You know you’ve all heard it…”come on…be a man!” This is usually said when someone is showing weakness of some sort and another man wants him to suck it up and tough it out. But, what does that mean…to “be a man”? From when I was born, TV, movies, commercials, and other people have drilled home the concept that being a man looks something like this:
- Never shows weakness
- Doesn’t ask for directions
- Often has a beard
- Doesn’t cry
- Solves problems with his fists
- Doesn’t clean bathrooms, vacuum, or do laundry
- Only cooks if it’s on the grill
- Doesn’t ask for help
- Always toughs it out
Now, there is obviously nothing wrong with a couple of these. Having a beard…that’s fun. Toughing it out…that can be good sometimes. But, I have a real problem with the majority of the things on this list. It’s interesting because they’ve been drilled into my mind for so long that they seem normal though.
Let’s step outside and settle this like men:
Sure…I love seeing a movie where a scrawny kid beats the stew out of a bully twice his size who won’t leave him alone. Or, when someone insults a guy’s mom and he turns and goes Jason Bourne on him. It seems cool, but really…is that what I want Eli to learn? That being tough and being a man means you solve problems with your fists? It looks good in a movie but can put you in jail in real life. I would much rather him grow up to have an even temperament and be a man that knows how to reason, talk, and use common sense instead of his fists.
Crying like a girl:
“A real man doesn’t cry…come on man, don’t be a girl…only girls cry…are you crying??!!” Why is it that there is a stigma to guys crying? Sure, the average woman cries A LOT more than the average man. That’s just part of how we’re made. But, I think an injustice has been done by forcing men to feel they need to suppress it. If I can be vulnerable with my family, be willing to share my feelings, and be okay with crying, my son will learn from my example. He will learn that it’s ok to be real with people and that crying is a natural reflection of showing emotions. That it’s not something to suppress or that makes you less of a man. Personally, I don’t do well in this area…but I’m working on showing my emotions more authentically. So, I salute you James Van Der Beek. Keep it real!
Asking for directions or help:
So what’s a better scenario:
– Reading the instructions and then putting together an Ikea desk quickly (in 3 hours). Or figuring it out on your own, making a few mistakes, having to backtrack some, and either putting it together incorrectly or having to go back and get the directions out anyway, and as a result you take 5 hours?
– Stopping while driving to ask for directions, and getting to the right place the first time. Or, NOT stopping and trying to find it on your own…getting lost a couple times and eventually finding the right place, but taking longer to get there.
Do you get an extra badge by doing it on your own? NO, there is nothing to be gained by fumbling through something, when you could have done it right the first time by getting help. That’s called being smart, practical, and efficient. Don’t teach your son that it makes you less of a man to do so.
Doing women’s work:
It’s such an outdated chauvinistic perspective to think that a “real man” doesn’t contribute around the house like a woman does. I want my son to see me cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, baking pies, and making casseroles. I want him to learn that it is normal to help…no matter what the area is. That way, it will be natural for him to grow up to love his wife in that way too.
To clarify, I DO want to teach my son to be a man. I want him to learn to lead and love his family, to be responsible, to do his best, to be giving and loving to others, to be selfless, to be real with people, and to be a helper. I do NOT want to teach him to be the type of man that stereotypes have created over the years.
My challenge to you:
You may disagree with me on some of these areas, and that’s ok. But, if what I’m saying DOES make sense to you, try to identify if you’re guilty of perpetrating any of the negative stereotypes of what is required of a “real man”. Make sure you model it and teach others what you really want them to learn.