I, Rock.

Have you ever noticed how crying is the only emotion that qualifies a dad of truly being comfortable with their emotions? For some reason, being openly happy or angry is somehow showing less emotion.

The reason, of course, is that crying is still somewhat taboo for men. So if a dad is crying—out of sadness or fear—it must be real. I suggest that showing emotions isn’t really the issue here. It’s what you do with your emotions that truly matters.

Pop culture gives us two types of the typical dad. The stoic, tough, cold pillar of stability who quietly guides his family through right and wrong, and the cheerful, kind and warm-hearted guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve and gushes love and support—a guy who’s not afraid to cry or be scared in public.

The dad is strive to be is somewhere between the two.

Emotions are powerful. Owning and being present with our true emotions shows real courage and awareness. But I also believe one of the most powerful aspects of being a dad is the ability to move through a difficult situation with strength and purpose—limiting any damage—and the ability to channel our current emotion into an appropriate behaviour.

For me, that means being a rock—a stable touchstone for those around me when passions and chaos run high. It means being able to stay focused on a positive outcome when all the adrenaline in my system and everyone else’s says otherwise. It means I deflect aggression thrown at me—mean, insulting and threatening aggression—and stay on point. Being a dad is to stay aware and stay in control of myself.

That is not to say I don’t have or show emotions. Nor am I implying that those who do lack courage or ability. It’s just that in my experience, someone needs to stand firm in the face chaos or adversity, when the rush of emotion clouds sensible reason and opens the door to vulnerability. Social vultures pray on people who are emotionally weakened. Being a rock is important, and I believe that is where the Really Cool Dads shine. It’s a parent challenge I accept.

Really Cool Dads live their emotions. Our hearts burst at the sound of our child’s giggle; fear percolates when we see our toddler climb to the top of the monkey bars; pride swells at the dance recital; anger rises in the presence of a bully; we are overwhelmed with joy when our families grow and we are crushed when we lose family and friends.

But a lack of tears isn’t the sign that we aren’t comfortable with emotion. Rather, perhaps we are so comfortable with our emotions, that we recognize their power. The consequences of leaving ourselves vulnerable—as well as those we care for—is just too risky.

Don’t accuse me of not having emotions—or conforming to archaic stereotypes—simply because I don’t cry when you expect me to. I am comfortable in my emotion. I am comfortable being myself and owning my feelings. But I am also a rock when my family needs me.

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4 Responses to I, Rock.

  1. Marie says:

    Beautiful post! “Being a dad is to stay aware and stay in control of myself.”-This is something more dads should strive to do. Sometimes giving in to emotions can make you lose your ability to think clearly and make the right decisions. Showing your children that you are able to express your emotions in a way that is comfortable for you helps them to be able to do the same.

    • Stephen Abbott says:

      Hi Marie. Thanks for reading, sharing and your comments. I always try to let me son know how I am feeling. It lets him know that sadness, anger, joy, etc, in a person don’t always look like it does in the movies, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t having the emotion or that it doesn’t influences their choices.

  2. Mary says:

    Excellent points here! Just read something earlier in Oprah Mag (page100) that supports your post! “Why men dont cry–at least not as much” suggests adult men don’t cry as often due to biology/testosterone at puberty. Tear glands develop differently. “Men and women may experience the same level of emotion but a mans body is less likely to produce tears.”

    • Stephen Abbott says:

      Thanks for the comment, Mary. I hadn’t thought of it at a simple biological level, but it makes sense. This may give some comfort to people who believe that not showing emotions is the same as not having them. Did the article suggest any ways that sadness does show in men, or if there are legitimately differences in what triggers emotions?

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