The measure of a man
Every father should want his son to grow to be a man. They grow older, but do they grow into men? Some do and some don’t. What is a “man?” I suggest that a “man” is far more than simply a male of our species. Each culture has its own rites of passage for passing a boy into manhood. For those of us in the Anglosphere it may range from learning to turn money into noise by killing animals, to starring in sports, to getting a good job, to marrying and raising a family, or otherwise developing qualities of good character and trustworthiness. I believe there to exist a simpler test of manhood and a singular essential path to developing a boy into a man.
How does the boy treat his mother? Or the grown male for that matter, as his mother makes that inevitable march toward dependency on he who so depended upon her. How does that male person treat all women? Therein lies the test and thus it is clear that the path to manhood must include the inculcation of a respect and reverence first for his mother, and thereafter for all womanhood.
It was so in my home long before I pledged Kappa Alpha Order at the University of Texas. There was little I could do any worse to draw my father’s anger than to disobey or disrespect my mother. And the worst part of drawing his anger was that it was far more a matter of disappointment than anger, which left me spinning into self-reproachment. I would have preferred an old-fashioned whipping.
Thus the motto of my fraternity, Dieu et les Dames, was comfortable to me from the outset: For God and Women.
That lesson — that a real man respects women and especially his mother — has been driven home many times in my life through several career paths. As a young man, a husband, a Naval Officer, later a father, as a lawyer often doing divorce work, and eventually as a trial court judge I have observed many males … and a few men.
I don’t “preach” that point in court, except with juveniles. Almost to a person, the young males in juvenile court range from being simply disrespectful to their mothers (and in many cases those marvelous mother-substitutes: grandmothers with custody) to being outright aggressive and abusive. I believe that to a great extent that defect is the origin of what produced their appearance in “juve.”
The boys and men who respect their mothers and treat them well usually also treat their wives and daughters well. From our collective life experiences I believe we can observe that those men protect, provide for (to the greatest extent their abilities permit), and sustain the women in their lives. Failing to do so often leaves lives in ruin from abuse, divorce and, on the far end of the spectrum, sexual abuse of children.
So, mama don’t let your boys grow up to be cowboys; and dads, be sure your boys grow up respecting and honoring their mother and all womanhood. Then they will be men.