Men are different than women—that is the understatement of every generation. Books are written about those differences, seminars are taught to help us understand each other, but PePe Le Pew said it best, “Vive la différence!”
I wouldn’t want to change anything about women, and I don’t want to fully understand them either. That is the mystery of it all—and the excitement!
But there are things about myself that I would like to change. And even though I was married for many years, I realized some of those only in the last few.
As boys grow into men, we become hardened in society. We learn that we are supposed to be strong and powerful. We aren’t to show emotion or fear, and the most important thing of all—we never cry. Our fathers do not necessarily teach this, but the environment shapes us over time.
Men are designed to be the supporters and defenders of women and children—to be their providers and protectors. We are not to be shaken by outside forces, no matter how strong. We don’t let anything get in the way of caring for our families—we are tough.
But although women want their men to be strong, leaders of their families, providers and defenders—they also want them to be sensitive and understanding. And gentlemen—they want us to let them in.
What I have learned in the last several years is something that is difficult for me. I have discovered that our children want us dads to be vulnerable, to be willing to share, and at times—to show our emotions.
For as long as I can remember, I have been very protective of my children. I believed they were never supposed to see their dad cry, or be weak, or fail. But the difficult truth is—they not only want that, they need it. Of course, children must be of an age and maturity level to understand serious matters, but even young children need to see their dads respond to trials as human beings.
When my wife was in the midst of severe suffering, I tried my best to be strong for my kids, to let them see a rock that could not be shaken by such a horrible trial of life. I needed to be stable so they would be able to lean on me, and know that I would be there.
What I didn’t realize is that my kids needed to see that I cared so much about their mom, that I couldn’t help but cry—I couldn’t help but be distraught. They even needed to see me struggling. I’m not saying that we should fall apart and place the burden on them, but there is nothing wrong with letting our children see us as imperfect.
It didn’t destroy my kids to learn that I wrestled with their mom having cancer. It didn’t crush them when they discovered that I fought with God and, for a moment—lasting a matter of seconds, turned my back on Him. Kids are durable and strong, and they need to see that dads are human. And from my own experience, I have found that my children draw comfort from my open responses, and perhaps respect me even more.
How can they explain their own feelings of pain and doubt while dad is a solid rock with no frailties? If the suffering of his wife does not move him, he cannot be moved.
I am not proud that I turned my heart away from God, even if it lasted less than a minute. I knew better, I knew that I should trust Him, but I faltered—the pain was so strong. Although I would prefer for others to have seen me as the epitome of strength and spirituality, I was not. It’s unfair for me to represent myself that way, and it’s also important for my children to see my frailties.
Dad is human, dad makes mistakes, and sometimes–dad hurts. Trust your kids, gentlemen. Not only will they understand—they’ll help you through, and make you stronger than you could possibly be on your own.