The other night I started crying watching Toy Story 3. I’m not even going to explain how this happened because if you aren’t already nodding your heads and thinking “preach,” then you’re probably a legitimate monster from some other world who can’t read the English language anyway.
My daughters looked at me as the tears dripped through my beard. They tend to do this every time I cry.
“Need something to wipe your face?” one asked.
“I’m good,” I answered, knowing there’d likely be more before it was all said and done.
“Can you get me some fishy crackers then?” was her final question before turning her attention back to the horrific mess that is the end of that film.
This is how my daughters currently experience men crying. And this, is a point of pride for my partner and me. For them, right now, they see men crying as something completely natural.
The idea that men don’t cry, and that one is a boy up until they stop crying, is a pervasive and terrible one. It gets transmitted to our young kids early on. Boys are told to be an emotional rock and girls are told their dads are tough as nails---unbreakable really. A man’s strength must displayed physically, not emotionally.
Only, boys aren’t rocks, and neither are men, and it doesn’t do anyone any good to learn that.
I don’t remember hearing the term “boys don’t cry,” or “be a man,” from my parents but I remember hearing derivatives of it all around me. I’d hear “be a big boy,” when some kid at a playground was hurt and in need of a Band-aid or I’d hear “they’ll grow out of it,” when people talked about a boy at camp who missed his parents.
Crying simply means one has the ability to understand and process pain and joy in a way that is comforting to them. Not all men process these emotions this way, nor do all women. But those who do, do so because it is what their bodies recommend to them.
As a dad to daughters, I want my girls to know that crying isn’t something a boy “grows out of,” because it is just who they are. It isn’t something that is unnatural, or un-manly or something to try and avoid in men.
Some men cry, some men don’t cry. Some men would love to cry but feel they can’t. Crying doesn’t belong to any one gender.
Show me Toy Story 3 again and I’ll prove it.