Right this moment, as I type this, I’m sitting at a sports bar crying.
I’m traveling for work this week and have been in strategic meetings since Monday. I am wearing my professional persona. From early morning until late afternoon (and into our group dinners in the evening) I’ve been wearing the mask of the business person. It’s important to look and act appropriate for the role that you are filling. I’m sincere in that statement. In that particular role, I try to be judicious and measured in my communications with my business partners. As I have not yet been pulled aside in a conversation that starts with “hey, we need to talk about that email that you sent…” I figure I’m successful in presenting the persona that my company expects from me.
But right now, I’m pissed. These are tears of anger. I am NOT professional.
Over the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve written about my youngest son, the Goon, and his perspective on the world. His preferences and choices tend to challenge some gender roles. As his father, there have been moments that were heartbreaking along the way.
Our journey watching his unique choices began when, as a 3 year old, he picked out his own footwear for the first time. His choice? A pair of purple and silver Dora the Explorer sneakers. I wrote about the separate-but-similar reactions that The Queen and I had at the time. We wrestled with the opposing instincts to support him in expressing himself while still concerned for the social conflict we were sure he’d face. Society does not allow one to challenge its mores without consequence.
Last year, I wrote about my youngest son- aka The Goon- and his selection of a pair of purple-with-silver-sparkles Dora the Explorer sneakers. I shared my reaction to my son’s very clearly articulated desire for the things that we would normally describe as “girly”. A lot of folks read that blog post and I’m genuinely humbled by the reaction. For me, the events I wrote about are all good. I came away from them believing that my son is a wonderfully unique little boy who knows who he is. As a father, that’s about all I think really matters.
So about a year and a half later, we’ve moved into a new house accompanied by my father (Papa), who’s still living in our basement, and welcomed the addition of my mother-in-law (who will be known as Nonni in my writings), into our crazy, loving household. (Yes- my father and my wife’s mother both live with us. No- they are not together. Yes- it is just as crazy as you might imagine. Nonni and I are going to write a sitcom. See you in Hollywood…)
My boys are now 14, 6, and 4. They are smart, considerate, sweet young men. I’m a lucky Dad. Life is good.
As parents, we hope that our kids get our defining characteristics or talents. An aptitude for math, a beautiful singing voice, empathy, athletic ability. We even hope they mirror us in minor ways. Does he have my eyes? Is her hair like mine? Do they like the same flavor ice cream that I do?
It is my worst fear as a father that I will pass on one of my negative traits to my sons. I am a work-in-progress. 41 years now and I am still looking to improve myself. It was on Day 3 of our vacation that I found myself considering the possibility of passing on these negative traits.
My boy likes dolls.
This warrants some kind of intro. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you may know that I’m a dad with 3 boys- ages 13, 5, and 3. I’m very close to my dad. He is definitely a standard against which I measure myself as a man, a husband, and a father. I’ve had some missteps and false starts but the one consistent driver in my life has been this- “I want to be a good dad.” This is something that matters to me.
I love all 3 of my boys- nothing special there. That [should be] the basic expectation for any dad- love your kids. That is an important motivator for me. I make the best decision that I can then worry whether it’s good enough.