She bounded out of the truck, covered in dirt and bursting at the seams. Arriving home from a camping trip with the Meehl men – her daddy, uncle, brother and cousins – my 8-year-old daughter couldn’t wait one more minute to tell me about their escapades.
“Daddy let us drink Rock - Star energy drinks! And we shot off bottle rockets! And they taught me how to play poker!” My husband grinned. Apparently, having moms around can really ruin a good camping trip. My son glowered. Disgusted, he looked at his little sister and spat, “I can’t believe you did that…you just broke man-law.” Laughing at their antics and wincing at their grimy clothes, I couldn’t resist asking.
“Man-law,” said my son impatiently, means that what happens at camp stays at camp.” It didn’t seem to bother our daughter that she had broken their unspoken rules. How could she possibly be expected to absorb the nuances of a code women have been trying to crack over the millennia?
Far be it from me to explain the long-tenured traditions of men. But after 15 years of marriage, and nearly 12 years shepherding a son, I’ve made a few observations. Let me take a very quick stab at deciphering “man-law” from where I stand, bearing in mind this is just one woman’s opinion.
For most guys, actions speak louder than words. Respect from friends, colleagues and family is critical. Many men insist their children struggle a bit and learn to be independent. They “cowboy up” around other men, and typically reserve their more vulnerable side for a trusted significant other. They live in the present. Playtime is a must; and their solidarity with, and loyalty to each other is palpable. Did I get it right guys?
Most guys know the unspoken rules, but it’s a father’s job to hand them down to his son, showing him what it means to be a man in the world. It is a high calling to tame a young man without breaking his spirit. And a wise father will model for his daughter what characteristics to look for in a loving, respectful man while teaching her to be courageous. It’s a tall order.
The original programmer of “man-code” offers just a few, but very specific instructions for fathers. The scripture in Proverbs 6:4 advises, “fathers, do not exasperate your children.” The most effective dads seem adept at harnessing their power, authority and strength, modeling an empowered self-control. Their children want to follow. Good fathers aren’t perfect; but God works through imperfect people to carry out His will in a broken world.
My own husband executes discipline very differently than I do, and it is a topic of much frustration in our home. But the proof’s in the pudding. My children adore him and love to be in his protective, playful presence. He’s a leader of our pack, a role that God has given for judicious exercise. I think one of the best gifts a father can give his children is to “love his wife as Christ loved the church…” (Ephesians 5:25) With that in mind, I’m confident he’ll forgive me for breaking yet another tenet of “man-law” by sharing our family secrets.
Diane Meehl is a freelance writer, mother of three and volunteer. She is often guilty of breaking “man-law” in Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.