Kipling tells his son what will make him a man. However, we’re not sure if he mentored him on just how to meet and beat those challenges. Virtually no one goes through life and acquires the talent, knowledge, and confidence necessary to succeed without guidance or help from others.
A few years ago I sent Kipling’s poem to my son with multiple notes in the borders to personalize it with some explanation. He was a young man by then and too late to mold him much further to meet these tests. But what a great reminder of the struggles that face all of us.
No, anything I could do as a father to help mold my son would have had to take place long ago, starting as an infant. A parent’s influence on a child decreases with time. Lessons taught and demonstrated early in their formative years are the lessons that will stick.
‘What to do’ in taking on a challenge is not always enough. Sometimes, children need to know ‘how’. For example, a defensive coach in football, on a fourth and goal on the one yard line, can’t just say, “Don’t let them in the end zone!” He must give them instructions on what to look for and how to stop it. For a father, teaching first requires observation and caring, then being a positive example.
So it is with all fathers - for their daughters, and even more so with sons because of the extra burden of being a male role model. Teach! Demonstrate! Be a model! Just be there, and be involved!
BY RUDYARD KIPLING
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!