Holy shit, this story of emotional damage is difficult to read:
At first I thought this was written by a single, Leftist mother.
Then I discovered it was written by a dad and I almost had a stroke.
After turning 2 years old, my son, Avishai, started demanding that he only wear tractor shirts, and my mind spiraled into darkness. I catastrophized worst-case scenarios, imagining a world where he fell for everything stereotypically manly. I envisioned him on a football field, barreling through mega-muscled opponents. Imagined him waxing a sports car on a warm summer day. I have always judged other guys who seemed boxed in by masculinity, but 3 ½ years ago, when I became a stay-at-home dad, my bias skyrocketed.
This boy likes tractors and his dad immediately became repulsed by the idea of his son being a happy boy, embracing the stuff that guys often like. Not even 2 years old and he doesn’t like who is son might be because the dad has misunderstanding of masculinity.
Minutes after his arrival, we took turns cuddling him against our bare chests. While the midwife and her assistant cleaned up, my wife, always one to joke, even soon after giving birth, bragged that she had a connection to our new baby that I could never attain because men couldn’t bond with babies like women could.
What an absolutely horrible thing for a mother to say to a father. This is truly atrocious.
Now we have a piece of the puzzle as to why this man is so broken. He is in an emotionally abusive marriage with a psychopathic wife.
Her comment stabbed into me, but I feared she was right. To me, femininity was connected to empathy and kindness while masculinity equated to being frigid. Men didn’t hug. Men didn’t say I love you. Men were angry. Aggressive. Inept as parents.
Fuck this guy sideways, this is absolutely wrong.
Every day I fed Avishai and cuddled him and soothed him. We co-slept, and he snoozed with his head resting on my chest, listening to the rhythm of my heartbeat.
I did the same thing. When my son was a baby, I had nap magic. I’d swaddle him in a blanket, lie down on the couch, put him on my chest, and we’d nap together. Worked every time.
The difference is that I never felt like my masculinity was diminished doing this or that I was boxed out by my masculinity to snuggle my son.
I held resentment that so much of society acted as if dads couldn’t care for their kids (therefore putting pressure on women for the brunt of the caregiving) — but I too looked at dads that way. I shuddered at jokes about men being incapable of figuring out how to work a diaper, yet I felt most couldn’t.
I hate this too. I hate the pop culture “dad is an idiot” trend from TV shows and advertising. Again, the difference is that I didn’t let it break me. I didn’t let it make me hate my masculinity or other fathers. It made me hate the people that pushed that bullshit.
What I discovered is that a lot of came from a toxic form of femininity, single mothers who felt the need to denigrate men as a way of justifying not having a husband. “Dads can’t take care if kids the way women can so it’ll be fine not having a father around for my baby.”
I became even more of an avid stereotyper: I grimaced at anyone driving a Ford car, the John Wayne of automobiles. I hated men who wore plaid. Felt ill if someone mentioned a wrench or another tool. When my mom-in-law bought Avishai a coverall with footballs on it, I shoved it into the depths of his closet, never to be found.
This man is broken. Absolutely broken.
I have two pickup trucks, a sportscar, two safes full of guns, five chainsaws, almost a dozen axes, a shop full of tools. My diaper bag was a converted range bag.
I snuggle my children. I am champion kid breakfast maker (French toast is my specialty). I changed diapers. I am the preferred hair brusher for my daughter, and I’ve painter her finger nails on more than one occasion. I set up an archery range in the back yard for my son.
At no point is a owning a truck or tools antithetical to being a loving father.
In fact, I’d say they go more hand-in-hand than not.
It wasn’t as if I’d grown up with a negative example of fatherhood. My dad was an interior decorator, working 60 hours a week at the family business: Deitcher’s Wallpaper and Design Center. Outwardly, my father filled the role of man of the house, but inside, my mom made most of the family decisions. My father was never afraid to blur boundaries. I was hugged frequently and told I love you. He, too, despised sports, but loved watching Hallmark movies with my mom.
This neurosis gets weirder all the time.
My gut reaction was that either this guy was raised by a single mom or an abusive dad. No son to a decent father would feel this way.
Maybe the problem is that his dad was so unmasculine that he decided that masculinity traits were the problem.
I’m not versed enough in psychotherapy to break this down.
In many ways, I am an extension of my father, further pushing what is acceptable for men. Once my son could walk, I paraded him through the park while he rolled his baby doll down the sidewalk in its stroller. I felt accomplished because he mirrored being a caretaker.
Now it’s starting to get weird.
There is a difference between a dad pushing his progeny in a stroller and a little boy with a baby doll.
But then came the tractors. It started with YouTube. On days I was especially drained, I’d sit Avishai in front of the TV and click on “Little Baby Bum.” He fell in love with the tractor songs, and I was so worn, I didn’t care. When he asked to watch clips of construction equipment, I mindlessly pressed play. But when he demanded the shirts, I felt like I failed him. I pride myself on blurring gender lines. I wanted him to, also.
I had to make a choice: buy him clothes with pictures of heavy machinery on them and make the kid happy, or force him to wear shirts emblazoned with fuzzy animals to appease me.
This is abuse. The dad has his own neurotic issues with gender roles but is forcing them on his son, to the point where he’s coercing his child to wear non gender conforming to make dad happy.
There is a word in the lexicon for this: grooming.
I took on being an at-home father because I wanted to bond with my son, and I realized that meant I needed to let him discover his own interests. He had to define his own identity, not influenced by my own bias of what I deemed to be too masculine.
This is grotesque.
Who uses tractors? Farmers.
What do farmers do? Work hard and feed the world.
Farmers are skilled, knowledge, caretakers of the earth, generally good neighbors, and fiercely self reliant.
That is the zenith of good masculinity, working hard to feed civilization.
But dad has a problem with that as “boxed in by masculinity.”
Dad doesn’t understand what good masculinity it and rejects all of it in perverse gender confusion.
Dad seems to have come around a little bit but is still clearly broken, not understanding actual masculinity.
His wife is also clearly broken.
I just hope to God for the boy’s sake, the boy doesn’t end up broken too.