There’s been a lot of talk lately about how boys are in trouble–falling behind in school, terrible discipline problems, etc.–and I take it all quite seriously; I’m concerned that boys receive the guidance and education they need to flourish in a changing world. I have to admit, though, that my concern is not entirely motivated by a purely charitable concern for future generations and the happiness of fellow children of our Heavenly Father. Rather, a major portion of my interest arises from the fact that I am worried about my daughters. I mean, who am I going to line them up to marry if all the boys out there tank?
BWWAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! you all laugh. Russell thinks he’s going to arrange marriages for his daughters?! How deluded can a guy be? Everyone knows that in today’s world, young people must Go Out Into the World to Discover Themselves and Struggle on Their Own to Find the One Who is Right For Them. And you’re all right of course; there’s no way I, a modern father, would dare imagine that I can plan out a social future for my children, much less presume to guide their romantic feelings, much much less attempt arrange a courtship for them! So I won’t.
At least, not in so many words.
But in the more general sense of things….well, yes, I do think I ought to keep my eyes open, perhaps cultivate a few possibilities where I can. Am I serious about this? It’s hard to say. The long-standing pre-occupation of many church leaders with getting the youth of the church to only date other members really has nothing to do, I think, with being insular; rather, it has everything to do with making sure young Mormon men and women fall in love with and marry each other, rather than someone outside the faith. And it’s well known that one of the primary reasons the church pored so many resources into BYU for so many years–and one of the reasons they also emphasize attendance at various university institutes today–is that they want to make sure there are critical masses of young Mormon women and men out there, so as to maximize opportunities for these people to find each other and marry. (It worked for me.) Abraham sending his servant back to his own country to fetch a wife for Isaac; Isaac commanding Jacob to return to his mother’s father’s house to find a bride, rather than wedding a Canaanite woman–relationships between men and women and parents and children have changed radically since the time of the patriarchs (and for the better, I hasten to add)….but basic fatherly hopes and fears have not. You hear anecdotes and read articles and personally observe that, already, good men are somewhat hard to find; what if it becomes even harder? What if, in a world which often seems to coddle and punish boys in equal measure, encouraging both irresponsible braggadocio and self-pitying withdrawal, where the active church population is already heavily skewed along gender lines, the number of faithful, responsible, well-raised, respectful, hard-working, church-attending men of the covenant declines even further? My father, who I have learned to be right more often than wrong, once after returning from some miserable series of interviews with the young adults of his ward back when he was a bishop, looked up at me and joked–but only kind of–that towards the end the faithful members of the church might want to give up on modern dating entirely (the parties, the pairing off, the whole nine yards), and return to arranged marriages. I have no opinion on whether or not we’ve reached that point. But hey, in the meantime it can’t hurt to, well, make sure you know where the (good) boys are. So I keep track of those I know of….just in case:
Let’s see, first of all, there are the sons of old friends–Christian Van Muijen (age 14, a good kid, might be too old for Megan, reportedly already a bit of a Romeo); Ashton Bailey (age 13, wonderful imagination, once locked Megan in a closet but I’m sure he’s outgrown that); Jonathan Bigelow (age 12, I have incriminated photos of him from back when we babysat him, might be able to turn those to our advantage); Andrew Bertelson (age 6, a bit sulky, but Caitlyn’s practically already decided he’s the man for her); Tanner Jones (age 5, perfectly content to let women boss him around, willingly played “Charlie” when all the rest of the girls in preschool were the “Angels”), and so forth. To all my friends that I keep in contact via e-mail (Jonathan Green, Matt Fairholm, etc.)….I admit it, part of this is purely mercenary: I’m keeping tabs on your boys. And, since I’m being honest here, let’s talk about the “local” crowd. Kristine has a couple of fine sons coming along (they’ll no doubt turn out to be feminists with a weakness for poetry; both good things), and Julie has as likely a bunch of lads as I’ve ever heard of (presumably all being raised as proper Southern gentleman…plus, speaking Latin!). And I’m not even reaching very far into my notebook here, folks.
Again….am I actually serious? In the end, isn’t it really just all about raising girls that will respect themselves and thus demand respect from others, that will know how to pray and how to listen carefully, that will have both some smarts and a feeling for the Spirit? Of course it is; and if they’ve got all that, then I’ll know that whomever they choose to marry, or if they choose not to marry, it’ll be a result that I’ll be able to trust as a wise one. Indeed, I’ll have to; after a certain point, the costs of interfering in their lives will probably greatly outweigh the benefits. I know this. But I also read the newspapers; I also know about peer pressure and media expectations; I know the social life which awaits far too many young women who are searching for a companion is far too often a degrading, depressing, even dangerous one. And so, if staying on good terms with fellow concerned parents out there might mean, at some point in the future, maybe being able to drop a few names on occasion, perhaps setting up a few meetings, making a few suggestions….well, I can withstand the mockery. Us dads are supposed to be tough, after all.