February 25, 2009

Octodads and Dispensable Fathers

A Man-Making blog reader, Charley M., sent along an article link from the Wall Street Journal asking a great question, Where in the World is Octodad?

Octodad is the invisible, anonymous, non-participating, and possibly well-intended but victimized father of Nadya Suleman’s 14 children. Nadya is the Octomother who has recently given birth to more babies at one time than anyone thought possible, and perhaps, more than should ever be allowed.

The WSJ article asks some hard and challenging questions about deadbeat dads, men who sell sperm, and women who decide to have children on their own and don’t want “fathers interfering with their . . . children.”

The article also sites the familiar statistics on absent fathers. “Out-of-wedlock birth rates in the U.S. are now 38%; among African-Americans the figure is 70%. Fathers of children living with single mothers are far less involved with their children than are married fathers; about a third of all children in single-mother families have not seen their father in the previous year.”

A lot of questions come up for me when reading the article:
  • Are fathers becoming “dispensable parents” as the article asks?

  • Can committed man-makers create a difference in these disturbing trends by intentionally stepping forward to build values such as responsibility, paternity, family, and strength of character in young males?

  • Can you make a difference in the lives of the boys around you by your example, conversations, teaching, or by being involved in a (any) boy shaping activity or event?
Wadaya think? What comes up for you?

February 19, 2009

Does Mentoring Work in Indian Country?

Three years ago, the Boys and Girls Clubs in six area Native American Communities joined together to accept a federally funded grant. One of the directors took the money, and built a very successful mentoring program that today is 120 members strong. This initiative offers us a creative model about what can be built by motivated participants with a little money.

Over the last three years, the mentoring program at Boys & Girls Clubs of Three Affiliated Tribes has matched more than sixty kids with mentors. As their experience and mentoring research in general continues to teach us, when kids are connected with mentors who offer a consistent and supportive presence in their lives, mentee’s attitudes, self-esteem, peer relationships, their desire to stay in school, and their grades almost always improve.

In the video clip at this link (http://mefeedia.com/entry/mentoring-class-makes-movie-in-new-town/9166919/), you'll hear from Lynette Dixon, Mentor Coordinator of the New Town Boys and Girls Club, and Dr. Susan Weinberger, president of the Connecticut-based Mentor Consulting Group. Dr. Weinberger traveled to New Town to see first hand what the mentors in that club are doing and to record their experience on film.

What Dr. Weinberger discovered is that in Indian country, like everywhere else on the planet, mentoring really does make a huge difference in a young person’s life . . . and in the lives of the mentors.

To learn more about the mentoring program at Boys & Girls Clubs of Three Affiliated Tribes, check out their website.

February 10, 2009

Calling REAL Men

Boys don’t really want superheroes to look up to. What they want, and really need, are real men who are willing to simply be themselves and be around. They want real men to talk to, learn from, men who will see them and pass along the occasional compliment, regular guys that boys can simply
watch being men.

Sadly, men, in droves are not hearing that call to action, and as a result, boys are experiencing what I call an epidemic of under-male-nourished boys. Most boy-serving organizations I speak to are experiencing a shortage of men. Scouting, mentoring organizations, inner-city after school programs, and many more, are all short on male involvement.

In my research for the Man-Making book, I learned that many men carry a complex load of fears that prevent them from showing up for boys. Their responses to questions about what gets in the way of them supporting young males included very high levels of confusion, fear, uncertainty, and denial about their importance in boy’s lives. It all adds up to a huge inferiority complex. You can read about what men said in this article titled, Why Men Don’t Mentor Boys from the Man-Making.com website.

To combat men’s fears of inadequacy, I can envision a whole marketing campaign built around the idea of calling imperfect men . . . I mean real men, with the junk of their lives hanging all over them. It could go like this:

CALLING REAL MEN: We are looking for REAL men with the following attributes. If this list sounds like you, please call... Boys are waiting.

Have some big problems
Sometimes feel lost and confused
Worry about making commitments
Didn't have great mentors or role models for manhood
Can't fix everything that's broken around them or in their life
Are still trying to figure out "life" and what it means to be a man
Don't know how to fully express themselves
Who are uncomfortable crying
Are really busy
Had a tough childhood
Are nervous about being a good mentor

Those of us working in this field, and the boys we serve, want REAL men to show up for boys. Just the kind of men this list describes.

Would you qualify?