Alan Kercinik talks about finding his “why” as a father… and his emotions.
I gave a talk at the Dad 2.0 Summit this past weekend in Houston.
In the talk, I was about to end on a point. The point that if you are going to write, you need to answer a question: why are you writing in the first place? If you’re blogging to ‘get noticed’ by a brand in order to receive truckloads of free shit, you’ll write a certain kind of thing. I started to talk about my why.
And then, to use the accepted expression, I got a little emotional.
Leading up to Houston, I had fretted. When I fret, I tend to put things off. I had about three months to get ready. I did close to nothing for two.
Once I finally got a first draft down, I kept working it. Moving things around. I asked a couple of people to read it. I listened to what they said. Used their feedback as I thought best.
The morning of my talk, I rehearsed three times. I paced around my hotel room, talking too loudly into my empty room. I’m not sure who I thought needed to hear me. I would have a microphone. Projection wouldn’t be an issue.
Here is the important thing. I had spent time with the things I was going to say.
I’m up there, saying what I had to say before my closing point, about finding the why of your writing.
My blog, Always Jacked, is about being a father to my two boys. Figuring out my why took me a couple of months. But once I did, it clicked. I write for the boys’ freshman year in college. As they get ready to leave, to start to really become men, I will hand them a bound volume of posts and photos. A collection of the things I thought and felt about being their dad.
I have found my rhythm. I’m cooking. I land a joke, about how I hope I need only put the boys’ stuff on a teleportation pod instead of packing a van as I lead into my big close. About how I do this so that they won’t be feel alone.
It hits me sideways, this sudden golf ball in my throat, the salt water in my eyes. My feelings snuck up behind me to put a hand over my eyes and around my throat. There was no branch crack of warning. This feeling was a small, light ninja.
I used to like ninjas.
Have you ever had a moment where you visualize something horrible happening to your kids, and the image of it smacks you so clearly between the eyes that it’s like this horrible daydream actually happened? That’s kind of what happened, as I stood there in front of 200 people.
It was like the boys’ feelings of uncertainty and solitude reached back from the future and into the past. Right into my heart.
I wonder if that is my greatest fear for my boys. That they will feel that they are alone in this world. Of all the things to worry over — and there are so many — this one, a couple of days later, feels almost trivial. There are diseases and kidnappings and accidents and so much more.
So much uncertainty.
Public displays of emotion are a funny thing. Especially for men.
Do you remember the Don Draper crying meme? It’s just a picture of Jon Hamm in his iconic role, crying. The intrinsic comedic value of a handsome, powerful man in tears is apparently enough to sustain a few hundred jokes.
If it had been Donna Draper, no one would have found it funny enough to pass along, but the image of this stoic man breaking down into tears has something uncomfortable and comic about it. I don’t know why things are that way. They just are.
Over the course of the weekend, I am not the only man to have a moment, a bit of shakiness of voice or hand.
Ted Rubin has one, talking about the challenges of reestablishing a relationship with his daughters after a divorce. He apologizes as he pulls a breath.
The blogger Black Hockey Jesus — who has a name that involves neither color, sports or religion — lets out a long, slow breath as he reads a post he wrote to his daughter for her eighth birthday.
Chris — aka Canadian Dad — pauses, as he reads about remembering and missing his dead father.
Our Sunday morning keynote speaker is Brene Brown. She is a shame researcher. She talks of how to be vulnerable.
Her stories are powerful. They are valuable. But they’re almost superfluous. Affirmations instead of instruction to men who already know what she’s talking about.
These men, they didn’t give each other grief for public displays of emotion. They didn’t cough, “Pussy!” into closed fists. They accepted and clapped and sent tweets of encouragement and gratitude.
These are good men. They made a decision — maybe conscious, maybe not — to not let stereotype and expectations define their actions and responses.
I only hope I can teach my boys to do the same. And that so many other fathers do the same.
Because that is how I’ll know they won’t be alone.
Even if I’m not there.
Photo— pahudson / flickr