This is Father's Day weekend in the US. We honor fathers with extroverted actions of affection and appreciation with handmade gifts from the heart. Yet we know that no matter what we give on Father's Day to express our feelings, it can only be an approximation.
Expressing our feelings as adults is more natural for some than others. And much of it stems from our upbringing. As parents of donor conceived children, we know that genes don't make a family; it's the feelings of love, acceptance, care, and nurturing that makes a family. We know that skin color, race or gender isn't what keeps us from this love, or from being a family.
Fathers of donor conceived children know this, because using a sperm donor or an egg donor to help create their family has had to shift their feelings and minds to move beyond the traditional concept of "family." They know deep down that it's love that matters. We show our children how to love, by the way we demonstrate our feelings of love; to ourselves, our partners, our spouses and to them.
Fathers are esential in their roles, in expressing their feelings, especially with our sons. Our children converse with us on an emotional level from the very moment they are born. They get their needs met by expressing their feelings of hunger, comfort and satisfaction on a very basic level. Either they are feeling happy or unhappy, content or non-content. So why and when is it, that they slowly stop expressing and talking about their feelings so much - toddlerhood, preteen, teenager? Why is it ok for babies to express their feelings and not older children?
Generally, when it comes to feelings, mothers seem to connect to them more readily and openly than fathers, partly because it is culturally driven. Women and mothers have more permission to be emotional. Support is more widely available to them much more so than to men and fathers. Emotions and feelings are a part of life. And a part of growing up is being able to recognize, decipher, understand and share them openly and honestly. Our feelings tell us everything about ourselves if we are willing to pay attention and listen to them. The very thing that many men, fathers and boys are not encouraged to listen to, let alone express.
As our children grow, their world becomes more complex as they navigate their feelings and see how they are either accepted or rejected by those around them in their families, in their classrooms, and on the playground. Are they being allowed to show their feelings, to simply be themselves and most importantly do they feel safe in doing so? Are their feelings of curiosity, fear and anxiety being acknowledged or negated? If their feelings get shut down repeatedly from an early age, with nonchalant responses from us such as "don't cry," what does that teach them? Does it help them or does it reinforce the message that their feelings don't matter or have value?
Fathers have generally gotten the short end of the parenting stick, as far as recognition goes but times are changing. There is more support available to them now. They are more commonly seen nurturing the young, are stay-at-home-dads and generally becoming more open and recognized as "nurturers" in our culture and we can truly appreciate everything that means on all levels of our society.
This video trailer is by Documentarian Jennifer Sibel Newsome. She created the project through her organization called "The Representation Project," as a way to show what we’re doing to boys and how it affects them as they grow into manhood. This work is hopeful, and says a lot about the challenges our fathers have faced themselves expressing their own feelings as young boys and are now courageously addressing them, especially when it comes to raising our boys. Thank you to all the fathers who are aware of this, and taking action. Please share.
"They really buy into a culture that doesn't value what we've feminized. If we are in a culture that doesn't value caring, doesn't value relationships, doesn't value empathy, you are going to have boys and girls, men and women go crazy." - Dr. Niobe Way, Psychologist & EducatorThe Representation Project is a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people's consciousness towards change. Learn more here.