Jaime Primak Sullivan is an author/publicist/mom with a large internet following. Recently, she watched her 8-year-old son Max take a ball to the face during a basketball game. Then, to make things worse, some bozo in the crowd tried to shame her for her instinctive mom reaction. But instead of giving this jerk a piece of her mind, she contained her anger—channeling it into a thoughtful Facebook post about the pressure put on young boys not to show their emotions, and the damage it does to the men they become. It's a must-read for anyone who care about parenting.
Sullivan's post reads:
Last Saturday my 8 year old son Max was playing in his school basketball game. Somewhere is the shuffle he was hit in the face with the ball. I saw it happen like it was slow motion. I saw his eyes widen and then squint from the pain - he looked around trying to focus. I knew he was looking for me. "Max got hit in the face", I said to my husband as I instinctively jumped up from the bleachers. In that moment, I saw Max start to run around the court in my direction as the silent cry began. He couldn't catch his breath. My feet couldn't move fast enough. As soon as we connected, I got down on one knee. "Catch your breath buddy." He tilted his head back. "Max, breath. It's okay." He finally took a breath, and I wrapped my arms around him as he cried into my shoulder. A voice came from behind me - "You need to stop babying that kid." My mind registered the sentiment, but I kept my focus on Max. I cleaned his face, and wiped his tears. Once I knew he was okay, i sent him back around the court to join his team on the bench.
I climbed back up on the bleachers. My hands shaking. i was so angry. I fussed about it all the way home. My husband blew it off. "Who cares what they think?"
This notion that boys can never hurt, that they can never feel, is so damaging to them long term. The belief that any signs or gestures of affection will somehow decrease their manhood - this pressure to always "man up" follows them into adulthood where they struggle to fully experience the broad scope of love and affection. The only emotion they healthily learn to express is happiness then we wonder why they are always chasing it.
They're taught that sadness is weakness, that talking about their fears or short comings makes them less than. They don't mourn properly. The struggle to grieve. They're afraid to cry. It all spills into the way they husband and father and I hate it.
Love is a verb. It is something you do. It is not the same as babying, coddling or spoiling. It is something my son deserves. I will always love him when he is hurting and my prayer for him is that he is alway open to receiving love so he can love in return and keep that cycle going.
In the first 18 hours since Sullivan's post was published, it has received more than 12,000 likes, and been shared more than 2,000 times. She's continued to wade back into the comments, answering questions and responding to everyone who wants to support or criticize her parenting.
Speaking as someone who once took a basketball to the face during gym class, I can confirm that it hurts. I felt that I had to contain my tears to be a man. I was 16, but the point still stands.