The emotional attachment of being a father sometimes scares me. I’m willing to admit that I’m pretty unavailable when it comes to extroverted emotion. I don’t like it. I don’t like when other people get emotional around me. I don’t like witnessing unbridled displays of affection nor do I really want any part of them. How can I be an emotional father?
My mom sent me this picture recently.
Just look at that dashing, young stallion. Who is this handsome devil sporting the demin button down with a brown corduroy collar and a shark tie? Well that is me at approximately age 10, circa 1995ish. When asked where this picture came from, my mom replied, “Dad had it in his flight bag and was carrying it with him on his travels.” My father is a commercial airline pilot and apparently, he’s been carrying this picture around for…well, perhaps the better part of 15+ years, who knows…?
I cringe over how I can somehow make this an emotional tale about how for more than a decade, my dad has been clandestinely carrying this image of me in his bag! Like me, he’s never really been one for open displays of affection. In fact, he is probably the only person in my family who may be as emotionally closed off as I am.
But this is not an emotional tale. It is a discovery. A discovery that the man who’s renowned lack of visible tenderness, the man who’s passed that emotionless exterior on to me, has been secretly carrying an image of me from a time in my life when we shared virtually every weekend together. Not telling anyone and not showing anyone, because frankly, that’s not what’s important.
I’ve realized that emotion does not need to be flaunted and showboated to be genuine. Even the people perceived as shallow in affect are often the fullest.
It is somehow more fulfilling to know that this was a picture he and he alone kept and traveled with. It certainly makes the daunting fear of emotion and fatherhood less intimidating. And while I am surely not taking steps toward being an enthusiastically emotional father, I’m comfortable knowing that whatever style I develop will still be just as genuine.