- Men are called to be emotionally involved.

Yesterday was the first day back for one of my sons to school. He did not want to get out of bed at 7.15 am to prepare for school. Part of me wanted to get angry with for not doing what I wanted and thus force him to get moving. Part of me thought “this is not the best way to start the year with anger”. Next to his bed where he still lay I started doing a whole series of sit ups, push ups and leg crunches. Hoping that this energy would motivate him to start moving. This did not work. As he is smaller than I, I grabbed him like a puppet and walked him to in front of the mirror of the bathroom. I started to sing a song which I made up on the spot “Let’s get going and start the day. It’s time to go to school and start the day”. At the same time, I started dancing with him. Moving his arms up and down and outwards. Despite him feeling tired and not wanting to move. It was a silly song, but soon the negative emotions started to melt away. Humour. Suddenly giggles and laughter appeared. Within about 3 to 4 minutes of singing and dancing my son was ready to get ready for school. There was something about the human contact and humour I had with him which changed everything.

Later that night after school things took a nosedive. After a full day of school, my son was upset as he had been put into classes he did not like. He began crying. Making statements like “his teachers are strict” and “I have no friends in my class”. I listened from a distance as my wife consoled him. She spoke to him for over half an hour. I lay on a distant couch just listening. His crying, his anger. These difficult emotionally upset me. I did not want to be involved in the complexity of what he was going through. I then went up to my son and my wife to wish them good night. So my wife said “so…..are you going to contribute to this conversation?” I knew she was right. I sat down next to them not knowing what to say or what to do.

As my son continued to cry, I started talking about my own experience of being in year 7 and year 8. About how I had a hard time. About how at times largely I was not accepted by my peer group. About how sometimes I was punched in the playground. About how sometimes I was attacked verbally again and again. This is bullying. Repeated and targeted attacks. I was small. I could not fight back in an all-boys school. As I spoke my son started to listen to me. He began to smile and laugh. As though my suffering drew a connection to his own experience. I said to him I felt my time in year 7 and year 8 was worse than at other times in school because I was sometimes bashed in school in the playground. My son continued to listen to my story.

Soon, I moved the conversation to one of reflection. I said to him that despite the difficulties, challenges and problems my son was experiencing, he will get through this. That sometimes life is shitty. I questioned “without shit how can you make flowers?” I said to him that he had a choice. To either run away from the situation. But, if you run away, realise it is like a wound, and that it will fester and only get worse.

I said to my son that you need to adapt and change. Our world is changing. As we grow, people change. During school you need to learn to adapt and change so that when you leave school you are more prepared to face the changing problems and difficulties which life presents. Often, what happens on the inside connects to what happens on the outside.

Finally, I said to my son, “realise in your new class there will be other students who are facing similar problems too. You are not alone even though you might feel alone. When you are going through these difficulties they make you feel alone and they might hurt us. Even though you may not feel it, your teachers care about you. Your real friends care about you. Your family (hopefully) care about you. God cares about you. Your difficulties and problems you face are opportunities for connection. Of making new friends. Of realising others are feeling what you are feeling”.

As I went to bed my wife said, “I could not do this alone”. She was right. I realised that men need to be more emotionally involved.

Days later, reflecting on this situation, I believe that our wounds are not just wounds. Our hurts. Our anger. Our hatred. Our brokenness. Our wounds are doorways to the greatest growth. They are opportunities of great transformation. Like Jesus Christ on the cross. We to can become more aware of what our emotions are not just threats, but, pathways of coming closer to each other. Maybe we need forgiveness. Maybe we need to listen. Maybe we need to not judge. Sometimes, we need other people strength to get us through. Sometimes we need to call upon God’s spirit and maybe mentors to give us wisdom when all seems lost. But as a man, I need to learn to become emotionally involved early and not to wait for a crisis to appear.

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05 February 2023

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