“How long do you usually get to teach a boy to be a man?”
“Wrong question. You can never teach that. You can only teach the things you think a man ought to know, mayhap have some say in the kind of man he becomes on his own.”
-Idgen Marte & Allystaire, Stillbright
By Daniel Ford
Advice for a parent to live by, I think.
And have I mentioned how much I love this trilogy? 😉
These two grown-up heroes are, at the moment, talking about Gideon, a young man they have been made responsible for. Allystaire is a knight, he understands the value of physical fitness, so his daily routine includes training Gideon, to help him get stronger. This, however, is only a part of what he does, and only a part of the task ahead of him. He intends to teach Gideon everything he can, everything of value. So, when Idgen Marte asks about teaching boys to be men, he begins by correcting her with the above quote.
He definitely understands the enormity of the task before him, and futility of trying to make a boy, any boy, into a man. He can’t make a boy into a man, the boy becomes a man on his own. He might be able to influence what kind of man he becomes, but maybe not. All he can really do, then, is try to teach the boy the things he will need to know when he’s become a man, things like honesty, cleverness, humility, compassion, and the ability to work hard.
That comes home particularly in the face of some responsibilities which I am currently facing, but I think it applies very much in a more general sense. There’s this idea, and I think it’s a harmful one, that parents, teachers, and other mentoring figures either can or should somehow just take this child standing before them and magically make them into a fully-functioning adult. “I’ll do the easy part and provide such-and-such, you do the hard part and make them mature and capable.” It just doesn’t work that way, ya know?
Raising a boy into a man (or a girl into a woman) isn’t about turning them into one. It’s about loving them enough to take the time, every day, to show them what a man is. Do what you can, teach them what you can, and let them become who they will.
Or, at least, that’s part of it, anyway. 😉