Boys, Video Games and Extended Adolescence

The football passed back and forth tossed in high spiraled arcs. I smiled as I watched my son Kyle and our dear friend Michael wile away the last sunshine of a lazy Memorial Day and hang out man to man-or better yet man to almost man.

Kyle, at almost fourteen, is on the cusp of manhood -teetering precariously between maturity and immaturity on any given day. But with every pat on the back and encouragement from the dudes in his life (dads, grandfathers, mentors, coaches and older friends) he continues to inch towards adulthood.

I was struck with emotion when I realized how each one of our male friends went out of their way at some point in the day to connect and encourage my son. I don’t take that blessing lightly because I know how crucial it is for men to intentionally lead, parent and guide our sons if we are to regain and raise another generation of valiant men.

And this rite of passage is something I see sorely lacking in our society.

We used to send our boys off to college and the military, or at the very least an apprenticeship and have them return a little worse for the wear –but independent and savvy enough to survive on their own. Men led each other.

But there is a whole generation of men floundering.

I scratch my head and ponder where have we gone wrong? Could it be rampant divorce, boys abandoned by dads, or a culture targeted by media and bombarded by leisure?

Somehow we have we allowed our boys to stagnate –numbed, dumbed down and distracted by video games, sex and pornography. They are missing the glorious adventure and crucial transition of becoming their own man and surviving.

As the mother of a son, I know the last thing I want is his twenty-nine year old butt parked on my sofa –jobless –and playing Call of Duty shouting for me to make him and his boys a sandwich.

Church planter Darrin Patrick calls this type of male a “Ban,” a hybrid of boy and man.

Ban is a juvenile because there is an entire market niche created for him to live in the lusts of youth. He is the best thing for the porn industry and the video game industry (48% of men between 18-34 play video games for almost 3 hours a day). Ban puts off adulthood, mortgages and marriage. Women give up waiting for Mr. Right and settle for Mr. Ban, an apathetic, sarcastic boy man.”

So why the rise of Ban?

Sometimes I think we have taken away the most necessary elements of story in our son’s lives –conflict. Our boy’s shoot aliens on a screen instead of battling real villains or bullies on the playground. They look at porn instead of fighting for a woman’s heart and they flounder for meaning instead of forging a life of courage wounded and bloody from the trenches.

We protect and screen the hard knocks of adversity unwittingly sacrificing the triumphs of overcoming a great challenge and we give our boys crumbs to feast on instead of a meaty life of adventure and purpose.

It makes me want to send my kid off to wilderness camp or the military…but I think I’ll settle for football and a North Dakota trip this summer at least for now.

What do you think about Ban?

And more importantly…What can you do to invest in a boy or a young man today?

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The “Manceremony”

My son entered the holiday season yet a boy, but will return to school this New Year a man.  And so last night, we celebrated his coming of age with a “Manceremony.”

It was only a few days ago that my twelve-year-old son with the warbled voice, the distinct Jr. High aloofness, and all the awkwardness of a “boy of a certain age,” roamed the halls of our home.  Now, a man with a deep voice, facial hair and a buff physique has stolen my chubby cheeked angel. 

He turned and smiled at me last night, and in the dim light of the fire, I caught the distinct outline of a mustache on my baby, I mean man-child. 

He is almost a teen-ager now, though we have avoided that word in our home.  I have chosen to reject all the rebelliousness and disrespect that comes along with that verbiage.  My husband and I have decided to give the first-born instead, a “man” blessing, and skip the teen stage altogether.  Clearly this is an experiment, one that may or may not work, but we are hopeful, though possibly naïve, for the years to come.

So in honor of his impending need to shave, I pulled out the champagne glasses for the whole family, excluding the baby, filled them with apple juice, and we toasted to the end of one season and the beginning of the next.  With a nervous laugh, my son lifted his glass.  I could see his emotions ranging from uncomfortable to proud, but he was obviously appreciative that we recognized his maturation and took it seriously.

And so, I will store up the memories of his childhood deep within my heart; his incessant curiosity, the cherubic blond curls, and his chubby little arms reaching out for a hug.  It’s hard to let go of my tiny football player and embrace this new creature who wears cologne and attracts stares from women of all ages.

 I feel unprepared and truly inadequate for this next stage of motherhood.  We, both my son and I, stand at the edge of an uncertain future.  Like the cusp of a roller-coaster, just about to crest over the highest peak, either I choose to lift my arms up high and enjoy the ride or close my eyes and scream for dear life.

Today we worked out at the gym, lifting weights side by side.  And though I am teaching him proper form, he is pushing me on to new limits. Our relationship is changing, as I both embrace and simultaneously release my son into this dance of growing up.

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