Man holding son's hand

My Father Made Me A Man

He was The Source Of My Masculinity

In looking at the source of my masculinity, I realise that its essence comes from my father. He was a role model for me even if he did not display the ideal characteristics for me. I ended up in a love/hate relationship.

My role is to take this sense of being a man and project it out into the world to help others to see that they too can qualify to achieve manhood.

My Experience

Allan Mitiya asked 'Am I Just a Peripheral Man?' in his Good Men Project essay. In it he said,

That's where the problem—a perception that masculinity is for a certain group of people—is with men's platforms, there is a profound lack of identifying what makes a man and who can qualify to achieve manhood beyond mystic/ethereal concepts that don't translate well into the lived experiences of the people that ask these questions.

My lived experience is profoundly different from his so my immediate reaction was to think that I was unable to answer his question in a way that would give him any comfort. I started however to think about his core question,

...what makes a man and who can qualify to achieve manhood...

I feel that I should be able to answer Allan's question if I regard myself as a man.

I find that I am happy in my personal definition of masculinity. I enjoy my strength, whether it is physical, mental or emotional. I enjoy leading and see that it is role I am meant to embody. This involves me creating a vision for myself and other people. I do that with enthusiasm.

Creating a vision is great, enjoying my strength and leading is important, but these do not describe where a man can get that sense of being a man from.

The essence of a man being good is when he looks outside himself, beyond his world view, and challenges himself so that he can challenge others. It can be seen in a man who asks what he can do to contribute to improving the world or changing it.

Looking outside of himself and asking how he can change the world is something that all men can aspire to.

I questioned my masculinity as I grew up but I still felt that men can frame their own masculinity, their own view of being a man.

In my case I lacked the guidance from anyone to make this shift and, as I retreated from both my parents, I found it difficult to know who I was or how I should behave. Much of the blame I put on the view of men I had from the media. All men face these issues and the resolution is to help boys and men face the shifts they go through and understand that they can make their own decisions and frame their own masculinity.

Being a man is not about being better than anyone else, whether it's another man or a woman, it's about being a fully developed example of the potential you have inside and the potential you have gathered in your life. To me, masculinity is about my ability to be fully present with my abilities, talents and skills, my ability to focus and direct them, and my ability to do this with love and compassion for others.

Manhood is passed down from generation to generation but often not as we would want. As a father, I was a role model and my sons learned from me, but they learned from what I did, not what I said.

Whether we know our fathers, or not, the essence of our masculinity, our sense of being a man comes from our father, comes from who he is. In my case I did know him and found that the good and bad elements of my masculinity all came from him.

My Father and Anger

I spent many years as an angry man and blamed my father for that. His dominance pressured me into my own dominance, or so I thought. My father passed away over thirty years ago and yet he is still in my thoughts.

His death was sudden and on my birthday—he ensured that I would not forget that day. I do not regret not having the time to talk to him in a more intimate way. I did not experience closure on our relationship, and I accepted that. I see now that how I live my life, how I am as a man, comes from him. My projection of my masculinity into the world is a testament to what he was as a man.

That projection was not all good. For many years I was a dominant man, a common trait of masculinity, but through talking and writing about it I found the courage to let it go and seek out the deeper essence of the masculinity that I learned from my father. That involves certainty, inner strength, love, compassion, responsibility, presence and focus. These elements do not exclude others but they do contain the nugget of what I see as essential to MY masculinity. I emphasise MY masculinity because there is no one set of characteristics which define being a man. We all make our own definition and there lies the difficulty of trying to become a man.

What Makes a Man

Going back to Allan's question,

...what makes a man and who can qualify to achieve manhood...

I would urge him to look inside for an answer not outside at what men like me write. To look for others to provide the answers is to continue to conform to society's norms. The danger there is that all that does is continue the stereotypes that so distort our view of being a man. Allan feels he is outside the norm, and I understand why, but that view is only valid if he accepts that a norm exists. In my view it does not. We create our own sense of being a man from our own life and experience. If we then project that sense out into the world then we can be accepted as a man, no matter what our particular life experience is.

I would urge Allan to be proud of who he is and stand by that. Allan, this space is for people like you, it is for you. Do not think you overstay your welcome, you belong here.

I would urge all men to stand by who they are and be proud of themselves, of being a man. Stand by your own experience and affirm that that is alright. None of us have to confirm to society's norms of masculinity, we can all make our own.

Fatherhood—Does It Matter? Yes, Now More Than Ever!

Reading 'Why Fatherhood Matters' in Esquire I understand why it does. I understood what my father did for me, how he helped me.

It was 1984, my birthday, I was 36 years old with 2 sons 5 and 3 years old. I was in the office at work on a lighting project when my colleague brought me a cup of coffee and suggested I sit down. She put a call through from my wife who told me that my dad had died suddenly in the night. He was only 72 years old, exactly twice my age, and very fit and healthy. Bang—just like that—no warning—a heart attack.

It was my birthday. My first thought was how unkind that was, and how clever. I can never forget him now, never forget his death or his life.

Stephen Marche has written about 'Why Fatherhood Matters' in Esquire. In talking about his own father's death, he said,

As the patriarchy is slowly dying, as masculinity continues to undergo a constant process of redefinition, fatherhood has never mattered more. Having children has always been a major life marker, of course, but the demise of other markers of masculine identity has given fatherhood outsize importance. The old religious rituals gave way long ago. The post-dynamic-capitalism of the moment has taken away the replacement methods of proving yourself. Making a living is principally a sign of good luck. Owning property is a sign of your parents' status more than it is your own. Combat itself is now gender-neutral. Only fatherhood is indisputably masculine, which is why when you ask men when they became men, they usually answer when they became a father or lost a father.

He's right, of course, and in thinking about this in my own life I can see the shift over three generations, the shift from detachment to to involvement.

When my father was 34, in 1946 just after the end of the war, with 2 sons aged 5 and 2, he went off to India on a troopship for 6 months to set up some factories for his employer, Chloride. That was what you did then. The world was in chaos so men needed to go wherever to bring order back. Men were needed to organise and plan. It's OK for the women to stay at home and look after the children. There was nothing sexist in this, it was just the reality. I suppose that's simply what the patriarchy was.

Jump to when I was 36, when my father died, I was living at home but I had let my passion go—working in the theatre—and taken a job where I could earn a living to support my children while being around them.

Jump again to my eldest son right now. He is 35 years old with a 1 year old son. He lives with his partner in her mother's house and stays at home to look after their son while she is out at work as a Sister in Casualty in a local hospital. He is studying but has happily taken on the role of the major care-giver. He is indisputably masculine and became visibly more a man when his son was born.

My Relationship with My father

Stephen Marche goes on to say,

On the day of my father's death, as I walked to pick up my son, I had no idea what I was supposed to do, and I also knew that whatever I would do would matter enormously to my son. Naturally, I tried to imagine what my own father would do. His importance in my life had never been more vivid. We rarely agreed about politics or anything like that, but we were both smart enough to recognize that we weren't supposed to.

My relationship to my father has defined me for many years, often in ways I would care not to remember. I remember, however, the moment late in life when he had called on me for help. Unable to keep up with family crises any more he called me across the country to be with him and help him deal with the latest crisis. He was always so sure of himself, he never asked for help—until now. That moment meant more to me than any other in my life.

That night, on my birthday, I went to the house group I went to every week. We studied Psalm 23, such an appropriate choice. I read it at his funeral and, to this day, I can't hear it without thinking of him.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,for you are with me

Imitating Dad

There are images showing me trying to imitate my dad. I clearly idolised him and wanted to be like him. What happened was that I moved on and became me. I grew to masculinity through experiencing his power, through seeing his faults and through knowing how much he mattered to me, but I did it my own way. Fatherhood mattered to me, but my own fatherhood was more important.

I know you are watching over me, dad, and thank you for everything.

My Relationship with My Dad

My father passed on many years ago now and has become more of an image in my mind rather than a physical reality. He has always had a powerful influence on me in ways that I didn't understand. My belief was that he was the cause of my tendency to dominance and anger. He was a man who liked to have the last word and be right.

It was a powerful attitude to fight against when I was growing up, learning how to shift from being a boy to being a man. I developed a masculinity of dominance and anger. It worked for me in many ways, on the outside I became a powerful man, but inside I was a different man, a weaker one.

I was sitting one evening with my wife, playing with a Ouija Board. This is a game where the influence of everyone present is used to answer questions. Some people believe it enables a spiritual presence to communicate, others that it's just a bit of fun. My wife has spiritual intuition and started talking to me about a presence she felt.

The spiritual presence of my dad was in the room and he wanted to let me know that he was there supporting me. He apologised for leaving me to deal with family issues without my understanding what was going on. I felt a calmness and a compassionate connection that was at odds with the vehemence of my original feelings about him.

Several days later I was being taken through a Journey process by a friend. This is the process developed by Brandon Bays that was instrumental in her defeating serious cancer. I have come to appreciate it as a way of discovering and resolving hidden, internal issues. It involves falling through the layers in our minds to discover and resolve what's underneath.

I was working on the issue of self-doubt, digging through the layers of causation and my attitudes to them. One of the underlying causes was the fact that I was born with a club foot. This happened in my mum's womb and was connected with my birth being a breech. My foot is not normal and required two major operations when I was young.

My mum had boatloads of guilt over this and during the Journey process I went back to a point when I was five years old. It was after an operation, when I was at home with the family, trying to walk again. I felt my mum's doubt and concern about the situation. I absorbed this realisation in the Journey process and saw that the source of my self-doubt was something external to me, something I did not create.

I Was Not a Strong Man!

At the end of the process, though, I was shocked to realise that I had been holding, deep down, the idea that my dad was not a strong man. Rather than seeing him as a determined man, someone to emulate, I felt that he was the weak one. It was my mum who was the strong one, emotionally involved. She channeled her guilt and doubt into positive action. She was determined that her pain should not affect my life. Having a club foot was bad enough, she didn't want me to take on her emotions as well, although, ironically, that's just what I did, because I absorbed a sense of weakness about being a man from my dad. Unlike my mother, my father was not emotionally involved. He was unable to help me cope with the situation, unable to shield me from my mum's guilt. He had no alternative view for me, no masculine view. His dominance was a way of cloaking this, a way of appearing to be in charge. My mum's emotions held sway and he seemed to be powerless.

My Mask

Was I back behind the mask of dominance and control that I learned from my dad? The idea that I can only move things forward if I am in control is one that had been eating away at me. It took me back to seeing my dad not being able to control the situation with my foot, to him feeling locked out from the powerful emotions coming from my mum.

My dad pushed it out of the way and acted as if it didn't exist. Be a man, be dominant and people will listen to you, even if they don't want to! This was how I dealt with my previous career. It worked, for a time, but resulted in several business failures.

After a few days of anguish, of feeling a void inside, I came to a resolution not to be bound by my mum's doubt or my dad's weakness. I took action on what I wanted to see happen with the launch. I saw I didn't need to take control, I just needed to communicate. My wife saw a transformation in me and in my energy.

I feel different inside. I feel an inner certainty, a knowledge not just of what I want, but that what I want is what will happen. The difference is that this is devoid of dominance, it doesn't push others out of the way but it offers me and my experience to them. I now know the simple power of my inner core as a man, I know that what I want, what I do, is valid.

What do I feel, now, about my dad?

Maybe he was just teaching me to be independent, to trust myself and be strong inside. If so, that's where I have finally reached. Is that what he wanted all along? Could he only achieve that by detaching from the pain and from the emotion? I have a sense that his presence after the Ouija Board was him connecting with me, showing me he wasn't disconnected after all.

How does this inner work play out in reality?

It appears in me knowing what I want and knowing the direction I want to go in. Others will choose to come alongside and work with me, or have relationships with me, not because I put pressure on, not because I am the loudest. People will come with me because they choose to, because they see power in what I am doing. There is nothing I can do to create this other than be sure of it myself and allow others to see my belief in it.

Being a Grandfather—The Joys and the Lessons Learned

I recently became a Grandfather for the first time. I am overjoyed about this but am aware that it is not as simple as it seems. I am sure I have a great deal more to learn about the joys of grandfatherhood—I hope so. I am still in a daze about it. It is over thirty years since I became a father. I loved it at the time but I have no desire to go through it again. Being a grandfather is, however, completely different, I am glad to say.

My Grandfathers

I did not know either of my grandfathers, they both died before I was born. I got to know both my grandmothers but did not experience that special male bond with them. My father knew his grandsons but I was not aware, from him, of how special that relationship could be. I was buried in my own efforts to be a good father and did not notice what else was going on.

Much of this is about fatherhood, and rightly so, but for my generation grandfatherhood (is that a word?) is far more potent. Capturing what is special about this generational minefield is important for me. It will be different for everyone but for me the essential points are as follows.

(As I elaborate I am talking about the male relationship of grandfather, father/son and son/grandson. I have not referred to the many mothers that are also part of this family picture not because they do not matter, they do, but because I want to focus on the repetitive nature of the flow of generations, in this case, down the male line.)

This is not a second opportunity to get it right

It's strange because you — your life goes so swiftly. You look up one day you're a teenager, the next day you're a grandfather and you want to decide, 'I sure hope my kids don't make the same mistakes.

George Foreman

We all make mistakes as fathers, I know I made many. The problem is that we are not always aware, at the time, what the mistakes are. As I had more children I got better at being a father, but as I had only two, I did not get very far.

It was only when my boys grew up that I realised many of the mistakes I made and understood what I could have done to be a better father. How many of us think that if only we could do it all again we would get it right this time. I know what I would do differently and I think I know what the end result would be.

Becoming a grandfather would seem to be great opportunity to put this into action. I realise that it is not. You have had your turn and the result is there in front of you. Now it is his turn and if you want to keep a good relationship with your son you need to understand this.

This is a time to renew your relationship with your son

It's interesting that I had such a close relationship with my grandfather. Because your parents always judge you: they say, 'You shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that.' But with your grandparents you have a feeling that you can say anything or you can do anything, and they will support you. That's why you have this kind of connection.

Novak Djokovic

I have found an amazing opportunity to get to know my son better, as a father and a son. Inevitably sons grow away from their fathers, especially during their twenties and thirties. Fatherhood is a great time of change for a man and a time for taking a longer view of life.

As a grandfather you can take this opportunity to show him that things can be different, that you can be different. You can show through your relationship with your grandson how much you love your son, now as a father. I have found the ability to relate on a completely different level. I can show how I can, and want to, be supportive. Most of all I have found it is a great time to open up conversations about my experience of being a father.

For me this is a totally new and enlightening conversation.

This is a time to see the flow through the generations

When you're all singing together, it brings things together. I know the songs that my grandfather and my father sang.

Terry Pratchett

I have two images that I look at often, at the moment, one is an image of my father, me and my two sons, the other is of me me, my sons and my grandson. I love seeing the flow through four generations.

There are the physical similarities that everyone notices straight away. There is also the flow of energy through the male line, the sense of strength and love that balance each other.

They are powerful images that sit as centre point in the flow back through previous generations and will flow forward through future generations. Generational energy is important in understanding how issues and problems re-appear unexpectedly. I have done a lot of Family Constellation work in the last few years to clear out the accumulation of negative energy. I am now ready to do some more of this work to clear the male line of issues for my grandson.

You don't have to take part, but it is good to

More and more, when I single out the person out who inspired me most, I go back to my grandfather.

James Earl Jones

The great thing about being a grandfather is that it is totally your choice whether, and how much, you get involved. As a father you really have no choice, he is yours and you really need to get involved. As a grandfather you are not necessary, but you are important.

I love the quote from James Earl Jones about being inspired by your grandfather. This is the golden nugget that lies there waiting for you to pick up. You can be inspiring precisely because you do not need to be involved. When you choose to you bring something deep to the relationship and something unique.

You need to let go and not interfere

My grandfather was a man, when he talked about freedom, his attitude was really interesting. His view was that you had obligations or you had responsibilities, and when you fulfilled those obligations or responsibilities, that then gave you the liberty to do other things.

Clarence Thomas

It is good to be clear about who you are and what you think is important in life. Clarence Thomas received views that were important in his development from his grandfather. This comes, in my view, because you step back and do not interfere in the grandson's upbringing.

You show him, for example, how to be a man by how you are a man. People learn from seeing others in action and from experiencing their energy. This is especially true in this male relationship across the generations.

You no longer are in the position of teaching the boy how to grow, that is the father's job, but you are in a position of great influence. I feel that you can only be in this position if you let go of the need to control how the boy grows up.

You can always hand him back

I have a ranch in Montana, but it's not a real working ranch. I've always liked the outdoors. I come from Texas. My grandfather was a farmer; that's as close as I come.

Dennis Quaid

I love holding my grandson and entertaining him. I love trying out the techniques I learned as a father for calming him down when he cries. the most important thing I love is that I can just hand him back when he gets too noisy.

It is good to be able to look after him, it is also great fun. I have found that when I do this it gives my son and his partner time to do odd jobs that are difficult with a baby around. But no matter how helpful, there is always a time to hand him back. I am grateful for that.

You can boast about him

There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.

Victor Hugo

I have his picture as the home screen on my phone. I love showing him off to anyone who cares to look. I feel proud of myself and of my son. It says something about what I have achieved in life — a family.

I am sure I have a great deal more to learn about the joys of grandfatherhood — I hope so.