I’ve known for a while there is a fundamental misunderstanding about the type of man your son is to your family, and most importantly to you, his father.
Let me be clear here; the love your family shares for one another has been one of the most attractive things about your son in our five-year relationship. I have always found great comfort in his love for you, his mom, and his siblings.
I know my partner has a profound love for you. I know you love him deeply and you are proud of the man we all can’t help but see he has become.
But let’s be honest: you are a bit of an old school man. You are a hardworking, blue-collar, “keep your head down and live to provide” type. And the differences between you and your son on the surface could not place you two further apart.
I know you don’t understand him. And try as you might (and I love you for trying) We can see the panic in your eyes as you desperately search for something to relate to your son about.
I know this from the stories you tell of your son.
Almost defiantly to yourself. The look on your face when you tell the same story over and over about how “he could shoot the lights off.” Or that “he was a killer in freshmen football.”
At our gatherings around your kitchen table, I can feel you both tense up as you recite the same two stories of your son in the rigid and sparse language you have to define your ideals of masculinity.
Almost to say “sure, he isn’t like me, but he could be if he tried, and that’s all that matters.” Ironically, I know you orate these stories in front of us as a declaration of pride and admiration for your son.
Sadly, that’s not the effect. These little stories cut him at the kitchen table. He would never say that, but I watch his spirit deflate.
I can’t help but feel like you have a fixation on these stories as a way of reconciling who you wish your son was, and who he is actually is. It becomes glaringly obvious in the stories you choose to repeat that the man he is confuses you.
So there we all sit, uncomfortably shifting in our seats as you reminisce over my partner’s missed opportunity to use his aim to fight for our country. We leave our bodies to hear, yet again, your recount of the one time as a high school freshman in football practice he completed a play that knocked a senior teammate on his back.
The same two stories; gathering after gathering. Both laced with this idea of masculinity that your son sits outside of. Maybe as a way to say, “See? My son is a man’s man.”
What I wish I could tell you, is those stories pale in comparison to the man your son really is.
Your son is openminded. He is compassionate. He is sensitive to the needs of others. His goal is not the glory of being the smartest one in the room, instead it’s the hard-earned dignity to be the fastest learner by far.
I wish I could tell you: your son is not the greatest man I know in spite of all of these things. He is the greatest man I know because of all of these things.
He is kind. He is patient beyond belief. He is ever vigilant of what the “right” thing to do is, and does not deviate, no matter how hard that may be.
He is honest. He does not leave until a job is done, no matter how depleted his energy.
So many people choose his leadership because not only is he talented, but he is the steady dependable pulse in any community he contributes to.
There are SO many stories I could tell you that would fill you with pride, not one of them involving a gun or football, and yet, I can’t help but feel like the stories that would matter most to you are the stories of athletic prowess, excellent marksmanship, and traditional masculine values.
If I may: I think it’s because you’re scared.
I know this fear comes from a deeply profound love and protective nature that I can’t even begin to comprehend. I know Fatherly love is one that dictates you keep him safe. You keep us all safe. And I know in the realm of safety, “normal” is a top priority.
So the pressure remains your duty; he needs to do “normal” male things. By your definition, this means he needs to shoot, he needs to fight, he needs to juke and throw, and catch and run. He needs a woman on his arm.
And let’s get it all out there:
You think he needs a submissive woman.
He has never and will never speak on this with me, but I feel as if I am a point of contention for you both. After all; he picked a strong woman, not a submissive one. He picked a woman who challenges, a woman who strengthens upon adversity. I do not stand behind your son, I stand beside him.
I know it is because you love us both dearly that you wish it was different. You wish we chose safer roles for one another. To your concerns, all I can say is how I feel and hope it brings you comfort:
With your son, there is no doubt I am cherished, protected, and uplifted by him as his equal. He is protective of my spirit. He eases my weary doubts of man. He is loyal. He does not hope to possess me, but instead, his hope is to be present for me in all my many forms.
And I have you to thank for that. Together with his mother, you made a strong, decent, big-hearted man who I will love with my entire being for as long as I live. I can never thank you enough.
I know, by the measuring stick you use for your own manhood, you feel perplexed and worried for our guy. And what I wish I could tell you: is his manhood is so much more than that measuring stick suggests. Something I think you know, and I want you to let yourself off the hook for.
If you met your son where he is as a person and not where you want him to be, you might be surprised at all of the beautiful things your parenting has helped to cultivate in the man he is.
But of course, this isn’t just you: I think about my father’s relationship with my brother. My grandfather’s relationship with my Uncles. My Father’s relationship with his Father. I can’t help but see a similar pattern present in these connections and bonds.
With so much that goes unspoken in the relationships of men, what you do say to one another can have a lasting impact.
I wonder what these relationships would start to yield if we sat at our tables to tell stories to exemplify who the men in our lives are in all their unique glory and not of who we wished they were.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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