From Boys To Men

Every single mother faced with the daunting task of raising a male child should read The Big Payback: A Guide on Raising a Young Man as a Single Mother from the Perspective of a Young Man (Cederick Tardy Enterprises; $15) by Cederick W. Tardy II. That goes double for those who truly want the best for their sons, and triple for those who want the best for themselves.

Tardy, writing from his own personal experiences as a son who brought a world of grief to his overmatched though well-intentioned mother, delivers an intimate yet objective and authoritative book of advice aimed at helping other women and their sons anticipate and avoid negative outcomes in their relationships. Tardy is brutally honest about just how far out of hand he got, including self-destructive forays into substance abuse, drug dealing, and violence (including a suicide attempt), even as his mother took steps after her divorce from Tardy’s father to improve their quality of life. Thankfully, Tardy survived to tell the tale-but too many young men don’t, winding up emotionally, spiritually, and even physically destroyed.

Tardy could easily keep his past missteps a secret, yet he courageously reveals the ugly, potentially embarrassing details of his dangerously wayward youth and provides a testimony of where he-and perhaps more importantly, his mother-went wrong. I would be remiss if I did not note the courage it took for his mother to support him in revealing what must be very painful experiences that most people would prefer not to remember, much less have their child share. However, both mother and son transform tragic experiences into a wonderful blessing for other mothers and sons.

Many of us are painfully aware that young black men are in crisis. Solving that crisis must entail not just ministering to the needs of our young males but also to the needs of the young women who, for better or worse, shoulder the primary burden for raising them. Of course, we need more black men to step up and take up their rightful roles as positive examples, role models, and guides for our boys. But in the meantime, single mothers need every resource they can get.

Today Tardy, who served in the U.S. Navy and recently earned a college degree, seems to be an intelligent young man. And his mother, Margo Williams Handy, is president and CEO of MWH Public Relations, a Houston-based firm.

The Big Payback is an indispensable tool for young women who struggle to guide their sons to healthy, productive manhood. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to better understand and positively influence young men, whether as a father, grandparent, stepparent, mentor, educator, youth leader, older sibling, relative, or whatever.