Why Fathers Abandon Their Posts
For the most part men are still stuck in the Neolithic period acting like Neanderthals. I am really sorry to say, but it is true. Men have a code. Don’t talk about how you are feeling. Endure all pain without complaint. Go to war.
Not everyman carries a machine gun, but when they leave their homes each day, they put on their military attire and fight battles. When they come from the war, all they want to do is forget about it. The last thing they want to do is be with their families and interact with their children. They certainly don’t want to talk. Whatever it takes to forget so that they can wake up and do it again the next day is what they do.
When you go to war, the most important coping device you have is forgetting. By and large after several years on the battlefield most men have lost their dreams. They have lost themselves. Then they abandon their children. You would think that in the modern world with all that we know about development that things would be better, but they seem to just be repeating themselves. Men keep forgetting who they are and abandoning their families. It is because they are being loyal to the code. The code is enduring.
The easiest thing for men to do to resolve the war mentality is to adopt the metaphor of play over war. The war metaphor starts around age 6 when children start to get compared to one another and then realize that they are in a life and death struggle against others for their material survival. Girls have the advantage of being able to talk about feelings so the damage to them is ameliorated. But boys quickly learn that their material survival depends largely on how they stack up against others. Fighting for an advantage is what they are taught and since they have to shut up about things, they know no other way.
When men leave the house to play rather than going off to war, they come back refreshed and excited about being with their families. They talk more and share more. Their children feel like they have value. It is a simple shift. War is serious business. Play is light and care-free. War kills relationships. Play increases and develops friendships. War is about carving out territory. Play is about having a good time in your space.
Men have the greater responsibility for the financial well-being of the family, but it doesn’t mean that they have to go war to each day. They can go to play. Instead of bring the war home and then trying to forget it, they can bring the play home and remember it. When you are stuck in the war mentality, even the play like a golf game is life and death.
When you watch children play, they can enjoy themselves endlessly in the midst of a game, but as soon as the score starts to matter, they start to fight with each other. Playing does not exclude score-keeping, but it does exclude the score mattering so much. The other day I was in a store to buy something for my tennis racquet when I ran into a friend who I hadn’t seen for awhile. Almost the entire time he spent telling me his score card. He told me how his children were going to university or getting high marks and something about where his family was going. I think I was supposed to impressed by the score card, but I knew that the kid going to the university was majorly into drugs.
One of my favorite stories of a man getting out of the war metaphor was from ecological tour operator in Chapada Diamantina in Brazil. He had been a lawyer in a big city, probably Sao Paulo. Then one day he took a trip to the Chapada. He fell in love with the place because it was a big playground in nature. He created a great tour into some gorgeous areas and left his life as lawyer behind him. While we may all not be able to leave our jobs and live in nature, we can change the war to play.
Life is a playground, not a war zone.