My husband goes to a pastor's conference once a year and my eldest son reminded me today that, "while Daddy is gone, I will be the man of the house." To him, that means saying the prayer at the dinner table and "protecting" mommy and his younger brother. Of course, he doesn't understand that he receives no authority, since he is our child. However, we want him to develop a mind that "takes care of and protects" a family some day (should God bless him this way.)
Another aspect to preparing him for his role as eldest son, is to ready him for those moments we never anticipate because they are too horrible or unimaginable to contemplate. A simple example of this happened almost 4 years ago when my dad passed away.
Throughout my life, Sunday lunch was a big deal. We would come home from church and have a beautiful feast, complete with fine china, crystal glasses and almost every week, guests. My dad loved company and enjoyed hosting friends, though he generally did his part by sitting at the end of the table. His charismatic and winning personality seemed to bring interest to every meal. Conversations were often lively, challenging, informative, and more often than not, full of laughter. Of course, when he passed away, a big whole was empty at the end of our table.
I'll never forget the first sunday after he died. It was Father's Day. My mom, out of habit, was fixing the dinner- we were a big group with our spouses and children. I set the table, out of habit, not really thinking. When it was time to sit down, we all kind of looked at each other, wondering where we should sit. It seemed without my dad, we all felt kind of lost. My husband, the oldest male in the building, didn't move to sit in dad's seat, nor did my brother-in-law. My mother broke the ice and said, "well Eric, you are now the man of the family. Why don't you pray?" So my brother sat down, and began to thank God for lunch. It was comfortable and comforting.
My dad didn't travel very often in all the years, that I can remember. But my mom has told me since, that whenever he wasn't in town, she would have Eric pray, "as the man of the house." It was interesting to see that this small act was preparation for the time when he would step into the role of being the oldest son.
Of course, any of us (my mom, my sister, myelf, our husbands, our children) could have prayed for that Father's Day meal. But the transition of missing dad could not have been filled as "easily" with any of us sitting in his chair.
For this reason, I am also trying to prepare my son. Not just for the role he will have in his own home, but for the role he may one day have in our home.