I believe we, as a population, are failing boys. I feel that we are not doing a good enough job of teaching them to be responsible people, and more importantly, I feel that we are doing a poor job of teaching them to be men. 82% of the male population is starting life off from a deficient position, and I'm tired of everyone patting each other on the back and telling each other how "strong" we are, and how great a job we are doing. If you think that a single mother can teach a boy everything they need to be a man, then you have never understood what it means to be a man. I assure you, it is more than a willingness to kill spiders and open pickle jars. When I say "be a man", I'm holding the ideal above being a decent person. Being a decent person is only a foundation towards becoming a good man, but there will be more on that below. A single mother is fully equipped to raise a decent person, and many of them do. But once the child reaches adulthood, and societal pressures are placed on their back, it's far too late to teach a boy the lessons that he will need to measure up and become successful.
I believe that it is important for all boys to have a father figure in their life. I believe that there are subtle, semantic things that only a man can teach a child, be they a boy or a girl. It doesn't have to be the biological father of that child, but they need to care enough to set a good example. As great as the millions of single mothers out there are, and as much as I respect what they sacrifice and give to their children, there are nuances to living as a man that they will never be able to teach, because at the simplest level, they are not a man. That doesn't mean they are inferior, it just means that society has not levied the same expectations on them as their son will encounter late in life.
A mother can no more teach a son how to deal with those pressures and expectations than a single father teach a daughter what it means to be maternal. Either can teach to love, and either can do their best to encourage morality and the pursuit of becoming a decent person, but neither can be great at knowing what the other will have to be. I was lucky enough to have a great father, someone who taught me everything I would need to know about being a good man. I just hope I listened well enough to be the same for my son.
A good father to a son is at best an example. The best single mothers will never be able to give a first person account of how to be a man, just as fathers will never be able to do a great job at teaching a girl how to become a woman. That's why I feel it's important to have a positive influence in a child's life that can guide them through the expectations of what society will expect of their gender, to a certain degree. As I said, it doesn't have to be their biological father/mother, but perhaps a trusted friend or a grandparent that steps up and helps pass on those nuances of life that the parent might not be aware exists.
We have made great strides in gender equality, and we have made great strides in equality for all sexual orientations, but we are not where we need to be yet. Our children will be expected to navigate the world as adults when they become of age, not the world that we will one day craft.
Your job is not only to instill your morals and beliefs in your child, your job is to prepare them to become an adult, to survive a world that will not always have you there to act as training wheels. It's like the anti-vax movement going on in this country. Parents are skipping vaccinations because they are listening to people with no medical training tell them that vaccinating their child will put them at risk of diseases, and parents believe it because there is a void of information when it comes to the cause of Aspergers and Autism.
Now, we are seeing a resurgence of many diseases that we had thought to be wiped out a generation or two ago. Even when presented with this, these people would choose their pride over the well-being of their child. This is my fear. I was lucky enough to have an outstanding father, as well as many other positive role models growing up, that taught me how to be responsible and to be a man, and many of them are still here to help reinforce the principles I am cultivating in my son. I am a single father, and while his mother is still in the picture his time with her will be greatly diminished moving forward. I know it's important for him to still see his mother, because there are aspects of life that try as I may, I won't be able to do the best job possible of teaching him. That will mean helping out with plane tickets to make sure they don't ask him to change planes in a busy airport, and that will mean continuing to make sure that he has time with his grandmother and aunts, because you can never have enough positive influences in a child's life.
He is all that is important, not my pride, not my vanity. In the below video, several single mothers on the show "The View" take immediate offense to Terry Crews' insistence that there are parts of the raising of a child they will be unable to provide for their sons. I agree with what he is saying, but perhaps the finer details of his message could be refined further. Everything he describes, from the identity, to the security, etc. comes from the example set by a good male role model. A boy cannot look at his mother and see an example of a man that embodies what is being asked of him. They can see a good person, a good role model, but it's a little like learning how to cook a restaurant quality steak by watching videos of people cooking restaurant quality seafood. Sure, you might be able to stumble through it after a few dry runs- it's still food, but it doesn't inspire confidence in your ability to cook a steak by watching someone cook lobster.
We all need to get over ourselves. We need to swallow our pride, and understand that we are not able to provide 100% of what our children will need to grow to adulthood ourselves. If you are a single mother raising a boy, it is your responsibility to provide a good male role model in their life to help them learn what the world will expect of them. If you are a single father of a daughter, the same applies. Find time for them to spend with an aunt/uncle that you trust, or a grandmother/father, or even with an adult friend. Suck it up, acknowledge that you are not the bee-all and end-all for them, and provide examples of good people of both genders to show your child what they can become if they work at it.
Now we have reached the part of the post that might piss off a few people (of both genders), but I'm going to say it because it needs to be said. Don't worry, I will back up what I have to say with numbers. Given that birth rates "gender ratios are still around 1:1", and that 82.2% of custodial parents are women (meaning the child lives with the mother more than the father), out of 21.8 million children only live with one parent. Only 18% of the population is married (I didn't remove female same sex couples from this figure, because same sex marriage numbers are still statistically a minority due to the low number of states that support marriage equality, and the fewer number of same sex couples in general.), that means that roughly 9 million boys are not living in the same household with their biological fathers.
The problem has progressively gotten worse, with historical data showing "that from 1900 until around 1970 about a quarter of American sixteen year old's did not live with both of their own parents. By the 1990's the proportion had risen to almost half."
By itself, that's not necessarily to say they do not have a positive regular male influence in their lives, but I'll get to that. This is just to frame the argument. 9 MILLION of the men growing up today are not seeing their fathers more than half of the time, a figure that is likely to grow exponentially, because the problem is more prevalent within poor areas of the country, and the poor areas of the country are expanding exponentially themselves.
Let that sink in before we move on. 9 million boys spend the majority of their life away from their fathers.
The divorce rate is back on the rise, the population is growing every year, and the number of boys that are being pushed into the world every year are more and more, while most are still loved and cared for, are not being shown what a responsible man even looks like.
Now, I will agree that it is most likely close to a 50/50 split when it comes to blame in the cause of a divorce, where blame can be established. Many more children are fathered out of wedlock, and even more are abandoned by their fathers, at a much higher rate than they are by mothers. Men are certainly a major contributor to this issue. But women are not devoid of blame. Many women are choosing to reward men with their time that are more exciting, and less responsible. It's the unspoken responsibility of being a single mother. Most single mothers wear their sacrifices as a badge of honor, (and they should, being a single parent is hard) but many of them have a "I don't need a man, I can do anything a man can do, and better" attitude that is a severe disservice to any boys they happen to be raising. It's a holdover of the women's rights movement, and I understand it because by and large, women can do anything a man can do. Each gender has it's predispositions, but when a boy grows up hearing a steady stream of bile for men from his mother, about how insignificant men are, he will grown up thinking that's what is expected of him.
How many times have you read, seen, or been witness to a woman with children choosing a man that makes her feel young again, or that looks good, over a man that will be a good role model for her children? How many are unable to break the routine of choosing men for them, as opposed to men for their children? The men are responsible for their own actions, but we have the choice to throw up our hands and say, "Well, it's HIS fault.", or we can take it upon ourselves to make sure that our children don't grow up just like them. Demanding that a child show their mother respect goes a long way, but I give single mothers the benefit of the doubt when I think that most of them have already been doing that.
So why is the number of incarcerated males so far beyond the number of incarcerated females? Are women just inherently better people? I hope you don't really believe sexism of that magnitude. All people are created equal, and given similar moral instruction and demonstration, they will become equivalently moral. There is nothing "broken" in the male chromosome, it is we as a society that are "broken".
We are failing them. The men in this country (in general) are not providing enough positive male role models for children, and the women are ( in general ) either ignorant of the importance of a positive male influence on their sons life, or bitter or arrogant enough to think they can provide all that their child needs to become a productive, well rounded member of society.
Both genders need to stop being so damn selfish, and start putting their children first again. No, the world is not ideal, and being a single parent is hard. I know, I am one, and I have my son 100% of the time. I know your struggle, and I'm not trying to tell you that you are doing a poor job. I'm trying to tell you (in general) that we can do better.
Men need to do a better job of fighting for their children, and being there for them even if they live elsewhere. The problem has gone on long enough that the court system has begun to arbitrarily give any children in custody disputes to the mother, unless the father can produce documented evidence that the mother is unfit or a danger to the child. This happens almost automatically, and for every successive generation that we allow it to continue, the problem will snowball. Men are seen as the more likely one to run out on their family, and perhaps we've earned that. If we ever want this world to improve, crime rates to go down, and to turn this country around, we need to be more supportive and educational to our children. We are not going to fix this world, they are the ones that will have to do it, but we can give them all the help we can before they have to.
Women need to do a better job of not rewarding irresponsible, narcissistic men. See them for what they are, and understand that your first priority is your children. If you have children, be there for them more often than you are at the bar, and don't bring men home unless they have proven to be respectful and decent. Every time you bring home a man that ends up treating you poorly and then leaving, you are teaching your son that it's okay. Hold men responsible for their actions. Make them walk the walk, so to speak. There is no rush to shack up with anyone, though I can understand how you might be looking forward to the help another adult in house would provide. There is much more weight on your mistakes here than there is benefit to your success.
The fascinating thing about genetics and breeding is that whoever holds the power in the "partner selection process" dictates what traits are carried on to the next generation. In humans, that honor is usually the woman's. There are certain pockets of thought in this world that think that the rise of women's rights is signalling the downfall of our society, or is more likely than not the cause of it's downfall.
I don't agree with that. As I said above, we are ultimately judged in this life by the character of our actions, not the color of our skin or who we choose to marry. I do think that, in a general sense, women are still getting their legs under them in regards to the rights they have won, since historically they have not had them very long. They're still figuring out what they want the world to look like, and in some ways are making choices that women in another hundred or two years will not. They are overjoyed by the right to choose their own partners in life, which they have historically not been able to do, that as a society (yes, women have circled the wagons in their way to have developed a society among themselves) they haven't settled into a set of criteria to look for when presented with the choice of finding a partner.
If you're a woman reading this, that last sentence probably pissed you off. Don't worry, men are still learning to deal with the social changes of this as well, and by and large, we aren't handling it well. We aren't used to having to pull our own weight in a relationship. We're used to coming home to a well cooked meal, a kept house, and a wife that has spent all day keeping up the domestic side of things so that we don't have to. For every woman that hasn't figured out what she wants (how many times have you heard a woman say that, be honest), there's a man that "just doesn't understand women", and as a consequence doesn't know how to treat them well.
That chivalry is still appreciated tells me that parts of the old way of living will always remain, even as men and women meander their way to equality. People still appreciate being taken care of, and having nice things done for them. They also appreciate respect, though they don't always hold it in higher regard over celebrity and a toned body (don't even try to lie if you do this, your actions speak louder than whatever excuse you can come up with).
If human society is going to come back from the precipice of failure, it will start with teaching the young to be better than we are, because most of us are beyond the point of no return when it comes to our ability to change. If we concentrate our attention where it can do the most good, in teaching our children to be worthwhile adults, with a proper perspective on life, how to treat people, and to behave, then eventually all of the numbers I've thrown around above will start moving in the other direction.
That means recognizing that we are not the center of the universe. That means understanding that our children are what is most important, and that means providing positive role models for them to emulate, an ideal for them to shoot for or surpass. That means recognizing that in our push to provide equal rights for women, that we don't neglect a generation of boys that will be expected to be men when the only examples they have to go on are great women.