When I told one of my sons about this blog, he was horrified. “You’re doing WHAT?!” He moaned, certain I was going to ruin his life, I’m sure.
Surprisingly enough, over the last month or two, this same son has become one of my biggest supporters. Bringing the messages he’s subconsciously been absorbing to the front of his mind has made him more alert and aware. He’s not only started to identify them himself, but he’s also started bringing me ideas to write about. This post was his idea.
Tim Howard is a professional soccer goalie (and my son’s hero), maybe you’ve heard of him? In his biography, Mr. Howard tells a story where he says:
Later, in the locker room, I sat down next to Tony Hibbert. I was both elated and drained. I tossed my towel over my head to wipe the sweat from my face. And then something happened to me. I was overcome by emotion. Instead of removing the towel, I left it there. I sat for just a moment in the dark, surrounded by all the cheers and hollers of my teammates celebrating. And before I understood what was happening, I clutched the towel to my face and began sobbing. I cried like a small child. I cried like I hadn’t since my days in Northwood Estates – loud, choking sobs. I suddenly understood how much Man U had gotten under my skin, how much that experience had stayed with me. Now, for the first time, I could let them go. I didn’t care that my teammates could see my shoulders shake. Didn’t care that my crying could be heard over the sounds of their laughter. I didn’t care what anyone thought. I was just so glad I had done this. Phil Jagielka noticed. “Hey, Tim? You all right?” Then Tony Hibbert’s voice, “Yeah. He’s all right.” I felt his hand on my back. “He just needs a moment.” Hibbo understood. He understood without my telling him.
There are so many things I love about this story, but what I love the most is how obvious it is from just a few words and gestures that these men genuinely understand and care about one another.
Good men exist. Men who know how to support and connect exist, but those men rarely make headlines. Their tender moments don’t usually make it onto Sports Center. Instead they happen quietly in locker rooms, and privately behind closed doors. Unless we pay attention and look carefully, the good men we’re looking for might slip by unnoticed.
I asked one of my sons the other day if he had any friends he could talk to if he was upset and he said, “I have lots of friends, but guys don’t talk about those things.” So I speculated with him a little bit. I asked him if he would care if he had a friend, for example, whose parent died suddenly? And he said, “Well, yeah, of course I would care, but I wouldn’t know. They wouldn’t tell me.”
Not all of my children feel the same way. My least confrontational son was forced into a fight to defend himself a couple weeks ago and ended up getting in as much trouble as the boy who was picking on him. He was understandably upset. I asked him if he told any of his friends about the fight and he said, “Oh yeah, as soon as I got out of the principal’s office, I went straight to the lunch room and we [his group of 5 friends] all talked about it.”
Even children within the same family can observe and believe different things about what it means to be a male. We can’t control, guarantee or even completely understand what messages our sons are absorbing, but what we can do is point out media stories and real men who embody the values that matter to us so our sons can incorporate those examples into their understanding of what it means to be masculine.
One of the values I care about most is family. My children have a wonderful father, but I am always looking for examples of athletes (because that’s who my children idolize most right now) who can also help shape my children’s understanding of what it means to be a good husband and father (If you have any, please send them to me!). I wish we had more athletes publicly sharing emotional experiences like Tim Howard and more athletes obviously dedicated to their wives and children.
What values do you wish were more publicly visible for your son to absorb?