Wednesday, February 12th at 6:42 PM, my wife gave birth to a healthy, strong 10lb, 10oz baby boy. After five years of praying and hoping, God decided that we were ready for a child. I am not the emotional type, but I will say that that was the most amazing day of my life…that is until the next day, and the day after that. Waking up each morning, knowing that I have a son, fills me with more joy then I have ever experienced. But, I also fear for his future. When I say he is strong, I mean it. Day one, he was lifting his head on his own and turning to look at me. By day 11, he has already started trying to roll (though unsuccessfully, thus far). My fear, however, is will there be a place for my boy in this world?
Today, men are portrayed in the media as second class, often dumb and immature individuals. Jobs seem to go to women first, and men only if there is room. Even retail stores seem to ignore us, as the sections of men’s clothes get relegated to a couple of racks on the back wall. This may seem like a small thing, but trying to find clothes for both me and my son is getting harder and harder, we pass through aisles of cute dresses and pretty bows before finding a sparse section of sweat pants and sport jersey onesies. The message is clear: boys are forgotten, even irrelevant in our society.
Of course, the clothes rack is just an illustration of a much larger issue with our society. Before you start thinking that this is some anti-woman rant, let me assure you: I just saw my wife go through 18 hours of labor before having her belly cut wide open in a C-section, only to have her nursing and caring for our child an hour later. Women are strong and deserve our respect. Many complainers blame the feminist movement for men’s fate in today’s society, but I don’t believe in blame – I believe in taking responsibility.
The truth is that (most) men have checked out. The media portrayal of the modern man is merely a slight exaggeration of who have allowed ourselves to become. Male sports figures model drugs and abuse; male politicians teach us how to lie and cheat our way to the top; even our male religious leaders fail to speak the truth, and many have careers that ended in affairs or fraud. The rest of us seem content to sit on the couch oblivious to a world spinning out of control.
Who do our boys have to look up to today? They are being taught that being full of energy and exploration is a disease to be treated by medication, that mediocrity is safer than taking a stand, and that nothing can be learned from scraped knees and bruised elbows. We are teaching our boys that the best way to not get hurt is to never take a risk.
Men, this is an “us” problem. We are having an identity crisis. We have forgotten what makes us men. Is there nothing left to explore, nothing left to fight for? Is our existence now relegated to the back seat, believing that previous generations accomplished our mission, our purpose? Are men in perpetual retirement? I say no, we still have a huge part to play, but as with any role, it takes practice, pursuit, courage, and mastery of skill to accomplish. We can’t just be nine to fivers, thinking that our only meaningful accomplishment in life is a dead-end job and a golf club membership when we turn 65. We need to stop patting ourselves on the back for simply enduring a grumpy boss and rush hour road rage. We were born to lead! Every man’s main purpose in life is to fight for what we believe in, to be role models to our little boys and protectors of our little girls. If we continue to simply sit quietly, hoping that someone else will take this noble burden from us, there will be nothing left for our newest generation but desperation and stories of the good old days, when men taught boys how to grow up into the next wave of leaders, movers, and shakers.
The problem with our society does not come from women overstepping their “boundaries,” as I have heard many say. No, women stepped up, because we stepped down. They filled a void that we left when we disengaged. This is not about women taking over the world, discounting men, putting us down, or any other excuse we want to make for our own inaction. Women have always had a vital role in society, and in no way do I think that they simply belong cleaning house. Their courage and strength have kept our society going strong in our absence, but that is not a reason for us to stay firmly situated on our La-Z-Boy. Society needs a strong balance. Just as progress was halted by old prejudices against women, it is now equally halted by the absence of moral men engaging in society and even more importantly within their families.
Men, it is time that we reengage, stop making excuses, being distracted by shiny X-Boxes, and buying into the lie that we don’t matter. Our children need us, our country needs us, and our wives need us to be an active participant. We have taken a long nap, but now it time to wake up, take a big stretch, wipe the sleep from our eyes, and remember what it means to be a man.