Sep 29, 2010

It's All Fun

"What are we going to do that's fun today?" asks the eager/bored teenager we're hosting this week. He's here to learn about our lives, to open his eyes, get some positive role modeling on his journey to manhood.

I think hard about what I'm trying to model, what I have to teach him. We could spend a week having adventures, manly adventures. We could drum, hunt, hike, swim in cold water. We could shoot pool, watch Matt Damon movies, eat mountain oysters. Go ice fishing with his first six-pack of Old Milwaukee.

But even if I liked all those things, it wouldn't really be teaching/showing him about how I live my life as a man. So I find myself creating a list of chores to do together. We're cleaning out the chicken sheds, cutting wood, harvesting potatoes, building a subfloor in the basement, fixing bikes, and planting garlic. Washing dishes, hanging laundry, kissing scrapes and packing lunches. Real work that's long been on my list of things I both have to and want to do -- things my family is depending on me to do.

After overcoming his teenage static friction, he got into the groove of chopping wood yesterday. We both worked up a sweat, occasionally took turns at being beaten by a stubborn log, and piled up an impressive amount of wood. Several times he turned to me with a surprised, satisfied grin and said, "This is hard work!" I smiled back and said, "Ya, doesn't it feel good?"

We will also hit the BMX track, let the Texan boy try to swim in the ocean, and go out for fish and chips. But if there's one lesson he can learn this week - and remind me - it's that the work IS the fun. There's real meaning and deep satisfaction in getting a job done and taking care of the family. Somewhere in that growing woodpile and clean laundry is the definition of manhood.


  1. In the medieval world in almost every class boys (and often girls) were sent out to work either as servants, apprentices, or squires. Although this did leave these kids vulnerable to abuses of various kinds, I think there was also some wisdom in it. At times I'd certainly like to dump my 16 yr old on someone else and not because he's rotten (he's not) but because he's quite naturally more likely to resist anything I suggest. He's going to be more open minded to you, Rick, than me.

    I also wonder at what point I discovered that I really liked to do hard physical work. My sons (16 and 12) are useless and I find it hard to understand why they just want to lie about. But really, if memory serves, I suspect I was at least in my late teens if not older before it seemed like fun. Is it biological?