I want my boys to be strong. I am not talking about the size of their biceps or the weight of their bench press. As long as they are capable of carrying the groceries in from the car, then that is all the physical strength I need from them.
I want them to be strong in life.
I want them to be strong in feeling.
I want them to be able to feel all kinds of emotion and still thrive. I want them to take risks, to take on challenges, to look adversity in the eye, to scrape themselves off, to always find a way to keep going. I want them to know they are good enough. To know they are enough. They are imperfect, but they are enough. I don’t think they can do that, without having real strength of feeling.
Strength to women it seems, is the ability to do all things at once, and all things well.
Strength to men, is not being perceived as weak.
Weak at anything.
I have counselled fathers who have cried about not being able to provide. “Please don’t let them know I cried.” “They will think I am weak”. When a footballer cries on the football field, there are still some who see it as a sign of weakness. But how can he experience that true exhilaration of holding a premiership cup if he has never allowed himself to feel that pain?
We need fathers to say to their sons “me too”. Or uncles, or friends, or grandparents. We need to be able to say “I know it hurts”. “I know it is embarrassing”. “I know you don’t know where to go from here”. Sometimes we need to let them lose. We must let our sons know that emotions need to be felt, to be lived and breathed and talked about and cried about, and shared. Only then can our kids know real joy. I have seen time and again well meaning parents trying to protect themselves and their kids from negative experiences creating a world that must be feared instead of lived. Instead we need to let them experience it all whilst they have the safety of the home to bounce from. Only then can they take those risks again. Only then can they believe in their ability to survive. To get up again. To turn to someone for help. To make real connections.
I want my kids to be happy. Of course everyone does.
But in order for that to happen. I need them to be strong.