Raising sons, even from the cubical

Despite the slough of mixed metaphors to wade through in Robert Bly’s Iron John, he hits the nail on the head I think with some of these observations.

Here, he talks about how the industrial revolution (and even more so the information revolution) functioned to estrange fathers and sons.

A single clear idea, well fed, moves like a contagious disease: “Physical work is wrong.” Many people besides [D.H. Lawrence] took up that idea, and in the next generation that split between fathers and sons deepened. A man takes up desk work in an office, becomes a father himself, but has no work to share with his son and cannot explain to the son what he’s doing. Lawrence’s father was able to take his son down in to the mines, just as my own father, who was a farmer, could take me out on the tractor, and show me around. I knew what he was doing all day and in all seasons of the year.

When the office work and the “information revolution” begin to dominate, the father-son bond disintegrates. If the father inhabits the house only for an hour or two in the evenings, then women’s values, marvelous as they are, will be the only values in the house. One could say that the father now loses is son five minutes after birth.

…the son does not actually see what his father does during the day and through all seasons of the year, a hole will appear in the son’s psyche, and the hole will fill with demons who tell him that his father’s work is evil and that the father is evil.

-Robert Bly, Iron John, p.20

I think I skirted by this trap for the most part. I remember often accompanying my father to the clinic where he was a veterinarian from about the time I was five. After we moved to take over the family farm (when I was 9), I worked beside him nearly every day, especially during the summer and on weekends. The work I do in my office all day could be completely mystifying to MY son though. I spent a lot more time with my children than an odd hour in the evenings, but I still think I should go out of my way to labour side by side with my boy (and hopefully boys at some point).