The strong silent type of father is the kind most of us grew up with. The Typical Kiwi Dad, son of the post-war generation, was himself raised by a father who valued stoicism over emotion, and a simple nod rather than outward praise.
In recent years, our dads have come along a bit of a journey. They have learned how to become more vocal about their feelings. Which we all welcome. Frequent honest chats with a father (or father figure) is something many of us, particularly men, could have used sooner when learning about life.
There are some seemingly-trivial aspects of being a man our dads didn't tell us about, but should have. If you're a dad of teenage boys today, consider telling your sons the following five things.
Shaving is more than a razor
Maybe your dad taught you to shave when you were a teenager, but I'm confident none of our fathers told us anything about skincare. I never heard a word about ingrown hairs.
Our dads didn't tell us our skin would need to be prepped before shaving with hot water and a face wash to open the pores and soften the hair follicles. They told us about stopping the blood from a cut while shaving, but didn't mention painful and ugly bumps or rashes. We never heard a word about moisturiser, either. All of this is vital basic grooming information for a father to pass on to his son.
You'll need to pee in the night
Everyone is told that sleep is important by their parents. When you're a teenager, you'll usually be permitted extra sleep – growing bodies need 8-10 hours, and have a later circadian rhythm than adult bodies (this is why research shows their sleep patterns, generally two hours later than their parents, have been proven to be hormonally influenced and not due to laziness). Yet our fathers didn't tell us that as we age, it's harder and harder to get an uninterrupted eight hours.
Stress and worry-causing insomnia aside, this is also because our bladders can't hold it all night anymore. That's right: someone should have told us that when you get into your 20s, 30s, and beyond, you'll need to pee once, twice, maybe even more times during the night. It's annoying, you'll wake up tired and incoherent, and you'll eventually end up with bruises on your shins from bumping into things in the night until you have a subconscious roadmap between your side of the bed and the loo.
Your partner won't accept your silence
Stiff-upper-lips are a hangover from colonialism in Kiwi culture, and while we still have a while to go before the silly "boys don't cry" ethos is finished in our society, lots of Kiwi men (of all ages) still lack communication skills. When we're "strong and silent" during relationship confrontation, our partners don't let us off the hook. Our fathers should have told us this.
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When your partner, male or female, is upset, it's your job to console them. Ask them questions. Take on a "how do we fix this together?" mentality. Your partner won't accept your silence, and if (or when) it is chronic in relationship problem-solving, it's a good way to ruin a relationship completely through non-communication.
Male friendships need to be more than common interests
When you're a young boy, you make friends with other boys because you like the same things. That, or living on the same street, are really the only prerequisites for friendship.
What our dads never told us about this strategy is, if you continue it into adulthood, you may end up with hollow male friendships. Superficial mates who banter about the fun stuff, but nothing more.
What our fathers could have told us is all men need deep connections with other men for their own mental health. We need other dudes to lean on; those we can isolate between easy chat about a footy match AND open up about body insecurities with. That can only happen when you have more in common than a preferred rugby team. Insider tip: author Justin Baldoni (author of Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity) says asking your other male friends about their fathers is a good ice-breaker when trying to convert superficial male friendships to deeper connections.
You'll eventually have problems getting it up
Erectile dysfunction sounds like such a serious condition. Something you need to see your GP about. True, but when having any Birds and Bees-type conversations, how could our dads never tell us how stress, anxiety, diet, and alcohol will influence if your little guy is going to get up or not? Getting an erection can even be the easy part – keeping it, on the other hand, is something else altogether.
If our fathers had told us that penises go flaccid during even the most arousing situations, there's no shame in it and your partner will be very forgiving. In fact, rather than calling it "erectile dysfunction", young men could be taught this, as you age, is actually "normal erectile function".