Celebrity breakups like that of Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren should be opening up lines of discussion regarding relationships and gender roles in our society, yet the media coverage only usually focuses on the bad husband’s randiness and the hurt wife’s legal revenge. Anything else is too wonky and literate to sell to a jaded public.
Raising kids in our society is an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, girls are bombarded by their own mothers with lots of informational messages beginning with “When you are a mother…” while on the other hand boys are left to aimlessly wander about in their private fantasy worlds pretending that they will be great warriors or athletes when they grow up. Our “entertainment” options offer little else in the way of incentive, so this is somewhat understandable if unforgivable.
Being a parent is not something most boys ever think about. There is little reason for them to do so. By the time Dear Ol’ Dad returns from a “fun-filled” day of hunting for the daily bread in the jungle we call life, he’s generally only good for playing the disciplinary monster that Mom warned the kids about all day long. Who wants to be that when you grow up? I certainly didn’t, and yet like most I became that when my dream existences evaporated in the harsh light of economic reality. There’s no excitement or glory in what most of us get paid to do, and it takes a great deal of effort to keep the nose to the grindstone when one already looks like that Afghan girl who lost her nose to the Seventh Century. Which returns me to Tiger.
Tiger grew up being the fantasy athlete most of us can only dream about. He made a fortune playing a kid’s game. He married a princess whose babe-rating misses 10 by mere decimal points, yet because he had no clue of how society expects us males to act once the ring goes on, and had a lucrative career which kept him away from home a lot, he had no self-restraint. He was the kid locked in the candy store all night. It only made the familiar distancing between parental partners worse as one focuses on breadwinning while the other is concerned with child development, and yet he couldn’t see it. He didn’t know it would happen, or how to see it coming. Nor did he care. He was having too much fun.
It’s too late for Tiger. He made his 121 beds and is sleeping in them. He’s now paying the extravagant price for the libertine existence his celebrity and opulent prosperity allowed him to pursue, but the rest of us men can learn something from Tiger’s travails. We men need to learn to teach our sons about parenthood, as our wives do our daughters from the moment they are old enough to understand. We have to make it clear that a man is only the center of a woman’s attention until she becomes a mother. Then the couple have to work out how to still have a relationship when dealing with the responsibilities of parenthood. It is far from easy. It means giving up a lot of things, especially the partying that cost Tiger dearly, but no one is truly grown up until the party ends.
Christian men have the New Testament example of Joseph to draw upon. He’s very much in the picture in the early days, but quickly disappears as the narrative progresses. He was so in the background that there is nothing about Joseph dying. He just fades away.
Why is this? Was it a plot to demean him? No. He was a carpenter, not a warrior or an athlete. He toiled away in historical obscurity, or else Jesus would never have grown up. He lived the mundane existence that claims the vast majority of us yet is so vital to the future of our species and, for this unvaunted service, his only legacy was that his son grew up to be a man. That is the only thing that matters.