The process of becoming a parent makes you learn a lot of things.
But one of the most subjects you encounter is masculinity.
Impending fatherhood has a way of bringing you face to face with what you, as an upcoming dad, believe about being a man.
That’s because manhood and dadhood are tied together. Being a good dad is manly.
But does being manly make you a good dad?
The short answer is no.
The definition of manhood is fragmented, messy, and open to the subjectivity of everyone — including those who drag its name through the mud.
That’s all besides the fact that for hundreds of years, being a “man” more meant being an “asshole” than anything else.
You’re ready for a fight. You leave child-rearin’ to the misses. You work to earn a paycheck and… that’s pretty much it until you die, really.
So what’s a man — and what is masculinity — in an era where there’s no societal understanding of it anymore?
I actually don’t know. I have a feeling it’s tied heavily to being a good person in general.
I’m also somewhat inspired by Steven Moffat, who once wrote, “Demons flee the battlefield when good men go to war.”
But here’s what I’ve learned.
#1. Masculinity Requires Patience
Patience could be considered an endangered resource in today’s world of people reacting to each other like their entire lives take place on Twitter.
Patience is your ability to hold up for one freaking second and wait for something to happen, even when it inconveniences your day.
The opposite of patience is rage. It’s the emotional sting of not getting something you want, the entitlement to think that you deserved it, and the poor self control to act violently.
(More on violence later.)
Rage is, for the most part, the way people communicate when they don’t know how to express what they’re feeling or thinking.
Instead of confronting an uncomfortable situation, it’s just easier to thrash and threaten the situation away.
It’s a common defense tactic, especially in dysfunctional romances and familial ties.
So why is patience required as a part of masculinity?
Patience connotes that you possess an element of security in the person who you’ve chosen to become.
We’re all flawed — some more than others, obviously — but flaws aren’t necessarily something to fear.
We relate to each other because of flaws. We bond with one another because of flaws.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t work on them. The path to self-improvement is one of the longest and most challenging roads to walk as a human being.
But your personality flaws aren’t poison. The only way flaws become problematic is when someone chooses to wield them like weapons, lashing out at people verbally (or physically) because of some deep-seeded and haphazard belief that they happened to be wearing on their sleeve that day.
And as a result, they require a certain degree of patience to handle.
The alternative is letting your flaws bother you. It’s letting your flaws own your personality to the point where their mention can turn a good day into a terrible evening.
It’s getting siderailed in your life, losing vision of your goals, and allowing off-handed comments to control who you are and what you do.
Patience is the ability to shrug, say “that was weird,” and move on with your life.
Patience is both a choice and a skill.
And if you’re going to have kids, you might as well get some practice early.
#2. Masculinity Requires Gentleness
This isn’t just because babies are small, pressure-sensitive, and chinchilla-levels of soft.
In addition to being one of the Gents’s values, gentleness is a part of masculinity because it’s part of common sense in general.
Mostly, it’s because gentleness demands that you exhaust every other option before you resort to violence.
But gentleness is more than just how you should handle one of those tiny baby birds from Aladdin.
Gentleness means understanding that speaking softer can sometimes mean you’re heard more easily than shouting.
It means recognizing that everyone around you — including your own family members — is the culmination of their own personal history, much of which you don’t know.
It means placing yourself in someone else’s shoes, feeling what happens as a consequence of your actions, and making a change in your behavior for the future.
Gentleness encompasses restraint, self-control, and the ability to not let your work day ruin your evening with your family.
Gentleness means calm — even when a storm is on the horizon.
And anyone who leaps out of that calm had better have a good reason.
(Or a demon to chase.)
#3. Masculinity Requires an Epiphany
The greatest epiphany you could ever have is that you’re not as important as you think you are.
And that epiphany goes like this:
“Y’know, my shit’s not really that important.”Responsible Dads Everywhere
That doesn’t mean you should throw your life away or resent others who are equally unimportant.
It just means there are better things to do in life than get upset about things other people do, especially when they don’t impact your daily life.
So pick and choose what you like and hate.
And if you haven’t had the epiphany yet, you will someday.
If we all do, we’ll all be better people for it.
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