26 Aug Excerpt from the Foreword of The Making of Men
When I was a teenager, I was shy, socially awkward and often lost in the big world I was supposed to be moving into. I was lucky to have support and care, though sometimes it was a near thing. I knew how fraught was the passage from boy to man.
All around me, other boys were having their own struggles. One good friend took his father’s rifle and killed himself on the day he was supposed to start university. The shock of that may have been part of why I took the path I did. As my own career unfolded – first as a teacher, youth worker, then psychologist and eventually worldwide campaigner for parents – it so often came back to the problems of being male. That seemed to be at the heart of much that was going wrong in the world.
I met Arne Rubinstein in the early days of the movement to change things for boys and men. My books Manhood and Raising Boys had struck a chord that resonated all over the world. It meant that I got to meet innovators and leaders and Arne was one of those who seemed to have real answers, along with the energy to put them into action.
In the 1990s, people were waking up to the fact that there was a male disaster happening, that men and boys were often unhappy and lost, and that something needed to be done. I knew there had to be a movement, because the problem was too large. A movement – like the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the trade union movement, the environment movement – happens when millions of people realise it’s time for a change. It’s an outbreak of commonsense. Arne’s work with Rites of Passage for boys (and later girls too) was a pivotal aspect of helping our kids, and I was delighted to see it develop and unfold.
For our entire human history, a concerted effort has been needed to shift boys into good, strong and responsible men. This has been a preoccupation of every culture on earth. More than marriage, or funerals, or any other ritual, training boys to be men has been at the core of the community life of every society since the dawn of time. People’s lives have always depended on men being nurturing and life-protecting. And men themselves only thrive if they have a sense of purpose and an ethos for life.
Becoming a man is both a slow, and a rapid process. There is teaching from the moment a baby is born, in being loving, moderating but still standing with one’s feelings, caring for others but respecting oneself, being alive and joyful, but safe. In adolescence, the teaching becomes more and more specific – handling vehicles, dealing with sexuality, making choices about work and career, responding to the choices offered around alcohol and drugs. Every parent is concerned about getting this right, but the tools have not always been there. Part of the genius of Arne’s approach is to see that this is a community concern, and we have to build community with friends and family to help get each other’s sons across the line. We must do this work together. It happens slowly, but it also comes to a climactic moment when a boy has to snap out of childishness and take hold of his life. Like giving birth, that moment needs lots of help.
No single father knows or has enough to provide his son with all he needs. No mother has enough to provide her daughter with all she needs. Together, as fathers, and as mothers, we have so much more strength and resources. It was the biggest mistake of the 20th century to think we can function alone. And the biggest relief, to start to band together around the goal of caring for our children and teens.
As you will read in this book, Arne’s own story is quite remarkable. He has dedicated a lifetime to finding what will really help. He realised early on in his career as a doctor that it would take more than medication to solve the problems of society. He transformed his own life, and touched the lives of thousands of others in a beneficial way.
The Making of Men is written in the clearest language, full of great stories, and well organised to take you on a journey through the wonderful potential but also terrible hazards of being a boy. Arne has lived and worked up close with mothers and fathers of boys of all ages and stages and he shares what he has learned. So as you read The Making of Men it will be familiar ground, funny, encouraging, gritty and real. It will support you in organising how to help your son cross into manhood, and do so safely and with lifelong and transformative effects.
I really wish you well on this journey, which is an exciting one, and much better for having the clear roadmap that this book provides.
Steve Biddulph, bestselling author of Raising Boys and Raising Girls