Ramblings about being a man and some fatherly advice.
Like most people in the world today, I have noticed that things are very different from when I grew up. And honestly, I just don’t understand some of it at all. I was the oldest and therefore I was raised from the very start that I would eventually grow up to be a man. And I’m not even getting into the gender portion of that statement because it just wasn’t even a question back then. In my family, having a little brother meant that I was responsible for everything that he did as well as myself. Because my number one job was to protect him. So, when he stole candy from the store and got caught, he had to return it and apologize through his sobs, and I got the belt. And in the fourth grade when he and his buddies accidentally caught an abandoned house on fire. We had to sit in the car and watch the firefighters try to keep it from burning down completely so he could learn that his actions had consequences. And then I got grounded and the belt. Seriously, I wasn’t even with him that day! I don’t know if that was the best way to learn, but it did work. No matter how much we fought or disagreed, I always had his back when it mattered. And as I got older, I learned that my responsibilities also included protecting & providing whatever I could for the rest of my family and anyone else that I saw in need. I watched how my dad loaned people things, let people stay with us and always stopped to give people rides or help when they broke down on the side of the road. It happened so often that we still joke that we never saw the ocean on any of our day trips there growing up. I didn’t realize at the time that I was learning anything. I just thought we were being punished and he never intended for us to have anything, most of all, fun.
Now I look back and see that my dad taught with his actions instead of his words. And I have also come to find out that some lessons were unintentional. One of those lessons was that men don’t cry. Although I do have to confess that I have come to discover that there is nothing wrong with emotion and the older you get, the less choice you have. Good luck keeping your emotions in check when your kids make you proud or even worse, when you’re spending time with the grandkids. He showed me the importance of a solid handshake and how to be a good listener. But I think the most important lessons I have learned from him were about responsibility. A job isn’t meant to be your happy place. It is awesome if you are lucky enough to have a job you enjoy. But you are there to provide for your family, so you do what needs to be done regardless of how you feel. And everything you do is a direct reflection of you as an individual. When people see your work or the work that you have done, they assume that that is how you are as a person. So, everything worth doing is worth doing badly. He also taught me that manners are another reflection of you as a person. So, you treat women with respect and never lay a hand on them, don’t wear a hat at the dinner table, say please and thank you, hold the door, walk on the street side, and unless you want to get poked in the elbow with a fork, keep your damn elbows off the table at dinner.
In high school I started becoming more social. House and bonfire parties were the place to be. I wanted to be cool and far as I could tell, the coolest guys were the older, quiet guys at the parties who just watched all the drunken craziness. They helped calm down the crazy, broke up the fights and kept the girls from doing things they might regret in front of everyone at the party. They stood their ground when the cops showed up and they always seemed to be in complete control of every situation. They drove the best cars, came up with the best nicknames and always seemed to get the girls. So yeah, I aspired to be one of those guys. I learned the hard way that being the cool guy doesn’t protect you from making horrible decisions or occasionally making an ass of yourself. But I tried my best regardless. What I did figure out was that it all came back to simply being a man. You try to keep your emotions in check, include everyone, don’t be a bully, protect those who can’t protect themselves and do your best to look good while you’re doing it. Overall, I’d like to think I did a pretty good job back then.
Apparently today there is something wrong with acting too much like a man. I hear that it means you have insecurities, your sexist, misogynist, have an old school mentality, or just plain toxic. I’m sure that some guys do take it too far and can be considered some of those things. But they are the exception. And I think people should realize that. I for one refuse to change. Or maybe I’m just too old to change. And, as I think most people do, I judge others by the standards I was raised with. My first impression is impacted heavily by your handshake, what you do for work, how do you treat others, how are your manners, what kind of relationship do you have with your family and how is your body language when you talk to me. I was giving my daughter a hard time because her boyfriend is shy and doesn’t talk very much. She told me that he is intimidated by me because I’m big, look angry and drink straight whiskey for lunch. I don’t see how that is intimidating but it doesn’t matter because I see what’s important either way. He didn’t limp wrist his handshake. He has a good job and a place of his own. He spends lots of time helping his parents. He has things that he is passionate about and most importantly, he makes my daughter happy. Don’t get me wrong. Just because a guy meets all the characteristics doesn’t mean that he won’t have flaws or even huge red flags. But it is a good start. You just have to remember that just because someone else steps in doesn’t mean your job is over.
I guess that sometimes even I go a bit overboard. I don’t know if it’s toxic masculinity. But what can I say, I like guy stuff. I love the mountains, trucks, fire, chainsaws, guns, knives, tools, Poker, hunting, fishing, blowing things up, smoking cigars, whiskey, and a bunch of other things, most of which aren’t really good for me. I’ve been known to joke and call people out when they aren’t living up to the standards. I am a little too honest at times. I’m not the most compassionate person. And most of the time when asking how things are going, I really don’t care. The answer is, “Fine”. But I try to always be courteous, well mannered, polite, accepting, and an overall good person. I do my best to ensure that everyone around me is provided for and feels safe. I’m confident that I do a good job providing those things for my family. Not so sure I always succeed with everyone else. But my point is that those are the key values of being a man.
Family and friends know that I wasn’t always the best version of myself. I spent a good chunk of my life literally being the guy that your parents warn you about. I was a horrible friend, made really bad decisions and learned every lesson the hard way. But that life helped shape me into the man I am today. I learned to appreciate the lessons I learned when I was younger. And, because they know that I learned from experience, I think they listen to my advice a little more. I know they listen better than I did. I think that every parent’s goal for their kids is that they simply do better and have it easier than they did growing up. So, I try to pass on the lessons I learned from my dad and from my past. I try and teach them about things I was never taught, like money and credit. I’m sure that all my kids would agree that they have heard me say, “You are who you hang out with” about a million times. But I believe that to be one of the truest things I have ever learned in my life. They have been taught to be independent but not too proud to ask for help. How to clean up their own mess and appreciate what they have. To do what they say they are going to. Have respect for themselves and others. How not to be afraid to take chances. And about a million other things, some of which I probably don’t even know that they learned from me. Needless to say, I am proud of the people they are becoming.
Obviously, I wasn’t joking about having less control of your emotions the older you get. I probably sound like a sappy old man. Oh well, I once read that nobody wants to hear your opinion unless you’re willing to be real and honest. Well, I’m good at that. I have to say, it makes me feel honored and good about myself when people ask my advice or opinion. Besides helping to raise my kids and their friends. I have had the opportunity to be interviewed by multiple publications and news outlets, be a regular guest on a podcast, assist thousands of customers, mentor other business managers/owners, and worked with tons of organizations helping them to raise money and support for their cause. It’s humbling to know that I have been able to impact so many folks. But I know that I couldn’t have accomplished any of that if not for the lessons I learned. That and the people I have chosen to surround myself with. After all, I’m nothing special. Just a man doing the best he can to set a good example.