By Lizzy Francis
The emotional lives of men are often hidden and obscured. Societal expectations dictate that men be stoic and strong, and though that’s changing, they’ve still maintained deep roots in the way that many men in the world express themselves or don’t. But many men find that a switch is flipped when they have a kid. Their feelings, often layered underneath logic and intellectual coping mechanisms, come to the fore because, after all, there is a baby in the world and it is theirs. Sometimes the tears aren’t even about parenting. Sometimes they’re just about living in the world and feeling, more deeply, loss and disappointment. What once was insignificant becomes significant. What was once a slog becomes a miracle. What was once a minor upset can become deeply affecting.
Here, five tough-guy dads tell us about the last time they cried and why:
After Watching A Quiet Place
The last time I cried outright was when my 28-year-old sister died of anorexia. But as a father now myself, my eyes fill with tears regularly when I think about my children and my wife. When each of my kids was born, it was like the world had cracked open and been re-made all in an instant. I remind myself of that. I found myself crying just the other day for the same reason, but in a different context. I didn’t want to see A Quiet Place; I don’t like horror movies. But when I did, I was bowled over. Emily Blunt and John Krasinski play the parents. I think their actual devotion to each other and their own offspring comes through in their characters. They’re committed to each other and their children. The Quiet Place features predatory extraterrestrials and hyper-violence. But it’s really about family love. Riding my bike the next day, I kept thinking about the movie, and found myself again with tears trickling down my face. It’s a sacrament, I think, not taking things for granted. — Tim, California
When each of my kids was born, it was like the world had cracked open and been re-made all in an instant.
My wife and I are having our first child in July. We have been over-the-moon excited since we found out she was pregnant. After we learned we were having a daughter, we bought some of the nursery furniture. A few days later the UPS man knocked on the door and said he had five big packages for us. I went outside and helped him unload the furniture set. I work from home so I have gotten pretty close with him. I told him all of this stuff was for our daughter, coming in July. He was super excited for me — he has two daughters of his own. He said, “Watch out man, soon enough she is going to have you wrapped around your finger.” He pulled out of the driveway. I hit the button to shut the garage door. I just received our entire nursery set for my little girl. It finally “hit” me, like hard, that we were having our first child. I just felt this rush of joy, excitement, and nervousness. I stood there, broke down and cried thinking about how blessed I truly am. — Kelan, New York
The last time I was cried was three and half weeks ago. My daughter wanted to ride her bike, so we were going down the hill from our house toward a nearby trail. My mind was still foggy from jet lag, so I didn’t tell her in time to get off the bike before the big slope. She started going down, and I couldn’t do anything because if I ran or shouted, she would get confused and fall. I just prayed that she would manage to control the bike. She lost control and smashed straight into the road with her face first. I ran to her and carried her to the creek nearby. I started washing her face from all the blood with the cold water.
Two people stopped by and gave me a hand. One had a bandage, so we gave her to put on her face to try and stop the bleeding. They gave us a ride back to the house where I washed her and then we went to the hospital. She was in complete shock, and I was holding myself together just to be strong for her. When her mom arrived, I went to the bathroom where I just broke down in tears. We were lucky, and nothing was broken, but it took her a week to recover. She’s riding her bike again. I can still see the image of her falling when we drive by that spot. It is kind of a trauma which I hope time will heal. — Yaron, British Columbia
It was the first time in my life I felt like I “made it.” I turned around and walked right into the bathroom and silently shed a few tears of happiness and pride.
The last time I cried was over milk. I grew-up in a row-house in Northeast Philadelphia, the youngest in a family of six. We were smack in the middle of middle-class. We had everything we needed, food, shelter, love, education, a couple of toys, but nothing extra. There were plenty of people in the world doing worse than us, and we were always grateful for the necessities we had. That said, feeding a family of six on a fixed middle-class budget meant certain limitations. One of those limitations was milk.
As kids, we were allowed to have milk with cereal in the morning, but we couldn’t just pour a glass of milk to drink throughout the day. Milk was expensive. As a young adult, I saw milk as a constant reminder of the financial limitations middle-class families embrace as a part of everyday life, but never losing sleep over it. Americans are hypnotically fixated on other status symbols: diamonds, gold, cars, vacations. But not me. Milk was always my motivator. In my mind, if I could raise a family that could drink milk whenever they wanted, then I would at least know my kids were doing better than I was.
One day, a few month ago, I walked into my kitchen and saw my wife pouring my son a big glass of milk in the middle of the day. It was the first time in my life I felt like I “made it.” I turned around and walked right into the bathroom and silently shed a few tears of happiness and pride. — Sean, Pennsylvania
A very close friend of mine, who I mentored for 10 years, committed suicide about two years ago. I cried when I found out, and I cried at the funeral, and I went to a counseling session and I cried about it. I cried about it alone. I cried about it with my wife. It was a process. I don’t know how I could have cried about it anymore; that’s just another way of saying that I cried about it a ton. It was also really helpful. When I was 11 or 12, I learned to just turn that off. You’re a boy, you’re a man, you don’t cry. I just shut it down and I kept that shut down for a good 30 years until I learned how to do that again. I cried a little when my dad died, but this was different.
I can see it more now that he was clearly getting more unhealthy. A month before he died, he came to me and asked me for $15,000. I turned him down and was frustrated that he would even ask that. It was hurtful to me that he would even ask. After that, he asked me to have dinner with him and I turned him down because the last time we had dinner, he drank a bunch of expensive booze and stuck me with the bill. What I realized was that was the goodbye dinner. I turned that dinner down.
Now, I cry easier. I’ll cry at the end of a movie. It’s open, now. Now, since then, there’s little things that will touch me and I have tears, but I’m not embarrassed about it anymore. — John, Florida
This article was originally published on Fatherly.com.