“If it’s a fistfight, you’ll want to defend your face, like this. And make sure to aim for his face. Get your whole body behind the punch. If it’s a wrestling match, get him to the ground and into a headlock. If you have control over his neck and head, there’s not much he’ll be able to do. Don’t be timid.”
This lesson in fighting is one of the most vivid memories I have of my youth. With just a few short sentences, my dad breathed new life into a beaten down, picked on, and hopeless 5th grader.
The school had witnessed the escalating drama between Danny Mervin and myself. As the new kid, I was continuously picked on and made fun of. Recently the verbal abuses had escalated into physical altercations that bumped right up to the point of an all-out brawl.
The principal called our parents, hoping to calm the quickly escalating tension. I have no idea what was said in that meeting. Frankly, I don’t care. What I do know is that after months and months of watching me take the high road and suffer, my dad flipped a switch and decided to teach me one of the most impactful lessons of my life.
A true man controls his aggression but protects his dignity. He stands up for himself and those he loves. But more importantly, in not so many words, my dad told me very clearly: “You are a man. You have what it takes. Do what you need to do. I’ve got your back.”
My dad made it clear that he couldn’t have cared less if I was suspended, expelled, or kicked out of the school. He didn’t care about what the principal said. He cared about my dignity. And that single decision most likely changed the course of my life.
Seven years later, my dad reinforced my manhood for the final time of my youth. “I love you, bud. You can do this.” At a raw 17 years of age, Dad supported my quest for independence, adventure, and manhood, dropping me off at college before I had even earned a high school diploma.
Once again, the message was well-received. “You are a man. You have what it takes. Do what you need to do. I’ve got your back.”
My life was defined, in many ways, by these two experiences. I would not be the man I am today if my dad had not had the courage to go against societal norms. With these two 3-minute conversations my dad made a man out of a young boy. He gave me the confidence to be a man.
What 3-minute conversation should you have with your son today? Have you shown him, in action, faith in him, and courage on his behalf that he has what it takes?