~ archived since 2018 ~

Must a father teach his son to fix things?

December 12, 2018

In response to Giving thanks for fathers commenter Oratorian wrote:

Coming to this a little late, but does anyone have any insight about how the father-son passing on of masculine roles works among men who are NOT interested in or capable at things like car maintenance and DIY?

Without wishing to criticise any of Dalrock’s points, it’s a fact that not all fathers are particularly practical (mine wasn’t), and being hugely practical can’t be an essential masculine trait, so whenever the discussions becomes centered around this kind of activity I feel as though part of the conversation’s been missed out.

I wanted to respond to this in a post instead of a comment because it is an excellent question.  On top of that, the rest of his comment is also outstanding.  Not only does he go a long way towards answering the question he poses, but he demonstrates thankfulness for his own father, which was the primary point of the post:

My father was an intellectual type, and I rather take after him. He introduced me to what you might call intellectual masculinity. We debated things in depth and he expected me to read widely and make strong arguments with him, and he would have considered it feeble (not necessarily feminine) if I’d taken easy options and accepted received opinions without examining them.

We chopped logs together and unblocked our drains, and he involved me in odd jobs around the house sometimes, but there wasn’t the level of intense mechanical or otherwise practical work going on as so many commentators here describe.

I’m not hugely practical myself and I’ve got very limited experience of using tools and doing DIY, and now that I’m a father (one son so far) I want to know how I can present a good model of masculinity to my son without excelling at that kind of thing.

The short answer I would offer is to focus first on teaching your son what you know as a man.  Skills are very important, but you are also teaching your son about manhood in general and who you are as a man in the process (even if you aren’t really trying to).  If you can honestly say “This is what my father taught me” this will imbue it with additional meaning, even if it doesn’t register with him immediately.  It will be a connection he has not only with you, but with your father as well.

From there I would think about any other skills you want him to learn even if you haven’t mastered them yourself.  Here in the sphere we could quickly come up with an extensive list of things it is good for a man to know or be able to do.  With the exception of faithfully and seriously worshiping Christ, most if not all of these aren’t essential to be a Christian man, but they are still manly things and good things to have.  It isn’t that a “real man” should be able to do all of them or even any one of them, but it would be good if he can do some of them.  I’m sure others will have much to add in the comments, but off the top of my head:

  • Lifting weights.
  • Sports.
  • Martial arts.
  • DIY/maintenance/repair.
  • Shooting (including gun safety and maintenance/cleaning).
  • Hunting.
  • Fishing
  • Basic outdoor skills like building a fire.
  • Cooking with fire (grilling and smoking).

Part of what I would consider here is that as the distinction between the sexes is continuously blurred, showing mastery of more manly traits (especially hands on manly traits) helps a man stand out as a man.  So just from that frame alone you may want to consider how you can strategically expand your son’s horizons.  There is also the idea of contrast Game that could work in your son’s favor.  If he has mastered the intellectual world and also is the only man in his peer group who can with confidence change a tire, start a fire, shoot and break down an AR 15, and clean a fish he will have a leg up when competing for a wife.  He’ll get bonus points if he can manage to be a bit mysterious about how much he knows and how exactly he came to know how to do all of these things.

As you come to your own conclusion on what additional things you would like him to learn, the question turns to how to make this happen.  My father taught me how to shoot, but has never had any interest or skill in fishing or hunting.  When I was growing up and interested in these things my father made it possible for me to go fishing with men he knew who had an interest in it, and he got me started as best as he could by taking me to a trout farm when I was little.  When I was in high school he also took me and a few of my friends on a deep sea fishing charter trip.  Later friends in college and after that my father in law taught me how to hunt and dress out deer and elk.

Some skills you might want to master yourself first before teaching.  Others you might want to learn together.  And some you might look for others who can teach your son directly.  But while skills are good and important, the most important things you will teach your son is who he is as a man.  This you will end up doing to one degree or another no matter what specific skills you are teaching him.

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Post Information
Title Must a father teach his son to fix things?
Author Dalrock
Date December 12, 2018 4:49 PM UTC (4 years ago)
Blog Dalrock
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