Thursday, August 06, 2009

Being A Man

A few days ago my friend Paul responded to a post:

I think one of the most appealing things about your blog posts here is that you are a man and not, well, a sissy. It is very encouraging to read your parenting stuff written in a way that is not emasculating. (And yes that matters.)

That felt good. As a preschool teacher I work in a field dominated by women and it’s of consequence to know that it hasn’t entirely feminized me. To be honest, I’m not even really sure what that means, and I have nothing but respect for femininity, but remaining masculine is important to me nonetheless.

There’s a lot of twisted machismo out there, I know, and I’m the first to admit that testosterone might be the most dangerous substance known to humankind, but I’m proud to be a man. I’m proud to be a man who works with children. I’m proud to be a man to talks about poop and pee and feelings and love.

Yesterday I posted a video about the love we have around us every day. My friend and co-op parent Lynn raised a valid criticism:

Sorry, but I just can't get behind this one. The idea, yes, but not the words. Why would we talk about love in the language of war and violence? Love is not a 'weapon,' it does not spread through 'bombs' and it does not need an 'army'!! It needs better words and a new language that frees us from these old paradigms of conflict. We deserve a more beautiful way to talk about and be with love...

She’s right, of course. I admire this video’s effort to evoke the supreme, urgent power of love, but it fell short in that regard. But it wasn’t the co-opting of militaristic words that jumped out at me. It was that harp sound track? Yeesh.

I think the video would have been more powerful with this more masculine soundtrack about the power of love (sorry about the quality, but I wanted a clip from when they were still young):

Not to deny its feminine side, but without the muscle of masculinity love can seem limp. It lacks dynamic force; its full-throated Roger Daltry scream. Love is nurturing and warm and cuddly for sure, and those are good things, but it can also knock you out. It kicks over the drum set, rips off its shirt, and makes you scream with mindless joy.

It’s the male aspects of love that make us laugh until it hurts, jump off of garage roofs, and play fools. It’s also the masculine side of love that causes us to join hands, to rise up, to overcome.

Moments after I got Paul’s message, I received an email from a colleague:

I have been reading articles on fathering and parenting, etc. Would love to hear your views on the various aspects and influences of being a hands-on dad.

Over the years, many parents have told me that they chose Woodland Park because I’m a man.

Hundreds of people have said, “We need more male teachers.”

I’ve never known what to say to any of this. I’m a preschool teacher because I really like doing it. But if I were to hazard any kind of comment on the “goodness” of being a male who works with young children, it would be that I’m a weight in the balance to counter the (real or perceived) preponderance of feminine love in children’s lives. What a great problem for our children to have.

Nearly all of the kids who have ever come through Woodland Park already have at least one strong, present male figure in their lives. Most have many. But I know that for a few hours in the day, I will be front and center in those children's lives, and in part I take it as a responsibility to be a good example as a man.

And I only hope that as the children pass by me, they don’t pass without knowing that I love them.

And now if you have a few more minutes, here’s another non-sissy rock n roll video:

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Ann S said...

Rock ON!

I appreciate the comments about the war language. That's an important observation, como no? It's war embedded in love. But, putting this message of change in the context of the male archetype speaking, powers it up. Then it's the male expression of the lovers of life and the Spirit, all around us. I think some also say it's the balancing of the feminine and masculine in us all - a kind of coming to peace and into communication.
Nevertheless I like the video a lot. The message impressed me and warmed my heart at its validation of the heart centered intention, grounding what we do and how we value.

Teacher Tom said...

Thanks Ann. You know, the whole time I was writing this I was looking for that word: archetype. It's missing in this piece. Thanks for getting in in there where it belongs!

BellaDaddy said...

Being a Stay At Home Dad of a toddler girl....I can so relate to missing that little thing called ME...Man...Machismo....but, to be alterations needed here...loving it!

PJ Mullen said...

Love definitely needs the driving force that was Keith Moon. Nice post, from a work at home dad who wouldn't have it any other way.

Teacher Tom said...

I spent the whole day yesterday listening to The Who. I even listened to their new album. I don't know why, but I've always considered them the most achetypical male bands ever. (Word use thanks to Ann!)

WeaselMomma said...

3 Cheers for Testosterone!

Unknown said...

I would be less than honest if I said I wasn't expecting a punch line at the end of the first love video, sorry if that seems disrespectful but the harp music definitely pointed me in that direction.
As to the Who, this is one of Kaye's upcoming shows so I have been listing to them a lot lately, in fact Kaye will be the lead singer for Love Reign O'er Me, I think she is the most "manly" singer they have :) Anyway I am learning to love the dichotomy of the 100% testosterone Daltry singing the constantly questioning Townshend's lyrics. And not to bore your regular audience but the song comes at the end of the album Quadrophenia, which describes a man with four personalities this song is the protagonist realizing that these deferent parts are all part of him and he must accept them, rain to ocean, and surely understanding an accepting oneself is the path to love and loving others.

Father of Four said...

Great post...I just found your blog and have worked in Early Childhood since 1995. It is truly not easy to be a male in the Early Childhood field I have experienced both encouraging words and discouraging words by both parents and other workers in the field. For many of the children in my classes there was no positive male influence in their lives, so to many parents that void had been filled by me being their child's teacher. Currently, I assess Early Childhood Programs, provide training, and mentor staff. It is amazing and I love the work that I do.