I’ve become such a sap in my “old age!” (Trust me…that’s a relative descriptor!)
My mom regularly encourages me that as a single father, I need to be more motherly…drum up my “inner woman.” And, I guess I’ve done (stereotypically) well. After spending the vast majority of my life thinking I was unable to cry, recently I’ve been making up for lost time.
I know, our culture says that men aren’t supposed to cry. But, it was such a sea-change when I spent seven years steeped in Ethiopian culture and learned how acceptable it is for men to cry – in the most ancient of cultures. Now, I cry at everything. (I won’t go into the list of questionable emotional moments…)
This afternoon, my son and I went to see DreamWorks’ The Croods. Near the end, I found myself fighting back tears only to fail. I succumbed to the emotion and held my son, all while he’s laughing at my sniffling sounds. (I later learned he assumed I was trying to be funny…more work to do on his image of authentic manhood.) All I could do was tweet:
In the Croods, Grug demonstrates the same struggle faced by Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof: how does a father protect his children while allowing them to live?
It’s an incredible burden, and I see it magnified as a single dad. Father’s tend to think of themselves as the last line of defense. As a single dad, that point is underscored. Truly, a father’s love is a heavy responsibility. And like Grug, the lengths to which a father will go to protect his children knows no bounds. Yet, that is balanced by the lengths to which a father will go to give life to his children.
This is a delicate balancing act that is easy to miss. We go too far in one direction, then recalibrate too far in the other. And, it tethers back and forth like this from time to time. Everyday, the hope is to find that balance and keep it.
And, this is what Grug learns as he fathers his family through change.
When crisis strikes, we tend to go with what’s familiar. It’s difficult to learn new ways while enduring the tumult of change. Yet, clinging to the familiar can stifle the very life we are charged to protect.
As the world changes around them, Grug tries to protect the Croods by clinging to what’s familiar. While other families met their demise, his continued to survive by remaining true to that familiar. However, life’s crises tend to spin at their own rate. Soon his sense of control is left flapping in the wind and he’s left grasping for anything by which to ensure his family’s survival.
Near the end, he makes a crucial, sacrificial and loving choice. In that moment I was reminded that love ultimately conquers all I can think might be true. And, that love compels us to send our loved ones to points beyond our sphere of comprehension for no other reason than that it gives life to those we love and swore to protect. That love is a beautiful expression, for those we may have stifled tend to then realize how much we’ve always loved them.
I love my son. And I do the best that I can, everyday, to ensure that he is protected. I do the best that I can, everyday, to ensure that he has life. And, everyday I pray that I find the proper balance between the two.
Some of us don’t get it right. And, the scarred souls live on – as best they can – reaching in every direction for the life that was stifled. Smothered into resentment, they reject life-giving conceptions of love in favor of a guarded loves that prevents them from ever being truly vulnerable.
Thus the heavy responsibility. For not only must we protect our children while they are in our care, but we must love them in such a way that they are protected in their lives beyond our control. It is tough much of the time…but in those moments when that child “gets it,” and that father “gets it,” it is such a beautiful thing.
I saw that moment when Grug embraced his daughter, Eep. And, in that moment I saw that future moment with my own son. That moment was enough to encourage me to love on, as a father should…to be hard on myself but forgiving to myself. I was reminded that if I continue on the way, I will see a similar joy. God willing, I will be able to love my son to life, shouldering the burdens of a changing world while expressing the beauty of love.
How do you maintain that balance?