I consider myself a guy’s guy. I can waste an entire afternoon watching football. I have been known to sit through four hours of SportCenter reruns. I don’t own a comb. If a movie stars Sylvester Stallone, I am sure to have seen it (yes even Rhinestone). I own and wear tee shirts older than my kids. I’m more likely to remember the punchline to a dirty joke before I remember someone’s birthday. And I was never someone who cried a whole lot.
It was not as though I lacked sentimentality or feeling either. I was just someone who really never felt the urge to cry at most things. I can remember standing in the stairwell from our kitchen to the basement trying to force myself to cry after finding out my grandfather had died. I didn’t know why I wasn’t crying like my sister or my mom? And as I got older, I found less of a need to cry.
(as an aside, I did my fair share of crying as a very young kid. Skinned knees, trying to get my sister in trouble, tantrums, could all trigger a good cry from me at an early age)
I attribute a lot of this to my dad. Why him? I once saw my dad take the top part of his finger off with a sledgehammer and not flinch. I saw him have to push his nose up towards his head to stop it from squirting blood after he broke it. He killed bees with his bare hands. He used duct tape as a bandaid (and to be fair, my mom cried at Kleenex commercials).
If my dad didn’t cry after all of that, then why would I? In fact, if my dad did ever cry, I don’t remember it. It was not as if my father was without emotion. In fact, just the opposite was true. My father was a man of huge emotion. I just can not think back to a time when I remember seeing him cry. So I suppose I took my cue from my father and very quickly I fell in to the trappings of “real men don’t cry” (even though I never once heard him say those words). I thought if girls were made from sugar and spice and all things nice, then boys were made from their injury prone, bee killing, duct tape first aid kit dads.
As I got older and joined larger broods of guys, I found even less of a need to express any emotion at all, much less tearful emotion. Excluding a handful of times in college when copious amounts of alcohol were involved and I was trying to express how much I loved my roommates, I never shed a tear.
When I got married, it was to a woman with the same proclivity for cyring as my mother. My wife sobbed at our wedding. She cries reading Mother’s Day cards and at the change of tone in someone’s voice. She cries at songs on the radio. Any given movie, by the end, I could ask Alicia, “Are you crying” and her answer would be yes. I could probably get her to cry right now.
Yet, despite the water authority housed in my wife’s tear ducts, I still never found the need to cry.
Then we had kids.
Eight years ago, when I held my daughter in my arms only minutes after she had been born, my eyes filled with tears. She changed me instantly.
Now movies, the news, Dateline, newspaper stories, Extreme Home Makeover, songs, the right words on a card, all have the potential to have me wiping at damp eyes. I get choked up when my kids tell each other “I love you”. I cried over a SportCenter story involving a dying boy and the Notre Dame Football program.
And why? Am I not still a guy’s guy?
Stallone, Wes Craven, and Clint Eastwood movies are still on my NetFlix requests. I like explosions, ninjas, football, and movies chocked full of CGI.
Then my brain reminds me I am no longer a guy’s guy. I am my girls’ guy.
My kids, since the day each was born, have changed and defined me in a thousand different ways. I’m the field surgeion for their ripped stuffed animals. I am their faux beauty school model. I am the exterminator of ghosts and ghouls living in their closets. I am their daddy. That word alone, “daddy”, is enough to get me shaking my head clear of tears.
I was apart (albeit a minor part according to my wife) of creating them. They are living, breathing extensions of my wife and I. Is it any wonder these two little girls, for whom words can not express just how much they mean to my life, have been able to bring my percolating emotions to the surface?
Having kids does something to you (besides prematurely age you). They somehow are able to unlock pieces of you no other person, place, or thing could ever unlock. You begin to see things differently. It’s like I had an epiphany. Sure it was an epiphany that kept me up all night long, made me irritable, and has me worrying incessantly, but it is also an epiphany that opened my eyes to the fact that there is more to life than trying to live up to prehistoric ideals.
I’m way past trying to act “tough”. I stopped subscribing to the antiquated machismo of “real men don’t cry” eight years ago. I have no need to gain points with my wife (after 10 years of marriage, if she hasn’t left yet, she’s never leaving). I have come to grips with how I express my emotions. I am ready for the mocking. I have made peace with knowing if I will be watching Hoosiers or reading a card from my mom telling me how proud my dad would be of me, I had better have some tissues (or at least be ready to turn my head away). I can take it. Besides, even Rambo cried at the end of First Blood. Granted the grizzled Vietnam vet did so after he wasted a town full of cops, but he cried friends.
So that’s me. A regular guy who is a daddy. Who wears jeans and old tee shirts, enjoys NASCAR solely for the crashes, spends way too much time organizing my fantasy football team, scratches myself in inappropriate places, who loves a good cheeseburger, and who sometimes exhibits the same bursting of emotion as a woman in her 2nd trimester.
I still have duct tape in the house in case I get cut and I have killed a bee or two with my bare hands. I have no plans to pop Steel Magnolias in to the DVD player any time soon and I’m sure to have red meat at least 4 times this week. If crying every once in a while over something I deem sentimental is because of the effect my kids have over me, I’m just fine with that. Of all the things they have given and will eventually give to me, crying a little more than I used to is by far the easiest to bear. If I am laughed at by my peers, then I guess I’m laughed at by my peers. So be it.
The only thing that is still taking some getting used to is now while we are watching something, instead of me asking my wife, she is asking me, “Are you crying” (…yeah, probably).
- Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country (and bald...and cranky...and out of shape...in the service of being a parent) - George Washington
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