From Father to Son

You might not guess by looking at me, but I’m not someone who relishes physical labour.

So this week when it became unmistakenly clear that I could no longer avoid mowing my lawn, I knew what I had to do. I would have to get rid of several van loads of bagged redeemable bottles and cans that were in my backyard shed. The connection? Well, there were a lot of bags of bottles and cans, and the lawn mower was at the back of the shed.

In other words, mowing the lawn meant having to clean out the shed.

Yay. Like I said, not always a fan of such tasks.

But then something occurred to me, something which should have been obvious to me but at first wasn’t. I would ask one of my twin 12 year old sons to help me. I could have asked both for help, but one was working on school stuff. So I asked my son Eli if he would help me take several van loads of bagged bottles and cans to a local redemption centre and a couple of other donation spots.

And he did. Not only that, but he was enthusiastic about it. It took us nearly two hours but eventually our shed was free of bottles and cans. Then the next day, Eli also helped me to clean the rest of the shed. And today he helped me mow part of the lawn for the first time. I supervised closely.

Having sons is a pretty good deal for a Dad.

With Eli’s help, all of this yardwork not only took considerably less time but was a much more pleasant experience. I got stuff done and spent time with one of my boys.

As I was supervising his lawn mowing, it occurred to me that I had never had a father show me how to do these things. I never had a Dad to teach me how to use a lawn mower. Or to teach me anything and to spend time with me. But now I get to do that with my sons. Tomorrow I’m going to show my other son, Henry, how to use the lawn mower.

Makes me think: what is it like for them to have a father do these sorts of things with them? I mean, Eli actually enjoyed mowing the lawn. He takes pride in a job well done. He likes learning to do new things. What I do as a father is what, in part, shapes him into a young man. And now that he’s 12 years old, it’s clear that he is edging more and more towards young man and away from the little boy of the last, well, several years. It’s actually kind of amazing to see.

And I find myelf asking: what else are my sons learning from me that I’m not even aware of? What signals am I sending them about what it means to be a father and a husband? What am I teaching them about manhood? Truth is, I’m not exactly a typical guy’s guy, the sort that’s good with cars, tools, and repair jobs. If something is wrong with our plumbing, I don’t grab a wrench. I call a plumber. Incidentally, my wife would be more inclined to grab the wrench.

Being a father means passing things on to your children. But it’s more than passing on the skills of manual labour. What kind of men do I want my sons to become? Not only would it great for them to be handy around the house, but it’s more important for them to become honest, hardworking, and compassionate. I’m more interested in teaching them how to have healthy relationships. It’s about passing on character. It’s about spiritual formation. Someday they will be out in the world, working, making their way, interacting with neighbours and friends–and will perhaps start families of their own. I want them to be men worthy of respect, men of integrity who love the Lord and who seek to love those around them.

I hope and pray that somehow I am passing this on already.

In the meantime, I’m glad they can help mow the lawn.

Now, on the lighter side, here’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that loosely relates to this post.

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