I have been writing down my thoughts on books I've read but not getting around to putting them on the blog. I'll try to get round to posting about other books later - but here's the first.
I think a more accurate title would be "five conversation topics" - we are not talking about five big talks, but rather five issues that need to be discussed. Talking about these issues takes some deliberate effort, too - sometimes, the conversations begin or turn to these questions naturally, but sometimes you need to be aware enough to seize the moment.
I tend to agree with Vicki Courtney on most of the essentials she talks about in this book. I'm paraphrasing the conversation headers here - and rather than write a book review, I'm writing about what the book made me think.
Conversation one: Don't let popular culture define manhood for you.
Courtney seems worried that current American culture makes men look/feel/act too wimpy (and there's a backlash of machoism coming up). In Finland, too, many comedies get laughs on the stereotype of "stupid men" as if men are only to be expected to act immaturely. Yet, I don't think that is the only image of manhood that the culture is offering - there are a lot of stereotypes around, for both men and women.
So, I agree that we should talk with our boys about the ideas we got from books, films, people's comments and attitudes, etc. Sometimes it even may be a healthy influence, a good role model considering the talents, interests and personalities of our boys - and let's talk about that too.
Conversation two: What you don't learn to master will eventually master you.
Self-control. Oh yes. As Courtney points out, the key to real efficient "self-control" is knowing God and asking for His help in this area. Being able to "stop, think and pray" when faced with a temptation is a good life skill for anyone.
This section also has lots of sobering - well, frankly, frightening - statistics about pornography. Which takes us to the next section...
Conversation three: Get the sex facts straight.
Easier said than done, though. My 11-year-old son is not terribly keen to discuss puberty, let alone sex, with us parents, and I don't want to force him - but I want to keep the conversation line open. I want him to know that it's OK to come to us with any questions - especially if he sees or hears or reads something that confuses him.
Conversation four: Do become an adult.
"Failure to launch" is a real issue in our Western culture today. I think in Finland it's always been an issue for some - and yet, the normal process is for young people to move away from home by the time they're in college/university. A huge drive for independence can be a good thing - or not so good. It's healthy to become a responsible adult, to start making your own decisions, handling your finances, etc. But is the young person actually desiring to be responsible or just craving freedom from the parents' control? We parents, too, need to learn how to let go in a good way.
Conversation five: Dare to be a godly man.
I think at the end of the book Courtney nails it. We are not aiming to make our sons into just nice young men with nice behaviour and nice manners - it's not the outside that counts as much as what is in their hearts. If I see my son, in ten years time, a follower of Jesus, that'll be the result I hoped for. He may make mistakes. Well, let's be realistic, he will make mistakes of some kind. The measure of a man is what he does with his mistakes. Will he repent and deal with the consequences? Will I do that when I make mistakes?
Only by the grace of God.
Whatever I discuss with my son, I can't (and mustn't try to) make his choices for him. He needs to choose Jesus himself.