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When I became pregnant with my first, I hoped for a boy. Girls scared me. I grew up a tomboy with two older brothers. They, between the two of them, have produced five boys and no girls. My little knowledge of children comes from my nephews. They were a lot of fun and enjoyed rough and tough boy things. I can handle that. Deep down I knew I was having a girl and it scared me. (Yes, my first child is a girl.)
My daughter and I seemed to bond instantly and I felt I understood her. I know how to meet her needs, understood what she wanted and how to comfort her. She was a very difficult baby in the sense she was high needs (she cried/fussed/screamed literally 24/7 her first month on this earth), but I just knew what she needed.
So when I became pregnant with number two, I was suddenly scared that it would be a boy. Maybe I didn't understand them as well as I thought I did. My gut was telling me this one was a boy, which was confirmed with an ultrasound. When he was born, I felt like a first time mom all over again. Turns out the holding and the cuddling his big sister craved wasn't what this little guy wanted. I remember telling him, both of us in the midst of tears, "I don't know what to do to make you happy." I couldn't figure him out and it did put a damper on our bonding. I was so convinced he wasn't too impressed with having me as his mom.
So when Bethany House offered this book, I jumped at it. Even though I am "mom," and not "dad," I figured it couldn't hurt to gain a bit of insight on boys. (Truly, they are weird creatures.)
Reading this book, it seemed a lot of this is basic, common knowledge of information for child rearing. Some can be applied to a daughter as well. However, if we stop and take a look at our society, and understand that a good portion of our chaos is due to parental choices, well, it's easy to conclude that maybe we as parents aren't making the best choices when it comes to raising children. All choices have consequences. Some consequences are negative, while some are positive.
O'Donnell emphasizes that fathers have a very important role in their children's lives. With sons, fathers have to be the role that they want their sons to emulate. O'Donnell outlines seven core issues that they must live, to help develop them in their sons:
1) develop disciples of Christ
2) good citizens
3) holders of worthy vocations; responsible workers
4) chooser of good friends
5) able to enjoy life
6) sexually chaste; understanding of male sexuality; avoiding the hazards of pornography
7) lovers of their wives; supporters of their marriages
One thing that I loved about this book is that O'Donnell also outlined stages of development in a boy. These stages begin in birth and end at old age with the knowledge of impending death. Stage 1 is Trust vs. Mistrust, which is from birth to eighteen months. A baby learns to trust by having a predictable, nurturing environment. (All the more reason why I refuse to let my babies 'cry-it-out'--but that's another blog post for another blog.) This, for me, has confirmed that I was correct in following my instincts with my children despite all the flack I received from other people.
For my secular readers, this is a Christian book with foundations in Christ. So, in addition of being a dad who is emotionally and physically present to your son, the book goes beyond that. It teaches dads to instill strong, spiritual, Christ-like character in their sons. And to do that, you must live what you preach.
As a mom, this really didn't help me to understand my son more. But maybe it's because I'm female that I don't fully get it. Maybe there is more there that a dad can connect with, look at his own life, and see what he can do to shape his son's life in a positive way.
This book does not have all the answers. But I think it's a wonderful place to start for dads looking for direction with their sons.