Raising a teenage boy is something that defies adequate description for me. I am close with my son, but he can be difficult. He is highly intelligent, but twitchy, angsty, disorganized, defiant, and often a mystery to me (like...where did his brain go?). Sometimes I just shake my head. I took it as a SIGN, then, when several people in my life all independently recommended that I read this book.
It is not my typical type of read. It is non-fiction, written with a Christian self-help angle to it. And while I am a Christian, I find that these types of book can often be preachy. But I was willing to give it a try.
Eldredge's premise is this. The spirit of a boy or a man is a wild one...in need of action, adventure, slaying bad guys, conquering elements, and rescuing damsels in distress. It is born in their blood. Deny a boy guns or a sword to play with? Give it up...they will find sticks, eating utensils, or use their fingers to destroy their enemies. To prevent your son from playing football, learning to rock climb, or just being boys, in order to protect him, is going against everything that he needs in his soul to flourish. When boys grow up into men, often they leave this sense of adventure behind, sit behind a desk and increasingly grow unhappy and angry.
The book also stresses the importance of a male figure in every boy's life. If not a father, then a grandfather, uncle, coach or neighbor. Boys need affirmation that they are becoming a man, and that affirmation cannot come from a mother or girlfriend. So many boys carry a wound in their hearts through adulthood that was inflicted by a male figure...a disconnected father, a careless comment that they were unworthy/weak/not man enough. Often this causes men to wear a mask to hide their true selves, bluffing their way through life, fearing they will be exposed as an imposter.
Eldredge then brings faith into the picture in order to overcome these obstacles. My eyes went slightly unfocused through this section. I agreed with everything he was saying but it started to feel a little like a sermon. One thought did stick with me, however, and that is the danger of allowing negative thoughts to creep in and take over. Eldredge calls it the devil (and so does my priest), but basically it is the human tendency for "stinking thinking" (my term). I'm not thin enough, I'm not smart enough, we don't have enough money, nobody cares about me, my kids aren't perfect enough, my spouse makes me crazy, blah blah blah. You have to recognize these thoughts when they slide in and try to undermine your happiness and your sanity. Denounce the lies.
I think this book is a worthwhile read for both men and women, parents and non parents. It applies to everyone, and provides a great deal of insight into emotions that we or our loved ones may be struggling with and don't even realize it. And with respect to my teenage son, I better understand what he is going through as he becomes a man, and the things that he needs to feel good about himself. I have to resist the urge to protect him and hide him away so nothing bad happens to him, even though that is my instinct as a mom. No hovering and helicopter parenting allowed.
If you are interested in the premise but are concerned about the Christian push, I wouldn't let that stop you from reading it. There are good things here that could make this book one that is passed around in the family.
4 out of 5 stars