Counseling Fatherhood: The Dirty Stuff Pt. 1

Men.

There are plenty of things we don't talk about with one another. Stereotypically, that includes feelings and problems of a more esoteric nature. Heck, we don't always talk about those things with our wives and girlfriends either. And while this is proving to be problematic for many reasons and in many areas of life, one of the ones I find most fascinating is fatherhood. 

As many of you know, I've got a son named Ben. He's a very funny, social bundle of energy and is extremely inquisitive. Somedays, he's too smart for his own good; somedays for ours. A few of you have met him in the waiting room of one of the offices. He an incredible experience of life and learning for us.

I don't know about you but no one really told me about what becoming a father would be like. Sure, I have a great example personally and in my family's social circle but that only told me what having a father was like. None of them sat down with me at any point in time as a young married man and explained the nitty gritty. 

Since I've had my own kid I've learned a lot and had subsequently important conversations with many people about fatherhood. So what's the problem? A lot of other new dads aren't getting to have these conversations with anyone because of that whole "Be a man about it" thing. While I get to have these conversations with my clients, there are probably many people that miss out on this chance by not coming into my office openly with some of the feelings they're encountering. Hence, a series of blog posts are forthcoming to touch on some of the more challenging points people have shared with me and that I've experienced myself as a new dad. 

Also, a quick plug for Fatherly.com which has a lot of interesting articles on it about fatherhood. 

For my first post, I thought I'd talk about a general experience I had a while back and the implications of it. 

"Stranger Danger" and the demonization of Fatherhood

Okay, maybe a dramatic title but it certainly captures the feelings of the situation. 

A few months ago, Melissa and I took Ben took our local library. He loves it there because there are so many books and kids of all ages running around and playing together. Being a photographer, too, I naturally had my camera with me so I could capture some fun moments of Ben doing his thing solo -- or with Melissa. There's a colorful toy car that he can climb into and he usually spends his first 20 minutes in it: I got this shot that day.

Ben At The Library

It wasn't long after I took this picture that Ben took off running to play with a couple older kids and I let the camera hang at my side. I'm very careful not to take pictures of him in public if there are other kids that could be in it that I don't know -- I want to be respectful of other families. Despite that fact, as I was standing near the books watching Ben do his thing, a librarian came over to me and asked me the following; 

"Sir, who are you here with? Do you need something?", while glancing menacingly. 

"No thank you, I'm just here with my wife and son.", I replied knowing what she was suggesting by her tone and body language. 

"You are a creepy man walking around with a camera near kids, you must have bad intentions"

That was the sentiment she gave me that day and it's happened twice again since then, once at that library and once at the Children's Museum when I was just using my phone. All of this long story is shared to say, "Dad's, if you're an involved father people are going to think you're creepy sometimes". It's a shame that despite conversations about fathers being more involved in their children's lives and how that is such an important thing, society still treats that with hesitation. 

"Stranger Danger" is a phrase that goes back to the 1960s used to describe the risk of unknown adults to children. It was highly propagated throughout the ensuing 40 years and is now known to have done more harm than good. For example, one study shows that in the U.S. 800,000 children are reported missing (even temporarily) annually but only 115 children are abductions by strangers. 

That being said, the mantra of "Stranger Danger" still permeates the brain of modern life. The effects of this aren't fully known but it is evidenced somewhat by the fact that kids are overly-sequestered these days and not given the reign to roam, explore, and learn the way that they once were. 

So new dads, a heads up one more time. If you're an involved father, someone's going to think you're creepy at some point in time. It will potentially make you angry, make you laugh, make you frustrated, make you want to back off of spending so much time publicly with your kids. Those feelings are all totally valid but don't let your relationship suffer with them because of one random opinion. 

Have you had any experiences like this? I'd love to hear what your thoughts are.

Until next time, 

-Alex