“‘Man up. Boys will be boys. Men don’t cry.’ We’ve been hearing phrases like this all our lives. To tell you the truth, it never really bothered me. Or perhaps I just never gave it much thought until I became a parent.
Now that I’m a mom of two boys, phrases and euphemisms like that sound like nails on a chalkboard to me.
Our society defines what it should look like to be a man. Attributes like strength, independence, aggression, and competitiveness are the front runners, leaving little room for things like nurturing, empathy, and compassion.
I am not saying men can’t be compassionate, empathetic beings. They can be. I’ve met them. What I’m saying is somewhere along the way, an unwritten rule came about that said a good man is tough, strong, and in control. Tears would only make you weak.
The problem is men can’t stop feeling simply because we’ve told them to. We breed generations of young boys who feel a wide and deep range of emotions but don’t always feel safe in expressing them. They’re taught to believe admirable men are strong and stoic.
There is nothing admirable or strong about denying yourself emotions.
Social norms tell us men don’t cry. A man who can be wavered by emotion is less of a man. Yet we often wish men would be more compassionate and caring.
If we want husbands who are willing to express their emotions and sit with us while we cry, and at times cry with us, we must raise boys who know their tears won’t cause them to be judged for being weak.
If we want our children to grow up among boys who are nurturing, we must allow them the freedom to have soft hearts.
If we want fathers who are a shoulder to cry on for their children, not just the fearless protector, we must assure our boys they, too, have a shoulder when they need one.
It’s our duty as parents to raise generations of young men who know the value of being vulnerable.
Sometimes I worry my boys will feel pressure from the world to live by these gender stereotypes. That they will limit themselves based on who society tells them to be.
I want my kids to be free to feel what they feel when they feel it. I want them to be comfortable expressing their emotions in whatever way feels right and natural.
I want to raise boys who, if they so choose, become amazing fathers. I want their kids and loved ones to feel safe with them not just physically, but emotionally.
I will raise boys who know tears make them strong, not weak. I will raise boys who know they always have a safe space to let it out.
I will raise boys who know that real men cry.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dana Long-Lawrie from Snohomish, WA. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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