Sunday, February 06, 2011

Philosophical question

A baby gorilla with his dad.
Can dads be as affectionate and physically nurturing of their kids as moms can?

(I hate the word "nurture" but it's too late for the fruitless myopic slog through the pages of the thesaurus).

Having to ask this question is one of the very few bad things about being male. No offense to the ladies, but it's not bad enough that I'd jump at the chance to switch genders. The number one reason for staying male is of course 1) My lady is not gay. But there are others:

2) I can not imagine carrying a squiggling organism around in my stomach for almost a year. I grew up watching Alien. 3) is the idea of that organism sucking on my nipples after it came out. For me nipples are one of those seldom-touch zones. If reincarnation exists I was some kind of political dissident in a past life who got this nipples shocked with a couple of clamps and the battery from a blown up Jeep. 4) I jumped ahead: between carrying and nursing this organism is pushing it out through a very small opening in my body in what, I'm sorry, I still can't think of as anything other than a screaming bloody mess*. And I've watched two of these things now. 5) Being pressured to have grown up playing with girls' toys. Along with the images of horror that stuck with me watching Aliens is the serial-killer's-dungeon image of the bedrooms of my friends' sisters growing up. Nude, armless Barbies lying face down on a dirty rug, their dead, dry, straw-like hair dyed shocking colors and pulled straight roughly from the holes in their heads. But I do envy the connection between mothers and their children.

I guess I can't get over the insecurity or self-doubt that parenting will always be a leap for me because it is not in my nature. As if really, I'm programmed to kill things and wander off in the woods, and being a dad is like being a dressed-up monkey.

I am affectionate with my boys. Ambrose is still so narrow and tiny his round-apple shoulders stick out over his skinny little arms, and he is likely, at random, to get crushingly squeezed many times throughout the day, perhaps even tilted back nearly upside down and kissed. Ezra retracts his shoulders so he can shrink as far as possible from my arms and makes his body dead. But he will still remind me if I forget to give him a good-night kiss. I don't hug my kids because I am especially kind or loving. It is as much a part of my nature as I suspect would be throwing spears at a boar.

I tell myself cave-men were softer and kinder than we think**. I think of those Emperor penguins where the dads take care of the babies. And I think of what a male Silverback gorilla would do if you tried to hurt one of his kids. Maybe the idea that fathers are less emotionally available is not something from nature. Quite the opposite. Maybe it's just a primitive idea humans made up.

*When my mom was pregnant with my brother she was going to Lamaze classes. One time she couldn't find a babysitter so I had to go. She told me we were going to watch a movie. A movie! I liked those. She said the movie was about childbirth, and that childbirth was the most beautiful thing ever. Movie, beautiful, Disney. I pictured technicolor birdies and butterflies. I got a woman screaming, sweat-streaked hair plastered to her anguished face, and so much blood.

**This picture materializes when I have this thought, of a caveman with his arm around his wife leaning down to pat his little mogwump affectionately on the head. He has this soft expression. But when I was little and it was the 70s I sneaked a look at that Joy of Sex book once, and around the same age I took a lot of trips to the Natural History museum with its primitive man dioramas, and the memories got mixed up in my confused childhood mind so I have to stop the diorama caveman from turning into the hairy Joy of Sex dude in my imagination because I don't want to be that guy. He was enough to put me off procreating altogether.
A caveman and his lady.

My childhood impression of childbirth.
Actual childbirth.

The Joy of Sex dude and his lady.

Kris Kristofferson.


dbs said...

It's in our HUMAN nature to be affectionate. I think we just keep denying it because it makes us vulnerable and therefore afraid then angry. But then again, what do I know?

Eric said...

Apparently, a lot...

Kerry M. said...

eric, this is awesome. i think that women simply have a more visceral connection to their kids, due to all that growing, pushing and nursing. i think men love their kids equally (mentally, emotionally) just very differently. definitely not less. being the "caveman example" to your kids - the one who plays too rough, the one who shovels the dirt, the one who likes the loud music and big machines - is equally important to kids. when it's combined with all the hugs and kisses, it creates trust, pride, security - all on-par with mommy-love. maybe a more archetypal role than nurturing role, but oh, so important.

Elizabeth said...

I think parents of the 70s left their Joy of Sex books out on purpose to scare their children away from the act.

dufmanno said...

I didn't know Kris K. wrote and illustrated The Joy of Sex!
I learn something new here every day.
By the way, sex in the '70s was pretty much like sex with a caveman. People were WAY hairier and no one frowned on using a club for extra fun like they do now.

So, back to the actual point now that I've wandered off again.

I've known women who were as ice cold with their kids as the winter warlock so I don't know if it's necessarily gender.
Perhaps it's a personal thing having to do with how comfortable each person is with giving and receiving affection?

Wow, that sounded like a normal person answer for once.

Elly Lou said...

Now I'm singing 'Me and Bobby McGee.' But its a mashup with 2LiveCrew. My head hurts.

Eric said...

Busted flat in Baton Rouge
My balls was in a sling
I was feelin damn near faded as my (something white --- I don't know. Bleached asshole?)

Chelle said...

The whole alien thing is exactly right.

But what if people popped out of alien chests? I bet they worry about that.