My 15 year old boy is stuck between who he is and who he believes he needs to be.
Between vulnerable and tough as nails.
Between needing and believing that needing is a weakness.
He is confused you see.
He is smack dab in the middle of individuating from us.
Smack dab in the middle of figuring out what “being a man” really means for him.
He was gifted with a Dad who is extremely emotionally aware and who has provided a place where feelings are welcomed.
Yet he goes to school and is sent the message that you’re a wuss if you feel.
Look what I can bench.
It starts in elementary....about third grade if I remember right.
The size comparisons.
Bringing out the muscles.
Showing off their physical capacities.
In an almost embarrassing manner.
So many boys have been taught that THIS is where their value lies.
Their physical capacity.
Their ability to stay stoic in the face of emotion.
Their skill at shoving their feelings behind strength and brawn.
My son never bought into this.....however, I watched his brain do it’s best to wrap around these ideas when they showed up.
I literally watched his walls being built.
I did my best to stop them, without realizing at the time, that soon, it wouldn’t be my voice that mattered.
This message was delivered loud and clear after an oral surgery this past week.
We got him home and settled.
Tucked him in, and I was SO ready for the nurturing to begin.
“Are you okay?” I asked. “Yes??” he answered impatiently.
I circled back around in an hour.
Me: “How you doing, you okay?”
Him: “Ugh...YES, why wouldn’t I be okay?”
Ummm....you’ve been put under sedation, loaded with anesthetic, sliced open and woke up spouting ridiculousness and fear?
It was the most vulnerable I had seen him in years and I viewed it as a door wide open to his need for me again.
I could feel both emotions happening for him at once. His deep desire to be nurtured mixed with the belief that if he needs his Mom, than maybe he isn’t the man he is pushing so hard to be.
You guys.....our boys are confused.
“Are you okay” doesn’t mean you can’t handle this. “Are you okay” doesn’t mean you are a baby.
“Are you okay” doesn’t mean you aren’t strong.
“Are you okay” certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize that soon....you will be navigating without me.
“Are you okay” just means you have safe place if you need it.
It means I expect the feelings.
It means you are not alone and don’t need to be.
It means you are strong and able, and feeling doesn’t change that.
It means reminding you that your parents are here for more than just three hot’s and a cot.
We are here to absorb.
To be a sponge.
To encourage vulnerability. To just be.
Not because you are weak.
Not because you aren’t capable. Not because you are a wuss.
Because you are human.
Feelings are a part of a human condition....not a gender condition. Feelings are what will make you a great partner and a good friend. Feelings will propel you to rock star dad status.
Feelings ARE the new strong.
Feelings are a message on the path of life, to inform you in your choices. Being vulnerable to feeling our feelings is a tool for change in our boys.
So I will keep asking “are you okay?”
I will keep reminding you that feeling our feelings is badass.
My job is not to make you feel like a baby, but to give you permission to need, with a full understanding that there is nothing “babyish” about vulnerability, feelings and love.