During one of the parenting classes I was facilitating, we got on the subject of “touch” and its significance to the development of the self-concept of a child. Most of the fathers talked about how when their sons were younger in age, they held them a lot and even kissed them. As their sons began to get older some ceased doing it as frequently; limiting it to certain celebratory occasions. There were a handful who said that they still would attempt to show physical affection toward their sons even after they moved into their teens, but that it was the sons who did not like for it to be done publicly, but were a little more receptive in the home. For those fathers who decreased the physical contact, they could not give anything definitive about how the change began to happen, but did say that it had more to do with themselves and their willingness to let the choice of doing so lye with their sons. Another reason given had to do with their perception of masculinity, and how their fathers were not affectionate with them in that manner. It seems that when you ask males of varying ages to define “intimacy”, few speak to that which takes place between males. The discussion almost always has to do with the opposite sex.
After having some more dialogue on parenting styles and why some males are more and/or less affectionate than others, I used the classroom environment as a means to dispel their own myths. I directed them to take a look at what each one of them does when they initially enter the classroom. It did not take long for them to identify how they come in and greet one another, then head to the food table. What did escape them, was the need for touch from one another. I told them to watch what the next person who enters the classroom does when they enter. Lo and behold one of their peers entered the classroom, and without being interruptive of the class, he walked toward an available seat, placed his hand on the shoulder of some, and shook hands with others. He was clueless as to why we were all laughing, so we let him in on the discussion. To his amazement, he too recognized that it is important to him to connect with everyone in the room, due to the trusting relationships that they have developed. Everyone in the room would make sure that they had some kind of physical contact with one another either upon entering or before leaving. It all had to do with the mere fact that they trusted enough in their environment that they would disclose anything in this class, knowing that they are supported and not judged.
Is this not the kind of relationship many fathers truly want to have with their sons? If you can walk up to one of your friends and give them a handshake and a “shoulder bump”, why can you not do the same with your son? You can! Try it and see how the relationship begins to change. You are not trying to be a “cool” dad, you are just maintaining an intimate relationship through the touch of your hand to his. Get a firm grip on his hand, pull him close, and tell him “I love you son”.