I live in a house full of men: little men, big men, young men, and old men. Between my husband, four sons and all their friends, I have men of all shapes and sizes roaming through my house all the time. Not too long ago, I started writing what I’ve learned from observing all these men on a blog I called: Boys Cry Too.

My goal was to convince everyone that teaching boys not to cry has a multitude of unhealthy side effects and we should stop. Shortly after my first few posts went live though, my husband looked at me and said, “What you’re saying on your blog is great, but you don’t really mean it.” I was startled and asked what he meant. He continued, “When you wake me up in the middle of the night because you heard a noise that made you nervous, the last thing you want to hear is that I’m scared too.”

I was speechless, and I’m rarely speechless; but he was right.

I desperately want an emotionally intelligent spouse who can converse intimately with me about our most vulnerable feelings. Except when I don’t. Sometimes what I really want is a fearless, superhero who will walk through the house at four o’ clock in the morning and confront whatever strange noise I may have heard while I stand at the top of the stairs holding the phone.

I want sons who will talk about their feelings and make compromises instead of pummeling each other, but I also want them to defend themselves if someone picks on them at school. I want them to be peacemakers, but not pushovers. I want them to be obedient, and independent, confident, yet introspective. And since I’m being honest, I’ll just go ahead and say it: I want them to kick ass out on the field.

I want my husband to help with the dishes, change diapers, and fold laundry; but I’m more physically attracted to him when he comes inside sweaty from a day of manual labor. I hate guns, but I’m glad my husband knows how to use one. Sometimes I want him to hug me when I’m crying and other times I’d prefer he just make me laugh.

When my husband pointed all this out to me, I was stunned. Here I was championing the softer side of boys every day on my blog, but in real life I was often communicating a desire for the exact opposite. I was a classic case of saying one thing and doing another, but blissfully unaware of my hypocrisy.

My point is this: men are not the only people being influenced by cultural definitions of masculinity. Women are too. Our contradictory expectations are actually helping, in many ways, to perpetuate the stereotypes you struggle against.

Women have been working to prove to society that they are more than the feminine stereotype for long enough that society now accepts many different brands of femininity. We need more courageous men to do the same—because you are more than the boxes we put you in.

I see you in my home every day. You are strong and smart and powerful; but you are also warm and tender and loving. You are each your own unique combination of all these things. The more society can see this, the more they will be able to accept and support you on your journeys to become the men you want to be.

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