons without fearing that this, somehow, shows a weakness in them. They should be able to acknowledge that they make mistakes and that they can ask for forgiveness from their sons. Asking for forgiveness is not being weak, it’s being brave. Take the opportunity to help your sons feel both love and acceptance of who they are, regardless of who you wanted them to be.
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy