Understanding Men – Starting with My Father
Yes, they are human, but still very different from women in how they think, relate and communicate. A good thing to remember, especially on Father’s Day.
Father’s Day is coming up, and even though fathers are something we all have and usually love, for most of us they remain a bit of an enigma. It’s good we celebrate them, but it’s good to understand them too, which isn’t always so easy.
I was angry with my dad for most of my youth, despite being completely enamored of him when I was a little girl. With the onset of teenage hormones and an “I’m so much smarter than you” attitude, the days of twirling in front of him to engage his attention shifted to silent sulk when he moved out of the house, unable to tolerate the contentious relationship he had with my mother. I blamed him for not having the stamina to stay there for me, in spite of the heat he felt from her.
I would see him on Sundays and holidays, and grew up expecting things from him that simply don’t come as standard features on a man who grew up on an Iowa farm with cats and dogs for friends. When he was 25, he left the cornfields behind and drove to Denver in an old Ford he’d rebuilt from an abandoned jalopy, hoping to strike it rich mining uranium in the Colorado Rockies. He never found uranium, but his ambition to succeed was tough competition for my sister and me.
Raised mostly by my mom, I grew up expecting him to be like her — someone who could share emotions, talk about feelings and endlessly discuss abstract concepts like “why this relationship isn’t working.” To further confuse my understanding, my mother, who was angry at my father for not being able to do those things, made sure that I got a daily dose of her wrath for the man who didn’t live up to her expectations.
It wasn’t until I was well into my 30s that I finally figured out that men and women are fundamentally different, far beyond their physical aspects. Instead of expecting men to be like females in male bodies, I learned to appreciate them and accept them for their basic desire to protect and provide. That understanding is something my dad never got from my mom. He was always falling short in her eyes, and instead of building him up so he would be inspired to be more of a man, she tore him down, creating a descending spiral of ever growing discontent and discouragement.
When I finally got clear on all of this, thanks to some great life teachers, I was able to let go of my old ideas of what my dad and other men are “supposed” to be like. I could stop trying to fix what I thought was my damaged daddy-daughter relationship. I could finally see my father through my own eyes, not my mother’s, and in the process, I understood that although he’s not perfect, he always was and still is an honorable man.
No longer expecting men to be like my female friends, I can see how they express their nobility and love by doing things like fixing the broken dishwasher or investigating the noise in the attic that sounds like claws on wood. When I learned to accept these acts as displays of caring and affection, it freed me to see all of the men in my life as heroes in search of a cause – and I stopped standing in the way of letting them become exactly that.
(To learn about how my relationship with my dad came full circle, please see “Eden for My Father’s Eyes.” Happy Father’s Day!)
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