A Few Thoughts by Melynda Wagner: Boys to Men - Chivalry must live on...

Melynda Wagner with her sons.

The other day my sons, ages 11 and 13, asked me, “Why do women drive the car nowadays instead of the guy?” And, “Why is the girl paying for dinner?” You see I’m old fashion in many ways. Chivalry cannot be dead. I am raising two boys and I work hard to teach them that they must be respectful, use their manners, be courteous to women and just be nice to people in general. But back to chivalry- I enjoy the courting in a relationship, a man opening my door, him asking me out to dinner - and paying for the check. My sons had good questions, they were inquiring based on what they see and how things are played out in today’s society.

I responded to my boys, by saying “just because a girl CAN do something or pay for something doesn’t always mean that they should.” Boys and men should want to do for others, especially for those they love and care for. My sons are entering the age when they need to hone and strengthen these behaviors so that they know what to do when they are faced with making those decisions for when they enter the, dare I say it, “dating scene.” Let’s face it, nowadays, children are often shaped and molded by the people surrounding them and by watching cues from society, imitating, following them, whether in real life or from what they view on television.

I sometimes think, as a society, we have landed upside down on our heads. The equal rights movement led to women wanting the right to earn a fair income, a paid career, compared to men. While I do support that, I think the lines between gender roles are becoming more blurred, less interdependent, meaning less needy and dependent on one another. When traditional gender roles are more prominent, men and women, husbands and wives, are likely more dependent on one another because they need each other. This then forms a mutual respect not only for them towards one another but for their children to witness and value as well.

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Has the pendulum swung so far over that now boys and men don’t know how to be men anymore? My friend calls it the “Sis-ification of men”. That makes me laugh, but I think there might be some truth to that.

The Questions that Just randomly run through my head sometimes, sound like this...

Are fathers unprepared to teach their boys to be men?

Did they not have a good example themselves in their own lives on how a man or father should act towards others or how to treat their mother?

Did they have a strong minded, career driven and controlling mother?

Did they have a loving, doting mother that sheltered them and did everything for them?

Maybe their mother was a single mom and they learned quickly to help and respect their mother because she needed their help, she was dependent on them, and them on her.

Oh, there are so many scenarios. But it makes you think what is really going on in today’s world. Statistics indicate that 82.2 percent of custodial parents are mothers- so it begs the question- are young men today being raised by single mothers with no male role model in their lives? Pandora’s box of questions has been opened for discussion!

Plus, many women are now doing and having it all. But at what cost? In my opinion, women and men need their role identities for many good reasons. My teaching moment to my sons went back to the hunter vs. gathers scenario. I personally think that in the quest for women’s equality - we as women may have “leaned in” -to use Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg’s term - too far when it comes to personal relational status and many men stepped back too far and let us take over. Now the hot new topic is to “Ban Bossy”.

I also hear many fathers saying that they don’t teach their adolescent sons a lot of things that their dad or grandfather taught them because it’s just easier to do it themselves or that they simply do not have the time or patience. Did any of you see this week’s Modern Family? Jay was determined to teach Luke how to use tools to make a toolbox. If that sounds familiar, slow down and teach your son how to change a tire, how to mow the grass and most importantly how to treat a woman, his mother especially. He will be a better man because of it. I love visiting with my Italian male friends, when their mother walks into the room, they hut too. Gender and role identities exist for a reason. Boys grow up and become men. Men grow up, hopefully, and if they choose to be, become dedicated husbands and committed fathers. But it is no less a choice and a huge commitment and responsibility. One not to be taken lightly.

So how is this affecting our gender roles and culture? Look around, it’s everywhere. Traditional roles are going away. I believe part of the success of Duck Dynasty is due largely because of the traditional roles that are exhibited and that dominate the dynamics throughout the show. Phil and Kay are traditional role models. Many women and men are attracted to this, because it also is showcasing our natural roles - Phil as “The hunter” and the Kay as “the gatherer”. And all of the sons on the show follow in Phil’s footsteps. They know their roles- it appears that they were and are clearly defined by Phil- the husband, father and man of the house. End of story. Quite simple, right?

Melynda Wagner is a proud mom, whose boys are well on their way to becoming fine young gentlemen. She is a local business owner and amateur writer dedicated to building relationships, making connections with others and sharing her stories along the way. She is co-owner of French Creek Boutique located in Elverson on rt.23. Www.frenchcreekboutique.com.