Positive Masculinity Contributor - Anonymous Brand Marketing Team Member
I was raised by a father who was the youngest of five boys. He and his brothers were raised by my grandfather after my grandmother passed from early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Sadly, they were raised with outdated gender ideals and my grandfather instilled many toxic masculine teachings in raising him and his four brothers. I only knew my grandfather for a short time, he ended up passing away when I was very young; however, I do know that my father struggled with his relationship with his father greatly. It was something that my grandfather tried to reconcile in his final days, but I think it was a bit too late at that point, and the damage had been done.
When my grandmother passed in her 40s, my father went on to join the military. After doing so, my grandfather disowned my father and wanted nothing to do with him. On top of the emotional pain and abandonment by his surviving parent, the U.S. Army only hardened my father’s shell further and encouraged the idea that men cannot show emotion as it is a sign of weakness. My father is proud to be a veteran and attributes much of his success to his time in the Army. I have great respect for those who have put their lives on the line to support our country, but I do feel that the things a soldier goes through can often be too much for a person to handle.
When my grandfather was ill, my mother and father took care of him, and we spent a lot of time with him in his final year or so. My grandfather's funeral was the first time I ever saw my dad cry. He hid it behind his sunglasses, but as a small girl – looking up at my dad – I could see the tears rolling down his cheeks. My mother tried to comfort him, and he pushed her away so there was no attention drawn to him in what I can only imagine was a “weak” moment in his mind. I didn’t see my dad cry again until my wedding day when I was 26 years old. He still hid his emotions behind his sunglasses and tried to distract the rest of our friends and family from his emotional moments.
My father raised me the only way he knew how, the way he was brought up combined with teachings that he learned in the U.S Army. They weren’t all bad – I learned to do my laundry at seven years old, I always made my bed in the mornings, and I kept my bedroom tidy. I think I have always been very independent and I thank him for giving me the tools I need to be that way, even if most of the time I did these things out of fear of the repercussions. On the flip side, there are many things that I remember about growing up that were not as positive. I remember when I would get upset as a child and he would tell me that I was not allowed to cry, that I had to be “tough”. This lesson is something that stunted my emotional growth into my teens and is a root cause of the many mental health challenges that I have faced in my life, some that I am still working through to this day.
I know my dad loves me, I know he isn’t a bad person, but we have struggled with our relationship for many years. I am a highly sensitive and emotional person, so it hasn’t always been easy trying to navigate our relationship and it took many years for me to accept him for who he is and not take the things he says or does personally. I hope that by learning more through my work with Positive Masculinity, I will be able to help him heal these deeply rooted issues in himself. I love my dad dearly, and I fear that his physical and mental health is at risk after decades of bottling things inside. I believe that having me for a child has taught him to be softer, but I hope that one day he will be able to look inward and truly heal all the internalized toxic masculinity in himself.