My post about Gene Westmoreland’s relationship with his son, as told in my novel Secretocracy, reminded me of one of my fascinations: the masculinity inherent in relations between a father and his son.
I have three daughters. Being a father to them meant tenderness and caretaking and feelings very much like those I felt for my wife, minus the sexual aspects. My job as a father to daughters meant protecting them and looking after their needs. It brought out my gentle emotions.
Fathering a son is different. The presence of another male in my family called for gentleness but also aroused a set of emotions quite different from those I felt for my daughters. I was responsible for helping my son become a man. I was required to encourage his masculine traits—physical strength, dominance, aggressiveness. I had to be a model male for him to imitate. But I also had to teach him the finer attributes of masculinity: love, tenderness, and devotion. I had to model those virtues for him. And I had to help him learn which traits were appropriate to any given situation.
Raising a son, I knew, was going to be more difficult than raising daughters. But I had a powerful aid: my overwhelming love for him. That love made me realize that I had to be the best model of masculinity I was capable of. The result was that I worked hard to be a better man to offer my son an example he could follow.
Having a son, it turned for me at least, was finding the fulfillment of my own masculinity. Over time, we, the men in our family, found ourselves coming together to fend off the feminine power of those family members who outnumbered us. We learned together how to be the best men we could be.
So having a son taught me manhood. I’m grateful.