Why does grandpa allow the kids to do anything?
Maybe he has realized that he doesn’t want his kid to be scared of him.
I just woke up from a dream of my dad acting in the most tender ways and on one hand I think it is rooted in my wishing that he would act more tender but I think on the other hand it is from my experience of his tenderness with my son after all these years.
I think he -consciously or unconsciously- has been reflecting on his approach to parenting. I chalk it up to “some strange grandparent thing” where they just forget about all the rules when grandkids come along and I think it is deeper than that.
I want to explore more about this idea that our generations have experienced difficult phases where parents are feeling forced to be particular ways and unable to see how harmful those ways can be until much later - or until they see their kids act in those ways and they pivot and we get mad!
I see my dad allow my son to touch his face (absolutely never allowed!) or punch him randomly (are you serious?) or even pull his pants down in the living room (this has gotten out of hand) and I wonder what that’s about. I see that my son is not scared of my dad and I think that must be a nice way to experience my dad. I don’t think that my fear of my father is blatant or even has ever been discussed outside of therapy.or with intimate partners and friends but I do think that it has had negative consequences and in so many ways he may have noticed them and is acting in such a way to not do that with his grandchild. I also think many of us have this experience with our parents. In fact, I think my dad has had this experience with his dad - although we’ve never talked about it.
While I admire all of this potential in older men, I think it is really complicated and I’d like to think more about timing and new masculinities because I worry that we glorify and exoticize new masculinities in older men because we are so happy to finally not be scared of the men in our lives and so I yearn for the opportunity to stop being scared sooner and maybe even never having to experience that fear.
I ve thought a lot about fear and masculinity and it isn’t new knowledge that there are strong connections to power and dominance that make the experience of someone else’s fear validating to our masculinities so I’m wondering how to make it so that the absence of fear becomes validating to our masculinities as opposed to the prevalence of it.
I do think we need to be paused. I attempted to do that with this fathering section of my blog to push people to say, “hey, what is it that we are doing to our kids and look at how we could be doing this thing.” I think there are various visual storytelling projects that are working towards this, which excites me. I think we need fatherhood groups that are organic and not prescriptive but that get away from congratulating everyone for just being there. It will be important for fathers to work together to construct identities that aren’t fed through fear. Perhaps organizations (my next task if I can find a grant for it) can partner with hospitals to create fatherhood groups that do just this.
I’m curious and generative after this dream and hope more come along like this. I’m also thankful for my family for allowing me the space to do this work in such a public way. It takes a deep sense of humility and a strong sense of self to create the conditions which allow for this. It also takes a deep commitment to this work so I am grateful.