“Life With Charlie” chronicles the adventures of Darren Mattock and his boy-wonder, Charlie, as they navigate together the daring and darling world of fathers and sons.
I’m almost 8 years deep in my fatherhood and ‘life with Charlie’ journeys. He’s a growing boy that will one day become a man — the gravity of that reality never ever escapes me. As his father, I’m acutely aware that I am Charlie’s masculine blueprint. What I model to my son about manhood, and why I do so with such intentionality, is deeply personal.
My journey with my dad has been, in most part, about breaking the cycle of toxic masculinity in our lineage. I chose to do that as a 9-year old boy, long before I knew that I would be gifted the opportunity to raise and nurture my own son.
I was a sensitive boy and not cut of the same hyper-masculine armor my dad was. As much I tried to relate to him and him to me, there was a real disconnect. I think he expected me to be like him and all he knew how to do was to try to show how to be that boy and man.
The more I ‘grew up’, became aware and understood who my dad was, the less I wanted to be like him. One day when I was 17 years old, we had an argument. He gave me a left hook, knocked me to the ground and kicked me while I was down. That was it. I was completely and utterly done trying to be anything like my dad.
In that moment, I became a lost boy. I didn’t know who I wanted to be like or who I could be like. Where were my masculine role models and father-figures? I felt like I was flying solo for years during my late teens and early twenties just trying to figure it and me out. What did it mean to be a man in this body, in this life and in this society? Most of the time, pondering that was a total head, heart and soul-fuck.
Getting to know myself as a man and embracing my masculinity has been something that’s been happening in parallel with raising this amazing boy. My masculinity and fatherhood journeys co-exist as works in progress. I’ve learned a lot along the way, yet know there’s more healing, learning, growing and evolving to do.
I didn’t really have any real grasp of my own masculinity in a mature sense until I became dad to Charlie at age 33 and then discovered men’s work a year later. I’d done a great job at not being like my dad by rejecting my masculinity and therefore eliminating the risks (of being like ‘him’). But in no way had I found a way to integrate my own experiences of being THIS man in THIS body and own them in a way that reflected self-acceptance, let alone with strength, power, honor and celebration.
I’m consciously fathering Charlie with the intention to break the cycle and liberate the both of us. My hope I’m raising him so that he won’t be confused or questioning who he is as a boy or who he wants to be as a man — he will know and embody that knowing.
I LOVE the empathic and sensitive boy he is. This was me as a boy and nurturing this side of him has been so healing for me. His capacity for depth of emotions and emotional literacy continually blows me away. I’m meeting Cha in a way and on a level that I wasn’t met as a boy by my dad. I don’t make his sensitivity ‘wrong’ — I encourage and guide him to embody this part of his nature.
We play rough and Charlie also has a very boy-ish side to him. I do my best to teach Charlie about his body, boundaries and his strength. I guide him to be self aware — of his body, his words and his actions. This is how we build trust and I give him the opportunity to test his limits safely. We play reverse power games so he gets to really unleash in a safe, sealed and responsible way. Who better to learn this with and do this with than me?
Impact — it’s something that’s constantly in our faces to check ourselves about as men and boys – and with good reason. That’s essentially at the heart of this matter. My greatest hope is that my fatherly, masculine blueprint guides my boy to positively and lovingly impact the lives he touches.
As much as I don’t want Charlie to grow any more, let alone any faster, I’m looking forward to the gift of bearing witness to his journey of becoming a ‘good man’. I’m going to be there with him and for him, every step of the way.
Part of me wonders if he’ll embrace the masculine blueprint I’ve laid down for him. I can say that at almost 8 years in, so far, things are looking good. We’re on our way, in a deeply bonded and connected, more whole masculine way.
Darren Mattock is the Founder of Becoming Dad, an online community for expectant and new fathers helping dads be the best men, partners and dads they can be, right from the start.
Photo credit: Darren Mattock.