I have four boys. Four wonderful, mischievous, wrestling, tumbling, occasionally smelly little boys. Someday they will be young men. Then they will go on to become men. I burst with pride at this thought, hoping with all my heart they become valiant, courageous, faithful, hard-working, responsible men. I think of this when I hear neighborhood reports of vulgar vandalism by boys as young as 12. I think of this when I read studies about boys near that same age who are addicted to hard-core porn. I worry for my boys and I worry for my daughter that these are the men she has to choose from as a potential spouse. I want my boys to be good men that someone else can entrust their daughter to and I want to entrust my daughter to a good man who will love her.
I spoke with my 97 year old grandmother this week. I told her I wanted to give my boys advice about how to treat a lady. I told her I thought a lot of those worthy traditions had been lost and that “old-fashioned” was considered a bad word. I loved hearing her stories when she recounted how respectful my grandfather had always been. He opened doors for her. He helped her with her chair. His language in her presence was above reproach. When they were courting they hardly ever spent time alone. My grandmother’s parents thought my grandfather was of a lower class and wouldn’t allow them to see each other, so instead they met at my great-aunt’s house, always chaperoned and usually helping with household chores. On the few occasions they went out it was generally with another couple.
With a twinkle in her eye my grandmother recounted to me (for the umpteenth time) how she was coming down the stairs at their high school and my grandfather saw her for the first time. He leaned over to his buddy and said, “There’s the girl I’m going to marry.” There was no temptation to engage in sexual activity while they were dating because the goal they had in mind was marriage. They wanted to spend time getting to know each other and focusing on the future.
Encouraging marriage and holding it up as an ideal in our society is a way to decrease the social ills that come from sexual promiscuity. If you want to start a fight online just dare to mention abstinence as a valid form of birth control. It wasn’t an issue for my grandmother because there was no social pressure; there was no public demand for birth control for young girls; there was, instead, a focus of marriage and family.
I know we can’t romanticize earlier ages just because we want to think about the rosy things. My great-grandmother was forced to marry a man in his 30s when she was only 13 years old. Her life was frankly horrifying. But that mostly came from an unloving father who didn’t want to care for her. We have the same problem today in one form or another. Again, things are better when we focus on marriage and family.
Young men today: would you make different choices as a teenager if you were focused on one day becoming a husband & father? Young women: would you make different choices or be more selective of who you date, and HOW you date, if you were using it as a catalyst to someday becoming a wife & mother?
I understand that unwanted pregnancy is an epidemic, particularly among lower socio-economic classes. But rather than focus on picking up the broken pieces, putting band-aids on gushing wounds, our legislation, our public policy, our mission statement as communities and civic leaders should be to focus on marriage and families. Everybody wins when young men grow up to be responsible husbands & fathers. Everyone wins when young women are revered and protected as the next generation of wives & mothers. I’m working for that in my home and my community. Will you join me?