Wrestling With Things

Child C just started wrestling for the first time. This is a sport that I know almost nothing about. We are both learning an entirely new language and way of moving and thinking. It’s really challenging, but after a few practices C says he really likes it. We were lucky enough to be coached in soccer by one of the wrestling coaches who has taken C under his wing to help him get up to speed since many of the wrestlers his age have already been wrestling for years. We would be floundering without him.

Coach shows us how to fly.

That’s Child C in bright blue.

After practice on Thursday we went over to say thank you to the Head Coach. He asked C how long he’d been wrestling. We said, “Three days.” He was really surprised and said that C has a lot of natural talent and is meant to be a wrestler. While we owe our coach for our technique, I think we can thank Daddy for our talent. Spouse A wrestled all through school. He is really excited that Child C is in wrestling now. More excited than any of the other sports we’ve done. Wrestling is his sport and seeing C participate and enjoy it is really making him happy.

And there is the rub.

Many of the coaches are dads who love wrestling and help out the team and their kids. Spouse A’s disabilities keep him from participating in sports with Child C in a significant way. Most of his injuries are in his spine which naturally precludes any significant amount of wrestling and/or wrastling* (or walking or  running or standing). My heart hurts a little when I see the other dads at practice with their kids and between practices when they can tussle and rough house together. This, I think, is the hardest thing for Spouse A and Child C when it comes to Daddy’s disability, some of the easy physicalness that they both miss out on.

Child C in blue and yellow.

working on single leg takedowns

*defined for us here as play wrestling 🙂

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Man Up Monday: A Real Man

My Dear Son,

When it comes to being a man, we will work together to develop an idea of what we think a man is. Our ideas will, of course, be informed by the images in the media. But as we are free thinking, intelligent beings we are able to seek out those examples that are most in line with our values and refuse or analyze those that are not. We will start with my and your dad’s ideas and build from there. We will add Daddy’s later. For now, this is just my list. These are the most important qualities that I believe a man should have. But, they are not reserved only for men. These are qualities that a woman should have as well. As you get bigger, you will hear people describe something called a “real man.” This is what they feel is the ideal of a man. There is no one definition of a real man. In fact, one person’s ideals might change over time. The reality is that there is no definition of what a real man is. If you try to act like someone else’s idea of how a real man should act then you are probably not being true to your own self and heart. As Daddy likes to say, “To thine own self be true.”

 

Man Up Monday: Football

My Dear Son,

I know that you love football. I could rail against the violence and cookie cutter gender roles that so obviously are present in this sport and its portrayal in the media. I will not. I will teach you that even within this sport there are many different roles played out. There is a vital role on the team for multiple types of masculinity if we only look.

The more traditional definition of masculinity can be found in the linemen. Big and strong, they give and take the brunt of the physical force bandied about in this battle. You have your daddy’s build, a longer, leaner body type that probably won’t lend itself to the linebacker model. Perhaps you will be a running back. In this role the man is not large and built for blocking. He is more slender. He is fleet of foot. He relies upon his eyes to show him the way through the opposition to reach his goals. With help from his teammates, he is able to use his quick reflexes and agile body to navigate across this minefield to where he can coordinate his feet, hands, eyes, and mind in concert to catch the passes thrown to him.

The linchpin of a football team on the field is the quarterback. Of course, the quarterback needs physical strength and nimble feet in order to fill his role on the team. But the quarterback, more than anything else, must be smart. He needs to be able to see the bigger picture, make quick decisions, and implement those decisions into actions while in the face of adversity in the form of the players on the other team. If it is my choice, I think you will make a great quarterback one day. But none of these players would win this game without the other players.

We also must mention in our roles of masculinity the role of the coach. I hope that we remember the coach as knowledgeable leader who has played the game before and is able to show you how to play, how to maximize your talents, and how you will best be an asset to the team. Do not mistake aging for losing strength. While it is true that the coach might not run as fast as you can, he has the knowledge to see things that you can’t and choose the play that will allow for the best possible outcome.

All of these positions are legitimate, valid pictures of strength. It takes all of them to make it possible to have a good game and win at it. Remember that in many ways football is all about life, but in no way is life all about football.

 

Man Up Monday: Tough Guise and Intro

I recently watched the movie Tough Guise in my Gender and Race in Political thought class.

Here is a portion of the description from Mediaed.org where it is available for purchase. It is also available online for watching.

“While the social construction of femininity has been widely examined, the dominant role of masculinity has until recently remained largely invisible. Tough Guise is the first educational video geared toward college and high school students to systematically examine the relationship between pop-cultural imagery and the social construction of masculine identities in the U.S. at the dawn of the 21st century.

In this innovative and wide-ranging analysis, Jackson Katz argues that widespread violence in American society, including the tragic school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, Jonesboro, Arkansas, and elsewhere, needs to be understood as part of an ongoing crisis in masculinity.”

Perhaps because I have a young son, I was inspired by this movie to do something to promote alternate views of what masculinity is or can be. I’m calling it Man Up Monday. I will try to post something on (hopefully all, but certainly most) Mondays dedicated to the healthy raising up of our boy children in to whole and healthy men. So, with that in mind, here is an except from another essay that I turned in in that class. It’s a 5 page letter to my son about masculinity and role models. This time I can break up the text into more manageable chunks-unlike the last one.

My Dear Son,

I love you and am enjoying watching you grow into a young man. Let me tell you that I will do my level best to keep society or family or even your Dad and I from confining you into a box that defines who you are based on some stereotype of masculinity. I promise to help you follow your dreams, whatever they might be, even if they are seemingly hyper-masculine like racecar driver and bull rider. I will help you learn to be strong in the face of adversity, not because men must be strong, but because people must be strong and persevere when we feel like giving up.

I will make every effort to show you alternate definitions of strong. In challenge to the mainstream media’s sledgehammer definition of strength, I will find role models who show you how to be strong in quieter, softer or more subtle ways. I think we may be off to a good start, given my obsession with dance shows. Male dancers are often some of the strongest athlete’s in the world, but they are so graceful at the same time that it is often overlooked. I will teach you to look at our culture’s stereotypes with a critical eye. I will show you how to “win battles” with words and knowledge. I will preach to you of Dr. King and Gandhi whose strength was not brutish and violent. Their strength came from nonviolence and peaceful ideals.

Look for Role Models in Football (his other love) next week