Severing The Extended Family

Stephen Arterburn

Our nation’s sons lost more than their fathers during the industrialization of the twentieth century. They also lost the most viable alternative for masculine input provided by extended family. When a man uprooted his family to take a job in a distant city or state, he detached his children from their extended family. In earlier days of farming communities a boy commonly enjoyed daily interactions with not only his father but also his grandfather, uncles, brothers, and cousins. They worked, ate, and played together. Moving away from this network seriously reduced the flow of necessary masculine nurture and influence in a boy’s life.

A father’s work is now outside the home, consuming his private interests and energies. His physical, educational, emotional, and spiritual input to his son is now largely limited to his so-called ‘free time.’ That is, those few hours or minutes per week when he’s not working, traveling to or from work, or recuperating from work.

The result is today’s young men are often restless and off-center for lack of mentors. They’re not just looking for someone to teach them a trade; they’re starving for masculine emotional input. Boys become men in the presence of men. They sense a deep need for affirmation and validation from men who love them and are committed to them.

If you’re a dad, I encourage you to fight for every minute you can get with your sons. If you’re an older man I encourage you to consider mentoring a younger man.