Do Fathers Hurt Themselves by Holding Back Those Tears?

Newman in tearsA Kickstarter campaign caught my attention this week — is masculinity making us sick?

The documentary “Let’s Talk About Men” wonders whether a man’s inability to express himself due to cultural mores is hurting us psychologically.

On the surface I didn’t think much of the concept. Today’s father is a far cry (no pun intended) from past generations, a group who would often hold back feelings for years, even decades, in order to keep up a stoic facade. That conduct was not universal. My Father, despite growing up in the 1950s, was as open and expressive as any 2013 model, and I bet he wasn’t alone.

Still, the idea resonated within me. Fathers are held to a different standard, and tears aren’t part of the equation. We can’t get weepy when our son hits a home run or our daughter crushes it during the local spelling bee.

Then I logged onto my Facebook page and saw a male friend admitting he cried when a beloved pet was put down. Not only did he allow himself tears for an old friend, he posted his emotions on a social media network for all to see.

The fledgling documentary, which still needs some support before it can reach the multiplex, will likely prompt a healthy discussion all the same. I worry the film will leave something vital out of the conversation — there’s a reason men need to be strong and silent some times.

Letting tears stain your cardigan jacket isn’t always a father’s best option. Children look up to their dads for strength, and in times of stress it’s not wise to break down in front of your son or daughter. A stiff upper lip can be a resource, not a crutch. Any conversation about a man’s need to unleash his emotions needs to factor this in.

Being a modern dad doesn’t mean ducking the foundations of masculinity or shedding tears at the slightest provocation. It’s all about incorporating what has worked for hundreds of years with current lines of thought. That might make for a less sexy documentary, but it’s a truth that deserves its close-up.

Comments

  1. says

    I think that the topic you have talked about here is really important as I believe that boys need to be told that it’s OK to be emotional (within reason) about things and talk about fears etc. This is such a big thing when it comes to well-being and challenging social conventions / pressures.

  2. says

    Sometimes my son Elijah is too emotional, and he runs the risk of being called a ‘crybaby’ at school. But the bottom line is, adult men shouldn’t be deathly afraid of tears. Few people will judge them harshly for letting their emotions show.

    • says

      Totally agree with you about men / boys and tears. Not encouraging boys to show and share emotions is probably going to be a lot more dangerous than doing the opposite.

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