ERIC LUDY: How do you determine readiness specifically for a son’s impartation of the talk? When do you communicate with him and give him “the talk” – the man talk? This terror, this fatherly fright occurred to me the very first moment I found out that I was having a boy. And I still remember the moment. We went in for an ultrasound. We were cheating and wanted to find out what the gender of the baby was. And I was convinced it was a girl, and I was very excited to have that girl because for me the pressure was sort of on Leslie for the girl, where the pressure was on me for the boy. So I was prophesying this was going to be a girl. And I find out that it’s a boy.
And I tell you what, there was a very real terror. That’s probably not the best word for it, but I have such a high vision of what a man can and should be. And so, for me, this began the question of, “Okay, now how do I train my son?” This dimension of the talk is one key dimension that every one of us as men knows about but rarely talks about. We all just instinctively understand that there’s a baton and very few of us are receiving it. Most fathers don’t know to hand off this understanding of manhood because they weren’t handed anything. So there’s no modeling taking place. And some of us received something, but it was a very funny version of a transfer. And so as a result we’re like, I don’t want to do that to my son!
So I’d say what lies at the most basic level of “How do you know?” is, first of all, you have to be looking for it. You have to be ready for it. And that’s something that most of us as fathers are not exactly sure if we want to even have our eyes wide open to seeing the development of our boys and to being ready to impart something because it means we have to do something.
Moms seem very ready to tell the dads that they need to do something. However for us as fathers, it’s a very real challenge. We can be very sharp and intelligent beings, but then you get on this topic of speaking to our own boys about their sexuality – I tell you what, our tongue gets like a felt eraser in our mouth. Even when I sat down with Hudson quite a few years ago for the very first time it was hard. And I’ve talked on sexuality all over the world for decades. I’ve written over 12 books just on that topic … and it was still hard.
How much more so for the father who has never spoken on these topics? At the same time, there is a transition in a child’s life – I usually call it “the cocoon of innocence” – that a parent needs to protect. It’s when a child actually has to be preserved from certain knowledge because it’s like handing the keys to my riding lawn mower to my five-year-old and hoping for the best. It’s not that a riding lawn mower is evil. It’s just that it’s inappropriate and unhealthy for a five-year-old because it’s a power tool that can chop limbs off. And so, as a result, it’s important that I do not hand this knowledge or this power off too quickly.
This cocoon of innocence serves as a protection of innocence, but innocence isn’t purity. At a certain age, a child is ready to transition from innocence to purity. Purity is an action of the will, whereas innocence is a lack of understanding of something. They were never exposed to something. Purity is the readiness to be exposed, but to stand apart from it. That’s why I use the term “cocoon.” When a caterpillar is in the dirt he goes into the chrysalis, and in that chrysalis — this cocoon — he is forming wings so that he can exit that chrysalis and actually be able to enter the world which he was previously in … but no longer in the dirt. Instead he has the ability to fly while still remaining in the world. Being in the world, but not of it — that’s purity.
Purity is a moral decision of the will to know about evil, but to not participate in it. And a child at a certain point in time is ready for this handoff. It’s like saying they’re ready to handle the riding lawnmower in a way that actually beautifies the estate as opposed to destroying it, to go over the bushes and hack them up. And so, as a result, there’s a watchfulness in a parent to say, “It’s time.”
And, of course, the next question would be, “So what do you say? What does the man talk contain?” But that’s for a different time. I have that whole honorable manhood training that dives deep into that. But to know when … that’s a critical first step.
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