Grown men cry

Photo by Gadiel Lazcano on Unsplash

Why is it a rule that “grown men don’t cry”?

I think the spirit of the rule must come from something like what happened between my nine-year old son and me this morning.

I got up early on a Saturday, drove to the next town over, bought doughnuts, and brought them home for my son to eat while he watched Saturday morning cartoons.

This is a custom. I may enjoy it even more than my son enjoys it.

But I get the feeling that he does not understand that this custom is a gift that I choose to give him each weekend. I get the feeling that my son thinks cartoons and doughnuts on Saturday mornings are his right by birth and, therefore, I owe it to him.

This morning, I did not want to watch cartoons. My boy lowered himself into the couch before the TV and I brought him his doughnuts. I came back upstairs to figure out what I need to do around the house today. I’ve been away from home for most of the last month and four of the last five weekends. “Deferred maintenance” are the words of the day around here.

I don’t know if I was working on my to-do list or my to-do list was working on me, but I heard light footsteps come from behind.

I turned around to see my son, munching on a doughnut. He wanted me to come downstairs to pay for a movie he wanted to stream.

I said “no.”

He cried.

I said: “You’re acting like you’re spoiled.”

He pleaded. I told him to deal with it.

He went away and (I guess) did just that.

I think the spirit of “big boys don’t cry” is for times like that one.

It’s another way of saying: “We often do not get what we want in life. It does no good to cry about it. Indeed, crying makes it worse. Just shrug your shoulders, say ‘oh well,’ and find something else to do. Big boys don’t cry; they move on. They do something. They try again. They work.”

I can think of a lot of grown men who need to take these words to heart, too.

I think that, in America, however, we turned the spirit of “big boys/grown men don’t cry” into a letter of law: Big boys/grown men never cry for any reason. Crying is unmanly. Crying is shameful. Crying is weak.

The inspiration for the Saturday doughnut custom in my house is a custom my dad started with me when I was younger than my son is now. One or two Saturdays a month, he took me out to breakfast. He let me choose where we went to eat. I almost always chose the Donut Den.

So for most of my growing up years, Dad and I had doughnuts together one or two Saturdays a month. He set aside the time for him and me to just talk about anything that was on my mind. When I was little, we talked about things like football and G.I. Joe and kids at school. When I was a teenager, we talked about college and girls and life situations. We talked about what it means to be an apprentice and student of Jesus Christ.

Doughnuts with Dad every Saturday morning turned into something big, important, and valuable. Dad and I got into the habit of talking all the time. We took weekend trips together so that we could talk in the car or while walking around a museum or watching a ballgame.

As I started my own family and grew into midlife, I called Dad at least once a week. He was the first person I called when I had good news. He was also the first person I called when I had bad news. He was the first person from whom I sought counsel whenever I faced a big decision or hard situation.

As grown men, we still enjoyed doughnuts together…even more than we did 40 years ago.

But three days ago, Dad died.

I cried.

I cried as I watched him shrivel up and sink down before my eyes.

I cried when he took his last breath.

I cried every day since.

I expect to cry for many more days, weeks, months, and maybe years.

If you tell me that grown men don’t cry, then I will tell you that you misunderstand the spirit of that “rule”.

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance (Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4).

Dad and I won’t get together for doughnuts anymore. He won’t be on the other end of the line when I call him. We won’t take any of our father-son trips so that we can enjoy life–and talking about life–together.

He leaves a hole that nothing in the world can fill.

This is the time to weep. This is the time to mourn.

This is lament. It is biblical. It is fitting. It is just right.

So this grown man will cry until no tears are left.

Grace and peace.


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