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I'm just a dad trying to raise a boy who knows it's OK to cry

Zach is a father, a husband, a nerd and a writer of things. He's cofounder of and cohost of the Nerds, Geeks, Dads Podcast. He's also into video games, comic books and photography, not that you asked.

I'm teaching my son he needs to cry like a man

Of all the gender-infused behavior out there, “boys don’t cry” is like the marinade that boys stew in their whole lives. Wherever they go, they’re told to be strong, as if strength and tears are opposites. Boys and men are asked to swallow their emotions. To keep a stiff upper lip. To be the rock.

Not in my house.

I cry at just about everything. I cry when I talk about my passions in life. I cry when I think about life’s sadness. I cry when I watch sad movies. I cry when I watch happy movies. I cry when I hear Simon and Garfunkel’s The Boxer. I actually just cried typing that.

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I cry during commercials. I cry when my wife and I remember the good times. I actually stole the show at our wedding because when the doors of the church opened and my wife walked in, I cried. Loud and hard. I cried so hard when I rushed into the waiting room after my son was born that everyone thought there was an emergency.

Dude, I cry.

I know that crying doesn’t mean that I’m not strong. It doesn’t mean that I’m not a rock. Boys do cry. No matter what society says, crying isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength; the more in touch with your emotions you are, the stronger you are. So I don’t care how the old sayings go.

Naturally, I’ve passed down to my son, through my actions and words, that he too can cry. To hell with what it used to mean to be a man. Men cry. Men have emotions. And when my son is moved to tears by a feeling in his heart, a thought in his mind, a song on the radio or a show on television, I want him to let it out. It doesn’t have to be buckets of tears, either. Sometimes one tear is enough. Sometimes you need more. But that freedom to choose one, some or none — that’s the essence of being human.

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We haven’t had many deaths in our family, but when a fellow dad blogger and friend of mine, Oren Miller, had passed away from complications of cancer, I cried. When I read the news aloud, my son sat down next to me and cried as well. He wasn’t sure why. He just knew that he saw me crying and that my friend had died.

My son and I once cried listening to the theme song to The Legend of Zelda. Me, because I had it played during the cocktail hour of my wedding. My son cried because, well, it just hit a note that touched him. We didn’t bawl or wallow. But we cried tears until we were done, and then that was it. I’d never trade that experience, especially not in service to “being a man,” keeping a stiff upper lip or bottling our emotions up until they explode.

Sharing tears with him lets him know that crying is not only all right for him as a boy, but that it’s all right as a man. Boys cry. Men cry.

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We have reasons to cry, including but not limited to stubbing our toes, getting accidentally hit in the ball sack by a soccer ball, hearing sad news, watching Good Will Hunting, listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, listening to a video game theme, hearing happy news, breaking a toy, ripping a book, losing something important, losing someone important, getting a pet, seeing it die, graduating from high school, from college, from a phase in life.

My son will cry an ocean of tears in his life, and that is what will make him a man.

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