Reflections on Coming of Age and Parenting

Patriarch Run can be seen as a story about fatherhood, about motherhood, about coming of age. In other words, it's about the stuff we deal with as human beings. I get a lot of question about those aspects of the story.

I am a sucker for a father story. I think a lot of us are. Maybe that's because we want to get it right with our own children. Or we want to get it right with our own parents. As a teacher, I am all too aware of how common it is for kids to have to father themselves. One of the most powerful ways in which people do that is through stories.

I set out to write a narrative in which one man sacrifices his family for his mission (Jack) and another man sacrifices himself for his son (Regan) because I think that's the spectrum on which all of us have to decide what type of parent we want to be. I don't think it's easy to find the sweet spot on that spectrum.

I think of Patriarch Run as a coming of age story. Billy is so naive. He never fully grasps the events that are happening around him. The reader knows much more about what is happening than Billy does. You could look at his character as a reflection about how we are affected by trauma. In that light, Billy's fixation, his unrelenting drive to save his mother, could be viewed as a coping mechanism.

Perhaps what it means to come of age is to be irrevocably changed. I'd like to think Billy ends the narrative different than he began. I think of the scene at the end of the story at the flag pole. Or perhaps his view on immigration, after having been so intimate with those immigrants, has evolved. Or perhaps his black-and-white thinking about good and evil, about patriotism, about his dad, is more complicated now.

Rachel has her own journey. She needs to learn to love herself. Regan sees who she is, all of her flaws, everything that's wrong with her...and he sees beauty in that. He sees her as a powerful woman. He can see her love for her son. He admires her, her grit. He is madly in love with the whole package.

But Rachel only sees her flaws. So Regan teaches her to see herself through his eyes. I think that's a beautiful thing.

Maybe that's our journey as people, that we need to appreciate ourselves. Have empathy and compassion, even for ourselves. It might be that we treat the people we care most about in the same way that we treat ourselves, which means that if we could find the capacity to have that type of empathy and compassion for ourselves, maybe we could offer more to the ones we so desperately want to do right by.

Benjamin Dancer

Benjamin is the author of the literary thriller Patriarch Run, the first book in a series that will include Fidelityand The Story of the Boy. He also writes about parenting, education, sustainability and national security.

Benjamin works as an Advisor at a Colorado high school where he has made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. His work with adolescents has informed his stories, which are typically themed around fatherhood and coming-of-age.

You can connect with Benjamin by signing up for his newsletter below and by participating in the conversation at his blog.