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Archive for the ‘raising sons’ Category

Many of the fathers I spoke to admit that showing vulnerability to other men can be difficult. Daniel, the divorced dad in Brooklyn, recalls that, growing up, mealtimes with his brothers were a kind of “blood sport”. Even now, he observes an “impulse to snuff out every manifestation of weakness as it’s being expressed”. So it makes some sense that many men set their sights on having a son. Raising a boy affords fathers a chance to be both strong and sensitive, to be powerful yet tender. With a son, a father may believe he has been delivered an adoring male ally in an atmosphere – the home – that often feels like the domain of women.

This profound sense of kinship comes with a similarly profound sense of responsibility. Many of the men I spoke to said they understood it was their job to guide their boys through the choppy waters of adolescence. “It’s just a responsibility assumed,” says Tom, a father in his late 50s with one teenage boy. “Sometimes my wife will say, ‘Hey look, I would like you to talk to our son about such and such’, but really it’s not something we even need to talk about.” Louise, the mother with a teenage boy in London, agrees that “the father’s influence with a boy is absolutely key.” She adds that male friends with sons have confided to her that they are more apprehensive about abandoning their families. “They worry more about the guilt and the damage they may cause.”

This entire article, “It’s a boy thing” by Emily Bobrow in The Economist’s 1843 is fascinating and.. disturbing. The preference for sons by fathers has been analysed from multiple perspectives but I find the one above some of the more interesting for me. Parenting taps into something profound about sense of self. It does not surprise me that men, as fathers, might feel a particularly strong attachment to sons given the opportunity it presents for them to be safely close to another male and to also repair some of their own childhoods as emotionally isolated little boys by recreating them and re-imagining them.

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Jarryd Stoneman’s clip of him and his grandmother is one of the most tender things I’ve ever seen on the Internet.

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On Gentleness

Tell me I once came close, that your body wasn’t
an obelisk, and mine, so much wire wound
around wire. I will always wonder

if I can take you, know you will always be stronger,
and marvel at how you appear even larger
than before with my niece cupped

in your tattooed arms. I know something simple
provokes you to call: a comic book
we’ve both read, a good time

to visit, but my thumb hovers over ‘decline’
and I hold my breath before I press
against the waiting ‘answer’.

••

Before I left for Florida—a week after I tore
the collar of my shirt, twisting out
of your grip, a week after

I disappeared with our shared car, the Venture
minivan we nicknamed Vendetta,
and brought it back to you

empty and smashed—you stopped me to tell me
to never come back. You meant it. I said
I wouldn’t. I meant flinching

is something I’d only do in oncoming light, never
the overcoat of a shadow; being the size of
a threat did strange things to my tongue.

••

Tell me about the night I hurled a phone receiver
at your head and the orb of blood on your lip
that seemed like it’d never fall, how you

bound me by a wrist, bruised my ribs against the floor,
and never threw a single punch. Wasn’t that
a kind of gentleness, Jabari?

by JAMAAL MAY

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My latest article is here.

Speaking of personal stories, Latham has an interesting story, too. He’s a stay-at-home father with a wife working outside the home. Having made the transition from political leadership to primary caring he might offer an insightful perspective, instead, he seems clouded by a kind of defensive masculinity. And his hostility towards feminist parenting is curious when you consider Latham’s own role reversal is exactly the kind of freedom feminists are seeking as an option to be available for more parents. But critiquing parenting has long been an underhand route for simply censuring women.

Women well know that when male commentators talk about women’s lives they are prone to holding unexamined views that run contrary to one another. So, being the primary parent has allowed Latham to see the hoax that fathers can’t be nurturing, but somehow mothering is still essentialist enough for inner-city feminists to be capable of running a secret campaign to “free themselves from nature’s way”. And further, mothers who take their experiences seriously enough to write about them are “self-absorbed”, but to not take them seriously is to be “breeding a generation of shirtless, tone-deaf, overweight, pizza-eating dummies”. Although Macdonald, apparently, manages to do both.

 

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It’s hard to continue. I wish it was my kids bedtime. I wish the dishes were done. I wish the house was clean. I wish America wasn’t racist. I wish Mike Brown was in police custody. I wish Darren Wilson admitted guilt. I wish America admitted guilt.

I post on Facebook “How do you parent on a night like this?” People respond with advice about how to talk to kids about race. Well-meaning, but missing the point. I don’t mean what do you say. I mean how do you go on.

How do you go on.

How do you make lunch for tomorrow and sweep and handle bath time?

How do you parent with a permanently broken heart?

I text their mother. “Hi” I say. She responds. But I stop. She is white. I don’t actually want to talk to any white people right now. I love her though. She is an exceedingly kind, strong and loving person. And I make a note to tell her then next time I see her.

My son is being a dick.

He keeps messing with his sister. He keeps not following directions. He keeps jumping around the house like a…well like an 11 year old boy. My patience is wearing thin. I want to yell at him. Will you calm the fuck down?! Do you know what the fuck is happening out there?! But I don’t. Because he will know way sooner than I want.

Mike Brown kept messing with people.

Mike Brown kept jumping around.

Mike Brown kept not following directions.

But when I tell him to brush his teeth and he bullshits for another 10 minutes. I finally lose it.

“Hey!” I yell. The room grows intensely quiet. “Get your shit together.”

I can see behind his eyes as he calculates how to respond. Another joke? An angry backlash? He does neither. He looks hurt. He fixes me with a sad stare, milking it just a bit, and then mopes upstairs. When he is five steps away, I call him back. He makes a joke of not wanting to get closer to me. “Come here” I say. He moves an inch. “No HERE” He moves another. “HERE!” We do our little routine a few times more. We watch a lot of comedy together.

When he is close enough to touch, I reach out and hold him to me like I’ve maybe never held anyone to me in my entire life. I feel his warmth. The narrowness of his bones. The quick beat of his little heart. I bury my face awkwardly in the back of his neck. I choke back tears. I don’t want tears now.

“Dad. Are you alright?” He knows this is the next funny thing to say.

“I love you” is all I can manage.

From Carvell Wallace’s “How to parent on a night like this”.

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You talk about how boys lose authenticity over time, or become less authentic and more performative, taking on roles rather than expressing what they really feel directly. But isn’t it good for people to learn how to be less natural in some ways? Toilet training for example; you don’t want them to do the natural thing, right?

Absolutely; being socialized is not inherently problematic. Obviously we want to teach our kids to be appropriate so they’re not at a restaurant dancing naked on the table. You want to teach them to be savvy and strategic; you don’t want them to be vulnerable in every situation and then have that vulnerability taken advantage of. But it’s more that distinction between compromise and over-compromise, in which they’re so focused on setting up a particular image that they believe will get them what they want—acceptance and popularity and success—and realizing that that comes at a cost. And that cost comes when the fit between who they are and who they feel comfortable being doesn’t perfectly match society’s expectations, and they feel like, oh, I can’t show people this part of myself, because then they won’t like me.

That’s not to say that they need to be open and out there in every situation. But they need to have at least one place or one relationship where they can do those things.

From “How boys teach each other to be boys” in The Atlantic.

One way to do this is by teaching boys and men to cultivate empathy — and not just for one another. The violence prevention organization A Call to Men, for example, encourages boys and men to recognize and reject a culture of manhood that enables violence. Part of that involves actually talking to girls.

Societally, “we teach men to distance themselves from the experiences of women and girls,” said Tony Porter, one of the organization’s co-founders. Boys aren’t encouraged to befriend girls, he said. When they do, they are teased about romantic or homosexual implications. To encourage mutual respect, however, boys and girls must be allowed the space to form meaningful bonds.

A Call to Men conducts workshops — on football fields and in community centers — across the country. During these sessions, young men are encouraged to question traditional gender roles and challenge sexist and misogynist attitudes — often in the presence of women.

“As a society, the only emotion we allow boys to have is anger. We need a critical, purposeful conversation with our sons about their experiences. Doing this early on is very important,” Porter pointed out. “Once they turn 16 or 17, they become accustomed to not talking to us.”

From “The case for raising feminist men” in AlJazeera America.

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I won’t lie; I miss you. Well, since we only met seven or eight times, I miss the fantasies of you I used to create. You were a career Air Force officer, so I used to make up all kinds of missions for you. When asked, I’d say you were over in some devastated pocket of global real estate, fighting bad guys. I mean, why else wouldn’t you be around? I’m smart, funny… I am a good son.

Once the fantasies stopped, the pain and the hurt crept in.

Hell, it didn’t just creep in, it moved in—it took up residence in my heart. During certain moments it was nearly impossible to breathe because of the amount of hatred I felt for you. There were times I scared myself because of the sheer awfulness of the things I wished upon you. I felt so cheated. You weren’t around physically and Mom was ill equipped to be a parent; not to mention that every dude she dated knocked us around.

I didn’t really begin to date until college, because I was afraid I’d become one of the monsters Mom decided to invite into our home. Whether it was Brooklyn or Minneapolis, she seemed to have a nose for hooking up with pugilist man-children.

And I blamed you for this.

If you were there, she would have felt worthy of being loved, and we both would have been safe. I write these things not to pile on you, but to get them out and keep them out. I no longer want to hold onto my negative feelings and memories of you. I’ve come to understand that my holding onto all these adverse emotions has severely limited my ability to parent like I want. That is changing.

From Shawn Taylor in Ebony.

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