Recently my neighbor told me about a widower living in double jeopardy. With no homemaking training in his past and no wife to clean up after him, his house was piled high with junk, dirty dishes, and soiled clothes. In addition, he had to share that house with a virtual stranger: his child.
Countering prevalent views on masculinity requires intentional action. While there are many ways to foster connection and emotional health, there’s one tool that has worked especially for us: storytelling.
My dad showed me that a great father, like a good man, is defined not by strength, but by tenderness. A great father doesn’t run from his feelings, but knows and communicates them. He is fully invested in the nurturing of his children.
Word are my gift to my son, a gift many men do not grow up with. Instead, they are taught that emotions are silly or effeminate and should therefore be ignored (or at least restrained). These men now struggle with anger and health issues that don’t seem to have any clear causes. They struggle to connect with spouses or significant others, not understanding the value of conversation to solve problems. Simply put, they struggle without their words.
It’s not that there is no instinct. There might be. I admit I don’t know a lot about the biology that underlies instinctive behavior. But I do know that instinct is too often assumed to be the reason women “just know” what to do for a crying infant or a fussy preschooler when, more times than not, we women don’t have a clue the first several hundred times we’re faced with either. It would seem that if it is instinct, my first born would have cried less and I would have been less stressed at the prospect of a human life being totally dependent on first-time parents.