In modern societies, emotional stoicism is sadly considered the norm for men. Aside from anger, public display of emotions are either considered a sign of weakness for men or a feminine trait. However, I would like to argue that crying in front of your son will make you both better men.
Crying in front of your son will make you relatable
A few months ago, I cried in the living room. It was not sadness, it was not anger, it was just an overflow of emotion. My son saw me and he looked intrigued, to say the least.
He asked with a sad look on his face: “Dad, are you crying?”
I answered: “Yes I am son.”
Then he continued, even more surprised, “But that’s the first time, right? I have never seen you cry before. How come you never cry? I thought men did not cry.”
I was very surprised mainly for two reasons. First, I never felt that I was holding my tears in the house. As an empath, I get emotional easily especially when watching racially charged movies. Second, I never recalled telling him that men did not cry or prevent him to cry. Luckily I was raised with parents that allowed me to express emotions. The treatment reserved from the outside world was another story.
So I told him, “Yes son. Men do cry and it is ok.” And then went on and explain the reasons as to why I was crying.
He looked at me with a compassionate look on his face, and gave me a comforting hug with a big sense of relief.
This episode was very instructive on many levels. It made me realize that, while I never felt that I was holding my tears, I actually was and I never paid attention to it. In fact, I would do my best to hold them in or to leave the room if I could not. I also realized that not only had it taken six years for my son to see me cry for the first time; but he had already integrated the fact that men were not supposed to cry. The sense of relief when I told him that men could cry spoke volume.
Society wants to perpetuate the “strong silent type” as an ideal; an ideal that even Tony Soprano could not sustain consistently. Crying in front of your son will make you a relatable father figure which will pay invaluable dividends in the long run.
You can’t be what you can’t see
How can we expect our boys to become well rounded men if we are not teaching them healthy ways to process and express emotions? I do not believe emotional literacy to be natural. First, it must be understood and practiced in order to be thought and strengthened at home.
“Emotional literacy is made up of ‘the ability to understand your emotions, the ability to listen to others and empathise with their emotions, and the ability to express emotions productively. To be emotionally literate is to be able to handle emotions in a way that improves your personal power and improves the quality of life around you. Emotional literacy improves relationships, creates loving possibilities between people, makes co-operative work possible, and facilitates the feeling of community.”
We fathers were often raised by male figures that showed no emotions, aside from anger. Crying (when not under the influence) was most likely not widely accepted for men and boys. It is up to us to break the cycle to learn about ourselves and pass along the gift of emotional literacy. Crying in front of your son and expressing your feelings will contribute to a healthier version of manhood and fatherhood.
— Mark Greene (@RemakingManhood) April 5, 2016
The emotional suppression of boys and men
Make no mistake, the emotional suppression of boys and men is a disease and it starts spreading at a young age.
Author, filmmaker and executive editor of the Good Men Project, Mark Greene, produced this powerful four and a half minute video which “highlights the damaging impact of the American culture of male emotional toughness, which bullies our young sons into hiding their emotional expression.”
According to Greene, “There is a direct through line from the emotional suppression of boys to the epidemic of loneliness faced by 44 million middle aged adults. It contributes to depression, addiction, divorce, violence and early mortality, hurting boys and girls, men and women, equally.”
When crying in front of your son, you are not only giving yourself the permission to be authentic, you are also giving permission to your son to express his feelings in the present and in the future. You will both become better men. You will also contribute to lift the burden of shame that has been plaguing manhood for generations.