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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Babies, Men and Emotions

If I could teach my son only one thing in his life, it would be to recognize and be in tune with his emotions.  There are obviously many things besides tuning into emotions that I would like to teach my son, but I feel that emotions, how to label them, how to recognize them, and how to deal with them is by far the most important.  To me it has many benefits ranging from dealing with others, dealing with work, and most importantly, dealing with our own lives and the fluctuations in emotions that we experience every day.   So why is it that I want to teach my son this one thing above all others?  It is not one specific instance that made me wake up one day and say, "I need to teach my son about emotions", but rather a confluence of events and ideas that has made me think more about my role as a father.   Yet it is not just about being a father, it is also about showing my son what being a man looks like.   Granted, it is my view of what a man should look like, hopefully shared by others, but it is that notion of being a man that I want him to learn from me, not from society.  Maybe I am wrong, but when you look at the majority of men in society, there are a good number of them who have trouble dealing with their emotions and in certain situations dealing with others because of their trouble with emotions.  I am not pointing fingers at any one man, I think all men have trouble at times being truly honest with themselves about their emotions, yet I think it is an area that needs attention.  If I can take steps to show my son what it means to be a man and be in touch with his emotions, then maybe he will have an easier time later in life when he has to deal with raw emotions on a larger scale. 

So why is it that men have more trouble being honest about their emotions than women do?  It seems that no matter which man and woman you compare, women will have an easier time communicating and dealing with their emotions than most men will.  To me, it all goes back to early childhood and how we were raised.  There is a big divide between how young girls and boys are treated in my mind.  (This statement does not include everyone because I know there are exceptions).  For the most part, girls from an early age are taught how to deal with emotions better than boys are.   Boys, even when they are young, have expectations placed upon them that they simply must deal with whatever they are feeling and most times suppress it.  There is no place for emotions in manly sports or activities and thus, boys must not put their emotions on display, or dare I say, communicate them to others.  The foundation must be set strong from an early age because once outside influences come into play, all bets are off.  If you look at society, men are the stoic, do it all, go getter types who throw emotion to the side and reach for the stars.  Yeah, great, but if you can't communicate how you are feeling to others, then how are you supposed to truly get anywhere.  It is through the communication of feelings and emotions that we are able to build rappor with others, build lasting relationships, and truly get in touch with who we are and where we are going.  Yet men aren't supposed to really talk about that stuff.  Women are, at least according to society.  So if boys are taught early that it is indeed OK to relate how they are feeling and the emotions that are roiling through them, then perhaps they can stave off the invasive disease that is society.

So maybe I have it wrong.  But there is a big part of me that doesn't think so.  Emotions are something that everyone has to deal with, men and women, yet often times women have an easier time doing so.  The only way we can change this trend in society, which by all means has been embedded for generations, is to start with our own children and start talking to them about their emotions, what exactly it is they are feeling, and how best to deal with those emotions.  It is no easy task as even now I hesitate communicating my emotions to others, or at best feel awkward when doing so.  Yet every day that goes by, I try and tune myself in to what I am feeling and what is going on inside of me so that I can communicate it better to others and in turn teach my son how to communicate his feelings.  I don't recall what my childhood was like in regards to emotions and being taught about them so I won't even venture a guess.  All I know is that my son is a blank slate (not entirely) through which I work with him, teach him, and help him grow into a man.  It is not going to be an easy task, of that I am sure, but it is one that is of utmost importance.  I feel that there is nothing more valuable to him than to learn about emotions from an early age.  He will have to deal with other boys that are not in touch with their emotions, but perhaps he will be able to deal with them better if he is in tune with his own emotions and understands what is going on inside of him.  I guess we will just have to wait and see how this all plays out. 

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