Stop Shaming Boys Into Showing No Emotion

I’m so tired of it. I’m so tired of the constant “Be a man!” “You’re fine, stop being a baby!” “Boys don’t cry!” crap you hear all. the. time when you are the parent of a son.

This Facebook post by Jaime Primak Sullivan is currently going viral:

“Last Saturday my 8 year old son Max was playing in his school basketball game. Somewhere is the shuffle he was hit in the face with the ball. I saw it happen like it was slow motion. I saw his eyes widen and then squint from the pain – he looked around trying to focus. I knew he was looking for me. “Max got hit in the face”, I said to my husband as I instinctively jumped up from the bleachers. In that moment, I saw Max start to run around the court in my direction as the silent cry began. He couldn’t catch his breath. My feet couldn’t move fast enough. As soon as we connected, I got down on one knee. “Catch your breath buddy.” He tilted his head back. “Max, breath. It’s okay.” He finally took a breath, and I wrapped my arms around him as he cried into my shoulder. A voice came from behind me – “You need to stop babying that kid.” My mind registered the sentiment, but I kept my focus on Max. I cleaned his face, and wiped his tears. Once I knew he was okay, i sent him back around the court to join his team on the bench.
I climbed back up on the bleachers. My hands shaking. i was so angry. I fussed about it all the way home. My husband blew it off. “Who cares what they think?”
This notion that boys can never hurt, that they can never feel, is so damaging to them long term. The belief that any signs or gestures of affection will somehow decrease their manhood – this pressure to always “man up” follows them into adulthood where they struggle to fully experience the broad scope of love and affection. The only emotion they healthily learn to express is happiness then we wonder why they are always chasing it.
They’re taught that sadness is weakness, that talking about their fears or short comings makes them less than. They don’t mourn properly. The struggle to grieve. They’re afraid to cry. It all spills into the way they husband and father and I hate it.
Love is a verb. It is something you do. It is not the same as babying, coddling or spoiling. It is something my son deserves. I will always love him when he is hurting and my prayer for him is that he is alway open to receiving love so he can love in return and keep that cycle going.”

This really resonated with me and many others because we’re tired of the constant barrage of, “Be a man.” I have a four year old son who cries. He cries when he accidentally hurts anyone, and he apologizes repeatedly. When I am upset with him, he’ll cry and then go and draw me a picture filled with hearts. When big kids come near him at the playground, he runs away, preferring to play in quieter places with one person at a time. This is part of who he is. He is incredibly vocal about his emotions, detailing to me what has upset him, what he thinks about. Last night he came to me before bed because he remembered a picture of Dr Seuss’ The Grinch at the doctor’s office in the morning, and he was still thinking about it. It scared him.

Somehow at age 1 or 2 it was “cute” and now we keep hearing people telling him, “You’re a big boy, big boys don’t cry.”

Stop. Please, just stop.

Yes, he’s sensitive, or emotional, or introverted, or whatever you want to call it. We have no idea how to parent him, but I do know one thing: I’m not going to tell him to suck it up.

Do you know why we end up with so many angry males? Men who have absolutely no idea how to talk about their feelings, who bottle it up and then end up in a fit of rage? Suicidal, even?

Because no-one ever allowed them to express their feelings. No-one allowed them to ask for help. Their hurt, what makes them sad, how they truly feel about a situation, all of it had to be guarded. Because they are made to bottle it up, and be a “man.”

Are men not human, then? Are they not allowed to feel sad or cry? Do we respect someone more because they brushed it off and kept going? Great for them, but it’s not for everyone. And eventually, the person forced to suck it up will break. Did you know that the rate of suicide in America is 3.5 times higher for men than for women?

If you haven’t seen the excellent documentary The Mask You Live In on Netflix, you need to. It’s about how society is failing our boys.

Because that’s exactly what we’re doing if we keep going like this.

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Ladan Rashidi, Managing Editor. Ladan is a British mother of three, who moved to California in 2008 to live with her husband. Born and raised in London, she has the very British sarcastic sense of humor. None of her previous workplaces prepared her for becoming a mother and having the three most demanding bosses in the world, but also the cutest.

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