Earlier this week I had the absolute pleasure of partaking in a Think In at the Southbank Centre to help develop their Being a Man festival programme. It’s scheduled for a weekend early this November. I learnt so much, but the biggest thing that stood out is how most of our problems can be solved by talking about them, yet as men we’re absolutely crap at talking about our feelings.
I can’t emphasise how important it is to talk about our feelings.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. Bigger than crime, car crashes and cancer. That’s huge.
75% of all British suicides are men.
Men make up most of the criminals in every western society.
Professor Green, a UK rapper, who has had a very tough childhood is quite articulate on this point of communication when he opened the festival last year.
It exists, especially in single parent families. Mothers will try and keep a guard up because there’s no father figure. They are harder on a child because they think that is what a man would do. So then that child doesn’t understand sensitivity, has a lot of emotions but can’t communicate them even to his mother. What kind of problems is that going to cause?
Dads, men, this one’s on us.
We’ve got to be the role models that fix this because otherwise we’re dooming our boys to create the same mistakes, to face the same statistics, and ultimately experience those statistics. We’re dooming our daughters to live in a world alongside boys and men who are those statistics.
But that’s the bad, and as one guy at the Think In said, we need to focus on the good. So here’s some goodness that comes from being a man. Something great to bathe in, to revel in so you can go forth and make amazing memories with the little people you’re nurturing.
Word association game and bridging the gap between adult and child
I stumbled upon this great 3 minute video of males aged 5 – 50 saying what they associate with the word father. It’s thought provoking, inspiring and at times challenging.
It reminds me of Mallet’s Mallet (a feature on a kids TV show from way back when). If you have no idea of what I’m talking about, the link might help but probably not. It’s one of those weird memories that creates a connection between people who share it. And it’s also a memory that’s ruined if you watch it again now, because the reality of it today can’t ever compete with the memory from yesterday.
After all, we’re different people now. You can never step into the same river twice, as the stoic Heraclitus said. We’re different people physically, mentally and emotionally from our childhood selves.
I think about this quite a lot, about how I bridge the gap between adult and child. About overcoming all the learnt behaviour, expectations and social norms I have as an adult, to connect with them at their level. A level that’s much purer than mine because of the absence of life experience. I feel it most when I get a reluctant feeling when playing endless repetitive games with my youngest. Those are tough moments, and a lot of the time I bumble through it. But occasionally I remember that I’m laying down a memory. As a granddad I interviewed once said ‘there’s a last time for everything, a last time they will hold your hand, sit on your lap.’ I think about that A LOT.
They’re always changing, so are you. Time’s constantly passing. You can’t step into the same river twice.
Yet when you live with people they become familiar, you become comfortable with them. Sometimes you stop really trying to connect with them and instead fall into habits and routines. Yet we’re all constantly changing.
When I remember, one of my favourite set of questions to ask them every once in a while is:
What kind of dad am I?
What do you want me to do more of?
What do you want me to do less of?
Now I look at those questions written down, I think they actually help address the problem us men have of opening up. They’re making us vulnerable, they’re giving permission to talk about feelings before the world has given them the idea that men don’t talk about these things. I hope they help nurture it, and when they get older I’ll talk directly to the problem of males not talking. Because I don’t want my boys to be one of those statistics.
A few ways to make memories
Here’s a lot of different science experiments to do in the kitchen with your kids. Simple, messy and fun. Enjoy laying down some memories.