Teach your boys to be Dads not Men


There’s a disconnection with men, an animal kingdom mentality where only the strong survive. Ingrained into the culture with a thousand year code mistaking strength with power. It can be intoxicating and at times even blinding.

I sat with my oldest son the other day and we spoke of this subject. He had asked me why so many of his friends where being raised by moms and not dads like our situation. The only answer i could give was one that was personal.

“I’m not teaching you to be a man as you will grow into that position. I’m teaching you to be a dad as not many men where taught to be dads”

I remember all my children’s births, held each one with joy. I was part of this miracle of life. This surreal phenomenon that no words can explain, but it took time for the man to become a dad.

What father goes to jail? What man chooses work over family? Why would any dad put their son in any life where drugs and sex are the example?

These where the thoughts that went through my head while I held my first born.

Flashbacks of violence and fear, with mixtures of helplessness and shame. As a man these same thoughts empowered me. Created defense mechanisms that allowed me to bully my way through life. I’d hit before I got hit, as they deserved to be taught a lesson. I was taught to growl like the king of the beast, to be the last man standing.

I went through that life using anger as strength like a badge. I wore it proud and followed in his footsteps. Family meetings at strip clubs where all us brothers basked in his glory. Women adored his persona like the drugs they craved. They would sell their souls for a moment of his time, only to be indebted for life. We where taught notches on belts over loyalty to women. A testosterone mentality that broke hearts along the way.

Guilt did not exist as this was the way of man, backed by my fathers disciples; makeshift uncles that helped him teach us to fight. Examples that took us in when another woman left us out of home. That backed his stories of how crazy they where and helped him on his quest for another notch.

Never once did I question these teachings and defended my hero tooth and nail.

Men don’t cry we are stronger and better than that.

Like most couples we came home and showed our son to the world. Friends and family came to see my boy that I named after my father and brother. A baby shower thrown by my brothers mother and even a visit from mine. Lots of conversations of the future and life lessons that I was in no way prepared for.

This was more than being a man and i couldn’t shake those thoughts. My son was so fragile and innocent. A being of love and jubilation that we had brought into this world. This dark and scary world that has no guilt or clemency. I remember rocking him to sleep vowing that i would protect him against any harm that may come his way. An oath I took seriously and still live by today.

I confronted my father like the man he raised me to be. A serious conversation of missing money and his drug use, that in no way did I want that life for my son.

Like men we fought, fist to cuffs. Both of us growling like the king of beast with an audience of my brothers. I’ll never forget the sound it made right before my hero fell to the ground. That moment of being disconnected as my brothers drug him to his truck and drove away. It wasn’t if I was right or wrong any more but that I had just lost the one person that was there for me in this dysfunctional world. No matter how many times he went to jail and I was ushered off to a new home. He was the anchor I always came back too.

I sat and cried while I held my son.

When they say a community raises children, it’s not a lie. 

My father had wronged many but one woman took interest in me. Through hate of my dad she whispered the words “He took my son from me so i will take his from him”

She showed me how everything my father taught me could be used legally. Gave me work fixing houses and cultured my tongue to sales. She pushed me in ways of bi-laws and business. Helped us to buy our first home and called herself my mom. This small Muslim woman showed me where people come from and broadened my pallet.  An understanding of why people fail and reinforced family ethics.

I had three more children in those five years and still the man in me forbid my father into their lives. It wasn’t family at those births but friends and my mentor. That anger still fueled me and as we would drive past each other, the same animal growl. Like an ex addict, learning to be a father was casting out those vices. Those reminders of what things I had seen or been taught.

You don’t realize your becoming what you fought until it’s put in front of you. 

This moment crushed my existence. That man that stood up to my father didn’t quite leave me but left a bad taste and gave new questions. Thoughts of my love for him and guilt of those five years tortured me.

My dad had died of a heart attack and I was called to the hospital to pay respect. I had no idea what admiration i should of had and stood there in a daze looking over this man that had done so much for me. Thoughts of my love for him and guilt of those five years tortured me. Questioning every moment and through it all repeating over and over “I love you dad”

Anger turned to rage and the blame was laid.

Something happened like a switch turning on and that boy that defended his hero was reborn, baptized in fury.

Why would his family enable him? How could i do that to him?  Why would mentor take me from him?

Obviously my addiction to anger passed down to me mixed with the guilt of my own doing blinded me. The dad writing these words now realizes this and has grown past the man that uttered those thoughts out loud. I can’t take them back as words are like daggers and leave scars in the soul. That’s exactly what I did and like the out of control child he raised I defended his honour.

A new place and a new beginning.

We sold our house and left all that I knew. A new beginning on the other side of the country and for a brief moment that’s what it was. Within less than a year my wife had left and I was my father. A single dad raising children on my own.

This was my journey and the true realization of when a man must become a father.

I am writing this ten years past his death and in this time I’ve realized he was two things. I share the memories of that loving dad that cared for me with my children. Not only for them but also for me, I have learnt to separate the two. I have shed the anger in creating rules to live by. A code I teach my children as i never want to make that mistake again and more so don’t want that man teaching my children.

I have come full circle.

Now my oldest is fourteen and my response to his question is in fact a true answer.

We as men don’t get taught to be fathers. We are taught to be men. This is wrong and I’m breaking this circle and asking you all to do the same. Being a dad is harder than being a man, but there is no better respect of strength than that of being a dad.


I love you dad.



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