In our culture, men are expected to be tough. They aren’t supposed to show emotion or tenderness. They are supposed to be stoic and unaffected. They are supposed to engage only in macho activities.
But if one adheres to that stereotype, it is impossible to be in intimate relationships in a family unit. To be close to other human beings, you have to let your guard down and be vulnerable. I wanted to share a few quick examples of fathers demonstrating that kind of vulnerability.
The first involves my own dad, who recently came to visit our family in Arizona. Our kids had a ball playing and reading with Grandpa during his stay. One night we watched a video, Toy Story 3. I don’t mean to ruin the film for anyone, but it is about a boy who has loved a group of toys during his childhood. However, he is now growing up and getting ready to go off to college. At the end of the film, the protagonist is leaving. His mother cries and his toys are very sad to see him drive off though they have a terrific new home with an imaginative, sweet little girl. In the dark of our family’s living room, we could hear Grandpa sniffling and wiping away tears. My kids always wonder at Mama’s knack for crying at sad movies or tragic news reports. Now they know where she gets it!
My youngest child has tried different extracurricular activities, but never was enthusiastic about any until she tried Ballet Folklórico, which is a type of Mexican folk dancing. The costumes provide important props for the dances. Girls wear big skirts that they swish around in beautiful ways. They also wear a special kind of shoe with little metal tips. It is somewhat akin to tap dance or clogging. In each 90 minute lesson, the girls have to take their special skirts on and off at various times. For some dances, they have to practice skirt swishing. At other times, the teacher wants the students to dance with just their leggings, so she can better see their “zapateado” footwork to gauge whether they are doing it correctly. The skirts are complicated and the kids cannot put them on by themselves. Mostly just moms attend the lessons, but there are a handful of dads and one grandpa who bring their kids (or granddaughter). Without any hint of embarrassment, these guys help their daughters/granddaughter on and off with their big ruffled skirts. Those dads/grandpa rock!
My sister has been married to her husband for over a decade. Her grandfather-in-law is ordained in his church, so he actually officiated at their wedding. Because he also was a member of the family, and had known my sister for years while she was dating his grandson, this was a very special touch to the wedding ceremony. Weddings are beautiful in the base case. They symbolize the love and deep commitment two people are making to one another. I have trouble keeping my own eyes from misting up at weddings. But one of the memories that stands out from my sister’s wedding was her grandfather-in-law choking up as he presided over the wedding. This gentleman’s deep emotion at his grandson marrying his soul mate was very moving to everyone who was there. It triggered an emotional reaction by others in the church that day. This grandpa has been married to his own soul mate for a long time. They are about to celebrate their sixtieth anniversary.
I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants.
So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently].