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I’m not sure anyone would ever describe me as exceptionally manly in the traditional sense. After all, I’m not as swift as a coursing river. I don’t have all the force of a great typhoon. I lack the strength of a raging fire, and given how open I am on twitter, I’m not nearly as mysterious as the dark side of the moon.
Luckily for me, I don’t believe in traditional gender roles. I’d like to think that it’s because I am a mature and evolved male, but it’s mostly because I am terrible at most of the things that I’m supposed to be naturally talented at given my Y chromosome.
When it comes to home maintenance, I’m probably closer to Bob Barker than I am to Bob Vila. Anything more advanced than hammering a nail into a board or tightening a loose screw causes me a measurable level of anxiety. The yard? Forget it. I’ve killed more lawn mowers in the last decade than most people will ever own in their lifetime. I’m even worse with cars. I am a crooked mechanic’s dream. I’m fairly certain that I have paid multiple times to have my Honda’s flux capacitor tuned up, and I’m not even sure it was ever actually broken.
It’s not that my father didn’t make an attempt to teach me. I half-heartedly participated in a number of home improvement projects with my father as a kid. I built many a birdhouse and underperforming pinewood derby race car, and once in wood shop, I even made a lamp that never actually functioned. When I learned to drive, my dad taught me how to change a tire, and I can confidently replace the windshield washer fluid. That’s about where my talents stop.
Now, I have two sons. There is an expectation, as their father, to pass on my knowledge of the “manly arts.” The problem for me is what I have to pass on regarding those particular topics would have a hard time filling a pamphlet instead of the encyclopedia I am be expected to fill. I like to think that as traditional gender roles become a thing of the past, that this sort of thing won’t bother me, but from time to time, it does. I can’t imagine that I’m alone in feeling this way.
It’s not always easy to remember that these are not the things that define us as men and by extension, define us as fathers. It’s less important for our children that we work to solidify our identities as the traditional societal constructs of manhood and much more important to focus on the strengths that define us as a good person. Those are the traits that are most vital to pass on.
Did we teach our children to be kind? Did we teach our children to be respectful? Did we teach our children to strive to do good? Did we teach our children to believe in themselves? Did we give our children a moral compass worth following? These are the boxes we need to be concerned about checking off when we look at our parenting performance review.
As far as the practical things go, we all bring different things to the table. My wife is a teacher and considerably more intelligent than I’ll ever be, so when it comes to helping my kids with their school work, I’ll probably defer to her. When it comes to cooking? I have a passion for it. That’s my time to shine. I’m an accomplished martial artist; one day I’ll teach my children how to defend themselves and others. My wife has more musical talent in her little toe than I have in my entire body. Should my children ever develop a passion for music, she’ll be there for them. My career involves a level of interpersonal communication that she isn’t always comfortable with. Hopefully, I can show my children that often charisma is the key to opportunity.
I hope that my children’s grandparents will pass their knowledge and experience on to them. I hope that my father will teach them how to fish. I hope my father-in-law will teach them how to fix things. I hope my mother shares her love of Disney movies and teaches them how to bake, and my mother-in-law teaches them how to play cards and use their imagination. I hope that we surround them with the kind of people who help fill in the gaps that our collective knowledge fails to cover.
Most importantly, I hope that when they find their own passions, we have given them the confidence to pursue them.
For everything else… there’s Google.
This article was brought to you by Snarklets, Bracelets & Gifts Hand Stamped with Mantras for Real Life.
Dale was born in Pittsburgh, PA but currently lives outside of Reading, PA. He graduated with a BA in photojournalism from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA in 2007. He has worked as a Marketing Brand Representative in the optical industry for five years. Dale lives in a quiet suburb with his beautiful wife and twin three-year-old boys. He enjoys Pittsburgh sports, comic books and bad action movies from the 80’s and 90’s. Dale also runs a comedic twitter account under the handle @TwinzerDad.