Becoming a parent can be anybody’s most important life-changing event, and that change brings pressure (both external and self-imposed) to get it right — worse, to get it perfect — on the first try. The very first words of Dear Son: Raising Faithful, Just, and Compassionate Men confess this:
We are not perfect dads. We do not claim to be. Nor is this book intended as a guide to being a dad. While we hope to raise our sons well, we are not putting ourselves forward as exemplars. We know there’s more than one way to be a father and to raise a son. We know that family circumstances are unique, and that life unfolds differently for every parent and child.
That trio of boys are the eventual readers of the letters that compose Dear Son, written by their dads as paternal encouragement to open their sons’ eyes to the dangers of toxic masculinity, faith-inspired misogyny, and just plain bad approaches to being a good parent or husband. But the book is meant for fathers, especially new fathers who are discovering faith for the first time or reexamining their faith at the advent of a new phase of life.
Those of you who are parents or step-parents or foster parents or doting aunts and uncles know each child brings a fascinatingly unique set of blessings and challenges. No child is the same as their sibling or classmate, and no parenting arrangement is identical . Sharing a cup of coffee with other parents or having an honest conversation with a Parents as Teachers counselor provides a friendly reminder that perfection is impossible. It’s impossible to recommend a so-called perfect method to raise children, and you’re wise to ignore anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Still, it’s easy to worry you somehow missed the parenting class that should have followed the birthing class at your hospital.
Dispelling that fear is the primary goal of Dear Son, but when you look at our culture there is more at stake. Far too many times I’ve cringed at Homer Simpson’s borderline negligence or the paternal buffoon portrayed on formulaic Disney shows. At least those are played for laughs. Far more damaging are the misogynistic portrayals of toxic masculinity that show up in so-called entertainment or marketing or even labeled as a parenting resource. When misbehavior is tacitly approved by the media we assume thinks like we do, we have a problem. Just click on your news website to see how toxic masculinity manifests itself in violence, crime, prejudice, and systemic injustice.
Beau and Jon reject toxic masculinity and all its poisons. They honor their spouses as gifted, brilliant mothers (as they should!), as example of how they hope their sons will treat women. That respect and appreciation for the gifts God gives us expands beyond people to other aspects of faith life, including everything from personal finances to relating with people of other races .
How do we undo the damage done by this toxic masculinity? By doing our best to help our children recognize the dangers posed — and by weeding it out of our own behaviors. Dear Son is a first step in helping course-correct our culture. Let’s hope it’s not too late.
President and Publisher