About the same time I started taking notes to write my book on Dadhood, I found a poem by Rudyard Kipling which I believed to be a brilliant summary of what characteristics it takes to be a man. It was also the time when my son was graduating from college and about to join the Army.
I thought this was the perfect message to give to my son as he was about to embark on what turned out to be a most serious, life-altering, and sobering stage of his life. I didn’t know what he was really getting in to, nor did I know what he wanted in life. Neither did my son.
In those moments of fear, doubt, dreams and dread, I thought the words of Rudyard Kipling would give him the wisdom and strength to help carry him forward. But to be sure he would understand the poetic wisdom Kipling said so well, I explained each idea in the simple terms and examples of our time and smaller world. Somewhere, I saved a copy of that letter to my son…IF only I could find it!
For you dads out there with sons. IF you don’t how to explain to your son what it takes to be a man, use the thoughts of Rudyard Kipling and put them in your own words. Words both you and your son can relate to. Or just use Kipling’s own version. He says it so beautifully!
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!