Calm, Cool and Committed

Three Moms and a Dude

Simple Man

on September 27, 2012

According to family therapist and parenting guru, John Gottman, a child’s emotional IQs more of a foreshadowing of his future success than his intelligence.  Shocking? How about this: the father plays a greater role in a child’s emotional development than a mother.  

Mama told me when I was young, “Come sit beside me, my only son.  Listen closely to what I say. If you do this, it’ll help you some sunny day. Oh, take your time. Don’t live too fast. Troubles will come and they will pass.  You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love. And, don’t forget, son, there is someone up above. And be a simple kind of man. Oh be something you love and understand. Baby, be a simple kind of man. Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can?”

If you’re a mother of a boy, you can hear the guitar chords in your head and feel the lump in your throat.  When men hear that they are going to be daddies to a little girl, they panic a little bit and buy bumper stickers about killing boyfriends…and they’re only half kidding.  When the ultrasound tech told Bug and me that we were having a boy, he was relieved.  He said that with a son you only have to worry about one boy; with a daughter, you have to worry about all the boys. He’s right. Girls get their hearts broken easily and often find themselves in situations that are tricky at best – sometimes even dangerous.  Fathers are right to worry when they have girls because, as my own father once said, “I was a teenage boy once, too.” They are The Shadow: they know what “evil” lurks in the hearts of men.  So, when we found out that Doodle Bug was going to be a boy – Bug was relieved. I was not.

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I know that girls can get hurt because they often put themselves in situations where their heart could be broken.However,  I panicked because I know that boys can get hurt because they put themselves in situations where their necks can be broken – speeding, bungee jumping, rugby.  It’s like they’re not happy unless their mother is so worried about them that she chews her fingernails right off waiting for them to come home. I told Bug that I want Doodle Bug to have the slowest, heaviest car. Preferably, a tank.  He would be in the band and wear football padding if he chose to play table tennis.  Now that Doodle Bug is a toddler and I’m getting to know him, I see that those are ridiculous requests.  I am not worried about my baby’s physical safety any more than I am about his emotional security. I’m not only worried about him driving into a wall; I’m worried about him hitting a glass ceiling.

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Wait.  Aren’t glass ceilings only a concern in Feminism? Not any more.  The Women’s Rights Movement was a reaction to a feeling of oppression and sexism against women.  It took women out of the kitchens and put them behind desks and on battlefields.  *It masculinized them. In turn, men felt like they had to become bigger and tougher.  Suddenly, anything that made a man appear even slightly weaker than Rambo was girly or wimpy and must not be shown.  Men no longer could cry, be afraid, feel emotion or admit defeat. Those were womanly characteristics and men were tough, goshdarnit.  Men should be able to lift couches, beat up bad guys and fix toilets.  The only time they should ever be caught cooking anything was if there was open flame involved and even then, only red meat.

My father is a victim of this tough guy mandate.  As a family, we went to see The Little Mermaid in theaters.  When Ariel’s father professes his love for her, suddenly my dad’s allergies kicked in.  He had inexplicable watering of the eyes and runny nose.  It was probably some lady’s floral perfume. My husband has let projects sit for months (::cough:: ::cough:: years ::cough::) without finishing them.  During one emotionally charged conversation, I discovered that he would rather I think he was lazy that know that he hadn’t the foggiest idea how to do some things around the house.  As my mother says, “I don’t know how to sew drapes so I hire someone who does but if men don’t know how to fix a leaky faucet, it’s like their penis falls right off.” Well, not my son’s. His package will stay firmly in place. I want him to know that he has permission to cry in front of his friends. He may ask someone else to fix his toilet and have his girlfriend beat up the burglar while he dials 911.  I want my son to be a simple kind of man.

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Society seems to be so focused on not letting girls get hurt that we worry about the boys.  Girls hear things like, “make him treat you right” and “don’t trust those boys!”  What do boys hear? “be gentle with your sister,” “open the door for ladies,” “don’t break her heart,” “be a tough guy!” Maybe in the past forty years we have been so focused on getting women ahead that we haven’t noticed our men slip behind.  We  have been so busy dwelling on our difficult roles as mothers, wives, and career women that we can’t hear the men asking, “how am I supposed to be a father, husband and career man?” We tell our daughters that guys are up to no good but I’ve seen as many teenage boys cry over relationships as girls.  I’ve had conversations with male students that feel like the limelight is on them. They are not allowed to get angry at their girlfriends because they will be accused of being abusive. They have to win fight or they will be called weak. They can’t let the girls win because that is condescending and they will have to admit that they’ve lost to a girl. Nor can they win because, then what? You beat a girl. Way to go, man. No wonder there seems to be a learned helplessness among this generation’s young men.  They are just as confused about their roles in society as women were when they were sent back home after having done their time as Rosie the Riveter.  Even when a man manages to do a good job, all of the voices around him whisper, “behind every great man is a greater woman” or “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

I look at my daughter, Sunny, and I pray that she is spunky and strong so that she doesn’t get trampled on. Then, I look at my son and pray that he knows he is allowed to strong but not tough. He can be smart but not arrogant. He can admit he’s in love or that his heart is broken. He can tear up the opposing team and turn around and blow his mom a kiss.  All humans are allowed to show happiness, sadness, strength and weakness.  If that means that we cry when we skin our knee, then that’s OK. Even if we’re boys. Even if we’re in our 30s.  If something hurts, it hurts and all I want for my son is to be emotionally intelligent and free. Just like my dad sat on the couch and cleaned his guns when boys came to pick me up, I’ll be staring down the girls who want to date my boy.  There are no rules about how to be a man just like there are no rules about how to be a woman. All we are is people. Simple people. And all our mothers want for us is to be satisfied.

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*Information courtesy of a Sociology major friend of my sister.

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One response to “Simple Man

  1. Julie says:

    Beautifully put! I’m glad that this issue is starting to come to light. We should all be able to be whole people.

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