Sunday, November 9, 2008

book nummmmmer 81 done.

Before Clint left for Peru , he went into his boss's office (Pastor Jeff) and asked him for a book to read on his trip. Jeff handed him this: Seeing Clint had already read Blue Like Jazz and loved it, he looked forward to reading this one. It's called To Own a Dragon. And the subtitle? You probably can't read it, the print is so small... but it's "Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father".

While Clint was gone, he and I communicated via Facebook Chat and most of our conversations were about the books he was reading. And how awesome, how perfect, how so-like-his-life this one was. He blogged about it here, and when he got back he handed it to me and told me to read it.

I started reading it last night. I put it down at 2 am, and tried to fall asleep. I got up at 3, then sat at the top of my stairs in my pajamas and prayed til 4 am.

If you are the mother of sons who have a dad that left, this book will break your heart. It might make you cry. It will stir strong emotions in you, fiercely strong emotions.

When I knew I'd be the main caregiver to my three boys ten years ago, I read every book on the subject of children of divorce. It was not easy reading and none of the books gave me assurance that everything would be fine. I learned the statistics and read the warnings about boys who are raised by single mothers. (85% of the men in prison came from homes without fathers. 70% of the boys who don't graduate from high school are raised by single moms. 75% of the teens who commit suicide come from single parent homes. Drug use, rebellion, teenage pregnancy ... it was all so very depressing.)

I was determined to be super-mom/dad. It was draining. And it really wasn't enough. Boys need their dads to live with them in their homes everyday. Boys need more than moms who try to be both. Because really? A mom is not a dad. A mom isn't strong enough to be the dad. A mom doesn't 'get' the guy stuff. A mom can't validate or affirm a son's manhood. Boys end up resenting their moms when their moms try to act like dads.

Speaking from experience, I can say that not a day has gone by during these past ten years when I haven't wished that these incredible boys of mine didn't have a dad right here cheering them on when they accomplish a goal, or cuffing them upside the head when they're being morons, or demonstrating for them how to cherish a woman, or showing them how to drive in the snow, or how to change a tire, or how to be tender with someone who is hurting, or how to say sorry when it's time to say sorry, or how to pray, or how to lead, or how to use a calendar, or how to compromise when schedules clash, or how to think of someone else's needs first, or how to give a bear hug, or how to clean the gutters, or how to bless someone, or how to barbecue or how to take out the garbage and recycling without arguing, or how to shave, or how to care for guy friends and not worry about looking gay, how to manage money, how to wooo a girl, how to fish, how to change a spark plug, ...

Boys do NOT want to learn these things from their moms.

Clint underlined many sentences in this book. And the ones he didn't underline, I did. I have a lump in my throat and an adrenaline rush surging through to my fingertips ... this book wasn't written by some family therapist, or sociologist, or statistician, or psychologist warning people about the effects of divorce. This was written by a guy who didn't have a dad help him grow up. It's real. And he's speaking to and for all the guys (like my sons) who are just like him.

He validated Clint's feelings.
He affirmed my fears.

At the bottom of page 141, in his elementary school printing, Clint wrote, "this page is great". It's the chapter that deals with keeping sex's value high and not cheapening it. "But what I needed him to do was stay with my mom, love my mother and be my father. I think we can think nobody is affected by our actions, by our habits, but they are. We aren't independent creatures you know, we are all connected. And in a family, in marriage, it's important that sex be something special, and as men, it's important we take the initiative in protecting it."

The saddest thing in the book is this; "Because I didn't have a dad around, I felt there was a club of men I didn't belong to. I would have never admitted it at the time, but I wanted to belong. I desperately wanted to belong. Everytime I met an older man, I assumed he would not like me, and he would not want me around. I felt as though all the men in the world secretly met in some warehouse late at night to talk about man things, to have secret handshakes, to discuss how great it was to have a penis and what an easy thing it was to operate, how to throw a football or a baseball, how to catch a fish and know what kind it was, and be able to grab it and stop it from flapping around, doing this without jolting their heads back or squinting their eyes. They talked about how to look a woman in the eye and tell her she was your woman and that she looks good in that dress and make it so your eyes say you love her, and how to drive a stick shift without grinding the gears. And then I secretly believed at the end of the meeting they gathered around and reminded each other that under no circumstances was anybody to tell me about these things."


This post and this book are not all about bashing fathers who leave. It's simply one man's reflections on growing up without a father. He may not be the voice of all men who were raised by single moms - but my son identified with his perspective. And as the mom of that son? My heart is heavy with sadness.

(By the way, yes I know God IS able to, and does redeem situations like this. He is, afterall, the Father to the fatherless... but for today, I'm still sad.)


Tricia said...


Anonymous said...

This post leaves me wondering what Allison's experience will be and how it will affect her. My heart just hurt as I read this post.
Oh God, please hurry up.