I frequently work with men who aren't sure how to father there transition age sons. Transition age covers the ages of 17-26 and marks the time in life when boys are making the transition to adulthood.
I am acutely aware of this issue as my own son has moved into this phase of his life and my own emotions are strong and extremely confused. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was tearfully expressing my concern to my wife that our three-year old son would grow up too quickly. And now he looks me squarely in the eyes from his 6'-4" frame.
In those eyes I see that little boy who loved to talk about dinosaurs and fire engines as we lay in bed together when I tucked him in. He loved to read books with me and race remote control cars. I see the young boy who went camping with his uncles and me. I see the teenager who loved to surf and play basketball with me. And I see the young man who will soon be going to college.
My emotions are strong in both directions. I am sad that the little boy times are over. I would like to keep him little for ever. On the other hand, I am thrilled and proud of the man he has become, and I look forward to an adult relationship with him.
I think it is difficult for some men to know what our role is in our adult son's lives. Naturally as they get older, they push us back a bit and let us know they want to do more on their own. But I think we may not push back hard enough and embrace them during this journey. I heard one man say, "Oh my son doesn't need me anymore. He stays in his room all the time listening to that music." I recommended that he go into his son's room and listen to music with him. This didn't require much talking but it communicated volumes. In essence, he was saying I want to be with you no matter what the circumstances are. This became somewhat of a habit for them and changed the relationship in a positive direction.
I heard another father say, " I used to hug and kiss my son. Now he doesn't seem to want
me to." This was probably indicative of the father's discomfort with hugging his son more than his son's lack of desire to be hugged. When I have asked sons what they need from their fathers the majority say they need affection. Hugging feels good and it is an excellent way to communicate support and love to your sons.
Instead of trying to figure out what your son needs, trust your intuition. You have it even though it is sometimes thought of as a mother's sense. If you want to hug your son, then do it . He's not to big to ly down with and talk to either, or just sit and watch T.V. together. Spending time together helps you maintain rapport and validates him. It says, I like who you have become. Push back a little bit even if he squirms away. He has to do that to show he is a man, but inside he wants his father to hold him and bounce him on his knee.
I have heard it said that a healthy man will cry over 500 times a year including tears of joy. I don't know anyone who cries that often, and I am sure we can be healthy men even if we don't. It does suggest that we haven't been taught that crying is healthy and normal. Crying tells us when we hurt and allows us to heal the pain. I have been crying lately from sadness and joy. I am looking forward to making many new memories with my son. I am also hurting as I look through the photo album in my mind filled with that little boy who will always live in my heart. I am going to keep hugging him and telling him how much I love him. And I am going to push back a little bit more when the young man says he is too old to be tucked in.