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Launching Sons into Adulthood & Manhood

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“Boys and men are struggling.” As a woman, that is difficult to write that (as well as this entire article). Yet, as a mother, it’s one of the easiest confessions to make. Try settling that score.

 

 

 

 

Boys (and men) are in crisis in this country, meaning Black boys may be in critical condition. Consumed by the idea of “failure to launch” since my classroom teaching days, I have made it my business to read and study through content that centered on boys and explains how to help.

 

 

I’ve inundated myself, particularly, with research, evidence-based practices, and real-life stories like Of Boys & Men, The Minds of Boys, T: The Story of Testosterone, and The Man-Not, to name a few—and all of which I recommend if you are raising sons or needing to launch them. {I’d even stretch to say that if you are a single woman in the dating market, Of Boys & Men, is an excellent read for insight into understanding men.}

 

 

Since the day I learned “it’s a boy”, and then another one, I’ve spent my share of late nights drafting plans, contemplating (and then implementing homeschool), locating programs, and listing a variety of special or alternative schools to have handy should the need arrive. I have needed them all in some way, and my sons are only approaching seventeen and fourteen years old. 

 

 

 

 

 

As I type, it is painfully and obviously clear to me that school is failing at least one of my sons. So, I’ve recently made another school adjustment back to homeschooling to protect him from failing to launch. Simply put (and as the research shows), most public schools are not designed with boys in mind, and many either do not fare well or consider it a complete waste of time. I certainly have the latter on my hands. He wants to learn, just not the way the schools deliver instruction. I know the danger of harming him in his boyhood by way of school with future expectations of him to perform and produce as a man (like a man) and in his career. So, I spare him.

 

 

Documentary filmmaker, Cassie Jay, delivered an excellent TedTalk explaining her new position on men’s rights and exposing her error. I finished the documentary thinking, any mother of any number of sons already understands (some of) these issues—I know I have. That’s not her point, though, nor is the main idea of the talk. The message is that too often, men are unfairly treated, struggling, and even failing in ways where recovery and restitution are unavailable or non-redemptive.

 

 

Launching boys into adulthood and manhood seems to be a Herculean task, especially as a mother.

 

 

First, there is little social assistance and authentic programming, not like it is for girls and women. I don’t know how many times I’ve said (sometimes tearfully) to my sons, “It’s important that you get this right.” When asked why, my response was (and is), “…because this country [the world, even] doesn’t really believe in helping grown men. If something goes wrong, should you suffer misfortune, find yourself in trouble, or unfairly on the other side of a woman, I’m not sure I’ll be able to deliver you. Worst—I’m not certain you’d be able to help yourself.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the name of all that is maternal, I study men’s issues to prepare my sons for the challenges they may (and will) face AS MEN.  The processing I have had to undergo to make sure I can transition with them (as in my ability to view them as men when they arrive) has been rough. Yes, they will always be my babies, but that sentimental fact shouldn’t cloud the blunt reality. I need to be able to consider them as men and help to guide them with the ugly truths that could be in their stead.

 

 

As I sit in the dawn of Twitch’s death, my heart is heavy, with the high percentage (78% to be exact) of suicides being from men. I knew it was high, but as I prepare my oldest to leave home, I am revisiting real numbers and data as a part of his Launch Plan. And this number is uncomfortably high.

 

 

 

 

 

Cassie Jaye continues to list issues that uniquely and disproportionately affect men: paternity fraud, the Selective Service, workplace and war deaths, sentencing disparity, life expectancy, failure to launch, and the decline in education to start. (Watch the TedTalk for the full list). Needless to say, these issues give me something to chew on as I ponder the best ways to launch my sons. 

 

 

Second, a lot of successful launching is in boys’ access to and relationships with admirable men, and Black men for us. Not just Black men, but Black paternal figures, starting with a father but not limited to him. I find some comfort in the fact that humans are nature and nurture, meaning we are not just our genetics. It brings me peace that other men can play a heavy hand in molding maleness and building masculine identity absent a biological father. The fact is, I am not a man, so I am unavailable for this type of shaping, so it blesses me to have others available and ready to support my sons. {Special shoutout to my husband … he’s the realest!}

 

 

More than unavailable, I am unqualified (if the qualification is “male” or “father.”) This is why two parents ready to answer the call to parenting are better than one. A mother cannot father and a father cannot mother, and a child needs both. In transparency, I do not like that I am unequipped to shape my sons in their full identity. I realize that I cannot and because I understand that mothers are not fathers (and shouldn’t try to be), I humbly move to the side. There are just certain parts of their male identity I’ll never be able to access, and no present mother likes feeling distant and helpless from her own children, no matter the reason.

 

 

 

 

As such, I’ve outsourced much help from the available Black men in my life. I cannot stress enough how much access Black boys need to available Black men who can serve as godfathers, uncles, cousins, neighbors, elders, teachers, coaches, and more in addition to the man who serves as their paternal figure (usually biological fathers, bonus or stepfathers, and/or grandfathers).

 

 

Nonetheless, I am not a mama without a plan.

 

 

 

I’ve been influenced by several men who dare to care about and explore men’s issues. From such inspiration, I’ve drafted a simple list of the practical things I’ve identified to offer them as they make the final transition from boy to man and launch into adulthood. This running list serves as my blueprint to guide me in increasing their likelihood to launch, where they can continue their race sustainably when the baton is passed to them.

 

 

From my list, I teach why those things are important and valuable as well as the benefits and responsibilities that come with them. For me, most of these items are given by the time they reach their 14th, 16th, 18th, and 21st birthdays (depending on the item.) My list remains “in progress” as my sons are still teens, and I still have to learn many things. But from what  I can gather, these are some tools that equip them to better “adult” (and can extend into manhood). Without further ado, here’s what I am making sure my sons “leave home” with an inheritance my husband and I invest into their adult selves:

 

 

  • Character Traits (that I value) – A list of character traits I created and ordered by development and progression and through intentional teaching.
  • Basic Relationship Skills – Another list that I am intentionally teaching them (because too many adults lack these skills in a practical way).
  • Checking/Savings Account (with cash flow and budgeting experience) – Too many teens enter adulthood with no clue about how money and budgeting work.
  • Part-Time Job – Gaining marketable skills that have earning power is an asset for all, but especially for men, and learning how to have and make your own money is best learned under the guidance of your parents or trusted adults.
  • Cooking Skills (at least basic meals for self) – Preparing (mostly) nutritious meals is a life skill that shouldn’t only be made manifest in a man’s life by way of a woman/wife.
  • Voter’s Registration Card – Too many young adults do not understand how to vote or perform their civic duties.
  • Driver’s License – Being able to legally and safely commute and transport oneself is necessary in the States (minus a few cities that can rely on public transportation).
  • Passport – The number of adults who do not own a passport and have never left the U.S. is appalling, plus I have taught my sons to be globally-minded, and a state identification card will not get you far.
  • High School Diploma/GED – I consider it my “job” to at least ensure they are at least high school educated.
  • Vocational Training/Certification – I require that they choose one skill, a marketable skill, (that I will pay for) to be trained in at the local community college as it helps with employment, earnings, and career advancement.
  • College/Training Tours & Apps – Exposing them to opportunities and paying for them as they decide who they want to be and what they want to do help to build identity, esteem, and focus (all of which are beneficial).
  • Career Assessments – To help them spark ideas or make decisions about what they are good at first, value who they are as people simply, and then understand better how they want to use their natural talent and abilities to earn a living helping others.
  • Personality Assessments – To raise self-awareness, boost confidence, and gain a firm sense of self (and some of the reasons under “career assessments” too.)
  • Access to Individual Therapy – To have a safe space and outlet, explore mental health, and detach stigma.
  • Manhood Initiation Ceremony – To mark a time in their lives and in their spirits where they are honored just for being male and are remembered for a pivotal, singular transition.  

 

If you’re parenting a manchild or you’re a man, I’d love to hear anything on your list or what you’d suggest I add to mine.

 

 

  We grow as we go®️,

2 thoughts on “Launching Sons into Adulthood & Manhood”

  1. Thank you for this!!
    What a gem!

    Question: my son has declined therapy since he was around 10 years old. I have never forced it but I do think it would be very beneficial to him. Is this something I should require or just leave available to him?

    Also, what age does the Manhood Initiation Ceremony happen or does it vary by child?

    1. Vanessa,

      You’re most welcome!

      I would ask him to try it. Therapy isn’t something that you cannot force, but you can encourage it (even if he never decides to go as a child). The point here is to teach him that therapy is available and accessible. You’re de-stigmatizing it, so should he need it or bring himself to it in his adulthood, he will not have to war with himself of how unfamiliar it is or buck it because he was never exposed to it.

      Initiations vary, usually by culture and not necessarily by age alone. Many cultures have them arranged as early as 12 and up to 18. Just depends. I think the important part is that a boy/teen has a space to point to in his life that signifies and symbolizes his crossing over. Girls naturally have this with their menstrual cycles, but more intention has to be given to male children. I’ve attended bar/baht mitzvahs, quinces, coming-of-ages, and more. Again, it depends on the culture of the family.

      Hope this helps!

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