I’m a horrible father.
The thought kept ping-ponging in my mind after shoving my bawling 5 year old son into his kindergarten class.
This morning he decided that he wanted to ride his scooter to school rather than his bike. I told him that the bike was quicker, but he started whining, so I let him take the scooter. 18 minutes into trek, he starts whining again, “Daddy, I’m tired. I want to stop.”
We are 10 minutes away from the school which starts in 8 minutes.
“I told you to take the bike. You better hurry up; we only have 8 minutes to get there,” I yelled while continuing to walk at a brisk pace.
For the next 10 minutes, my son screamed at the top of his lungs, “Daaaaddddy. Stoooop. Daaaaddddy. I’m tired.”
By the time we got to the school, all the other kids were already in the classroom and all the parents were staring at my son who had thrown his scooter down and started screaming, “I don’t want to go to school.”
I did what any father would do–grabbed him by the arm and shoved him into the classroom.
When he came out following me, I yelled, “You better get back in there, or I’m canceling your birthday party.”
Then I jumped on the scooter and preceded to ride home. After two blocks, my thighs started to burn like I was doing squats shouldering 200 lbs. I finally had to stop and just walk after 5 minutes on that tortuous toy.
My son’s legs must have been on fire after 25 minutes of continuous pushing. His cries for help were legitimate. Why couldn’t I hear them?
Walking home I realized that as man, I have been programmed to ignore cries for help. In fact, my first reaction to a whine is anger.
“Shut up before I give you something to really cry about” was how my cries of pain were consoled when I was a kid.
I thought about how I asked the referee “High kicking?” with a smirk on my face when I roundhouse kicked another 12 year old kid in the face during a soccer game.
I thought about how I yelled at my wife the exact number of dirty diapers I changed compared to her when she was suffering postpartum depression after the birth of our first son.
In 1979, Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer asked, “What law is it that says that a woman is a better parent simply by virtue of her sex?” 34 years later, I realize that the answer to that question is “the law of Patriarchy” (although I also realize that assuming women are “naturally” better caregivers is a part of patriarchy).
Patriarchy makes men less compassionate towards the suffering of others. In a dog-eat-dog world, we can’t stop to help others. We got places to go and people to see. The person you help today might be the person who beats you tomorrow.
I hate to admit it, but one of my favorite movies is Top Gun. When Maverick refuses to engage after the death of his best friend Goose, we mentally throw our hands up in the air just like the Commanding Officer in the film. “God damn it, Maverick.”
But when he shrugs off his feelings and reengages the fight we all applaud and cheer like in every other Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis movie. Don’t even get me started on Arnold Schwartzennegger and Keanu Reeves. I used to think that they were bad actors, but then I realized that they are just good men–completely detached from their emotions.
Clinical counselor, therapist, and blogger, Scott Williams claims that the biggest complaint he gets about men is that they are not emotionally available. “The one thing men generally give the least is emotional connection.” Although I do cultivating compassion meditation everyday, I still refused to empathize with my son, no matter how loud he screamed.
In my defense, very few of the images of men I was raised with reacted to pain and suffering with compassion and empathy. Pain and suffering were obstacles you had to overcome to be the best you could be.
Like the boys in Steubenville and Saratoga, I’ve felt just like the younger private in A Few Good Men. “What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong.”
“Yeah, we did. We were suppose to fight for people who couldn’t fight for themselves”…like passed out women and children in physical pain. The writer Aaron Sorkin had it right: There are only a “Few Good Men.” I’m working towards being one of the Few, the Proud, the Compassionate.
Thank you for reading, sharing, and/or smiling.
Do you think that men are socialized to be less compassionate than women? Please share.
- Patriarchy is not your fault, but it is your responsibility. (queerguesscode.wordpress.com)
- Men: The Problem and the Solution (everydaygurus.com)
- Women, Men Face Opposing Repressions (Broadblogs.com)