Mansplaining

(at tuck-ins)

Me: “Good night, boy. Get some good sleep. I love you. You’re smart and strong and kind and funny and hard working. I’m proud to be your dad.”

Danger Monkey, age 10: “Yeah, but you’re my dad. You have to say that.”

Me: “No, actually, I don’t. In fact, many dads never say those things. I think most of them think it, but don’t feel comfortable saying it out loud. So they say it in other ways.”

DM: “Why don’t they say it?”

Me: “People are weird about what is considered “masculine” and what isn’t. A long time ago boys were taught to not show any emotions like sadness or crying because it would make them seem weak. Even when I was little, I was taught that boys shouldn’t cry.”

DM: “Mom says crying is good for you.”

Me: “It is good for you! I very much disagree with the idea that boys can’t cry. I think showing emotion makes us stronger and happier in every way. I’m trying very hard to raise you without restrictions on how to feel and show emotions. But I’m sure you’re already getting a different story from friends at school.”

(long pause)

DM: “Sometimes.”

Me: “It’s hard. But that’s why I tell you all those things every day. I want to show you that big, strong men absolutely talk about their emotions and can be sad and mushy and proud and whatever we want.”

DM: “That seems better.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s not always that simple, but I think it’s a good place to start.”

DM: “So other dads don’t say those things?”

Me: “I think most don’t. They show their love in other ways, like making up silly nicknames and rough housing in the living room. A lot of dads show their love by working hard at a career to make money to provide their kids with things, and by being strong and protecting their kids. And most other dads are much more athletic than I am, so they do things like take their kids running, or coaching their soccer teams. But I think most dads don’t actually say the words as much as they probably should.”

DM: “Is that why you make up so many names for us?”

Me: “Yes, Rufus, that’s exactly why I call you so many different names.”

DM: “Why did you call me Rufus, you big butt face?”

Me: “I don’t know, Smack Daniels, why do you think?”

DM: “Because you love me, Poop Face.”

Me: “Bingo, Barf Boy.”

(long pause)

DM: “So why do you say all the other things?”

Me: “Because kids need to hear those things. Everyone needs to hear those things, especially kids. Too much of your life will be the world telling you what’s wrong with you. I want you to start life with a nice solid foundation of knowing what is RIGHT with you. Doesn’t that sound better?”

(long pause)

DM: “I like it, but only if you really mean it.”

Me: “I really, really do. I mean it more than you will understand until you have your own kids.”

(long pause)

DM: “Good night. I love you, Garbage Face.”

Me: “I love you, too, beautiful boy. Good night.”

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