Setting the Fatherhood Bar High

What a Real Man Looks Like

What a Real Man Looks Like

“I was fortunate enough in having a father whom I have always been able to regard as an ideal man. It sounds a little like cant to say what I am going to say, but he really did combine the strength and courage and will and energy of the strongest man with the tenderness, cleanness and purity of a woman. I was a sickly and timid boy. He not only took great and untiring care of me—some of my earliest remembrances are of nights when he would walk up and down with me for an hour at a time in his arms when I was a wretched mite suffering acutely with asthma— but he also most wisely refused to coddle me, and made me feel that I must force myself to hold my own with other boys and prepare to do the rough work of the world. I cannot say that he ever put it into words, but he certainly gave me the feeling that I was always to be both decent and manly, and that if I were manly nobody would laugh at my being decent. In all my childhood he never laid hand on me but once, but I always knew perfectly well that in case it became necessary he would not have the slightest hesitancy in doing so again, and alike from my love and respect, and in a certain sense, my fear of him, I would have hated and dreaded beyond measure to have him know that I had been guilty of a lie, or of cruelty, or of bullying, or of uncleanness or of cowardice. Gradually I grew to have the feeling on my own account, and not merely on his.” Theodore Roosevelt and His Time Shown in His Own Letters Joseph Bucklin Bishop

TR’s father helped found: Orthopaedic Dispensary ( Orthopaedic Department of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center), the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Children’s Aid Society.  He contributed large sums to the Newsboys’ Lodging-house and the YMCA.

“My father, Theodore Roosevelt [Senior], was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness. As we grew older he made us understand that the same standard of clean living was demanded for the boys as for the girls; that what was wrong in a woman could not be right in a man. With great love and patience, and the most understanding sympathy and consideration, he combined insistence on discipline. He never physically punished me but once, but he was the only man of whom I was ever really afraid. I do not mean that it was a wrong fear, for he was entirely just, and we children adored him.” The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt

What was your father like?

Manhood In A Certain Time And Place

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First off, I’m giving everyone permission to objectify this man–he’s most likely dead so I don’t think he’d mind. Let’s assume that he’s looking so proud because the baby is his own. A book came out a few years ago describing a study of the present day working class white male which found that the traditional role of man as provider had suddenly disappeared and that any young man still sort of into the idea of raising a family, getting up early for work and being proud of his manhood for doing it was now considered a chump. Better to stay unmarried, father a few kids that the government could take care of and party with the boys. The working class girls had no intention of marrying these guys and fair play to them–why marry a child in a man’s body?

I don’t have a lot of wisdom on this subject, just a few ideas floating around my head about boys and men. My son used to watch me sew on an interesting looking machine. He mentioned he’d want a machine like that so as a joke my father bought him a pink Barbie one for Christmas. He opened the gift, but as soon as he saw how feminine it was he shoved it aside and never talked about sewing again. I sort of bought gender neutral toys for him only because blocks and Lincoln Logs were just that way though I was fine with him being boyish. My daughter was born loving pink and purple.

Boys are just different. Not bad. Different. The good men that I know have this drive inside of them that sometimes they have to hide. It’s a drive to be admired as a hero. Since forever people have enjoyed this about them, but it’s gone out of fashion for a while–as if by forcing men to remain irresponsible children will somehow give women more space to grow into whatever it is we’re aiming for.

I, for one want a place in the world for admiring heroic men–not super men in movies who are still kind of pathetic these days, barely able to hold their own against kick-boxing women. There is way too much ambivalence about manhood! Does this automatically mean I want Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire? No. I just believe that men who claim their roles as strong fathers and brothers, workers and friends are to be celebrated. I laughed at Everybody Loves Raymond, but do all men have to be portrayed as stupid fools?  What a miserable existence for women if when we marry we have to put up with an idiot and turn into a carping old hag.

Take a look at the picture again. This guy is proud of his manhood–as he should be.