I grew up in a home where I was loved warmly by two parents…I am the fortunate beneficiary of parents who were, and still are, great supporters of my life, even if they don’t always understand my modes, tactics, and philosophies. Thank you both for the opportunity to be raised in your home!
I’d like to speak specifically to the dads out there though – man to man.
We’ve all been raised in different circumstances, we’ve had different experiences which create in our minds a framework of the way things are. We are taught with different methods, we are taught different values, and we also interpret our learnings differently. As no two of us (even brothers) were raised the same as the next, it is really challenging to hold any man to a standard of “manliness”.
Being a man in our modern culture is not as easily definable as it was in generations past as society has evolved considerably over the recent 70 years. I don’t wish to lecture you on history, nor do I wish to get into a political or philosophical debate surrounding these socio-gender shifts, but if you paid attention in school, you are probably aware of at least some of the events which have steered our culture.
While you may either agree or disagree with the above, I challenge you to reflect on your upbringing. What is it you learned about masculinity? Who did you learn it from? What are your values? Do they hold true for you today? Do you need to make a change?
In the same vein, as a father, bring this full circle. What are you teaching your children about men and masculinity? Women and femininity? Are you perpetuating a negative cycle from your parents? Have you weeded out and refined what it is you want to deliver to your kids? What triggers you and how can you address it before it becomes your youngsters trigger?
As I move through my current sessions of The Warrior Man Project, a personal mastery class I guide men through, I have had a new fear pop up (probably just has been laying in wait until the right moment). This new fear is, “Am I making the right decisions for my son? Am I teaching him enough about what I know to be true? How much should I leave up to him? Am I causing him trauma?”. While I am often validated in my parenting techniques by my circle, as we all know, there is no external reinforcement that can convince us, the knowing must come from inside. While I’ve made it my life’s work to understand these things, I am in no ivory tower, I am as human as the next person; for I know that regardless of no ill will or intention, I too received trauma as I grew up as many of us did (probably all of us). Tony Robbins said, “If you blame your parents for all the harm they did to you, you must also blame them for all the good stuff as well!” Think about that!
As I reflect on my upbringing, the following has been my experience (negative and positive); my brother and I would wrestle with dad in the pool (on vacations), he was always a good sport about it; Dad would fix himself a snack and a lowball glass of bourbon and watch TV downstairs after work to unwind; Dad got involved with recreational sports sometimes learning a new one (like tennis), but he would shoot hoops, and throw the ball, as well as an occasional foot race; Dad doesn’t care much for playing games, but he was a boss at Trivial Pursuit and I would always marvel at that! He is the reason I am a flawless Euchre player also! Dad was the strong one, I saw him cry, in the years I lived at home, only once. Dad still had a tender side and would allow it to shine through in key moments. Dad was sometimes commissioned by mom to hand down discipline (like when I took up smoking). Dad being a smoker himself wouldn’t be hypocritical with me, just asked me, “you know it’s a really stupid thing to do, right?”, me being the know all eighteen-year-old replied with, “I know” (which is also my 12-year-olds response to most things); Dad is a lover of animals and nature and we used to refer to him as Dr. Doolittle for his many mallard duck followers. On vacation in the Adirondacks, he once made a trail of peanuts about 10 yards long from the yard, up the cabin steps, up his leg, and stopping at his chest just below his chin as he sat waiting for a chipmunk to follow the trail and eat it’s last tasty treat right in front of Dad’s face (which it did)!
Anyway, I have many more, but my message to you is this; Dad’s do the best they can with the tools they have to work with. Our tools developed as young adults are only as good as the tools our parents could provide. As fathers ourselves, if you are fortunate enough to be parenting these little people, we must strive to heal our wounds, and make right for ourselves our traumas so that we can give of ourselves fully to the development of these youngsters who look up to us without passing down our own traumas.
We are all literally doing the best we can. I applaud your courage for stepping into the scary world of parenting!
Dad, if you end up reading this at some point, I love you. With all of your amazingness and imperfections, you are a man I look up to, a man I am proud to call my father, a man I look forward to learning more about as the years progress, a man with heart and soul that I love dearly. Unconditionally!
To all of our readers, please tell me how I can help you with the scary business of parenting!