Let’s open our arms to our boys, says dad of two Andreas Späth.
Every evening when my wife Sam comes home from work, she absolutely has to have a comprehensive dose of little boy hugs from our sons Joey, 10, and Ben, 8.
It’s not so much a craving than a physical necessity - without a good quarter hour’s worth of full-body snuggling on the bed, her life just doesn’t seem worth continuing. When she comes home after their bed time, she’ll usually drag them from their bed into ours to extract her daily dues.
Now I’m quite partial to a good boy hug myself, but I’m nowhere near Sam’s confirmed addict status. I think I’ve observed a trend, however, in the physical affection department of fathers, particularly towards their sons, that has me quite worried.
Ever notice how those cheesy but heart-warming pictures of young dads lying snuggled in bed with their newborn baby - you know the kind: shot through a smoky lens, all white linen, Sunday morning feeling, etc. - are a dime a dozen, but how you very rarely see a father hug or kiss his teenage son?
While mothers can and do show physical affection towards their kids of both sexes throughout their lives, it’s just not the done thing between most fathers and sons starting from about the time when it becomes difficult to lift the little buggers up into your arms.
Years ago I was at a university graduation, one of those most tediously boring events for everybody involved, when I was shocked out of my comatose stupor by a remarkable display on stage. An academic was doing the capping and handing over of degree thing with his own son. Nothing unusual there, but then they kissed each other. Two grown men. Father and son. In public. On the mouth!
I was totally gobsmacked and so was everyone else, judging by the pin-drop-silence that descended on the cavernous hall for a moment.
After the initial shock I felt immensely disappointed at my own reaction to what had happened. Why is it such an abnormal thing for a father to show real physical affection towards his grown-up son? Why does it seem to conjure up visions ranging from homophobia to incest rather than a recognition of love between two people?
Nobody in the audience would have been rattled out of their boredom if a mother had been embraced her son or daughter on that stage.
Most of us fathers and sons seem to graduate from the full-body hug, snuggle and kiss to the rub of the top of the head and the slap on the shoulder far too quickly. Before you know it all physical contact between the two of you has degraded to the perfunctory bend-from-the-hip pseudo hug or even worse, that most vacuous of all human interactions, the handshake.
Why should we worry about any of this? Isn’t that just the way of the world, human nature and all that? Well, I have this pet theory, which, in broad strokes, says that the world is such a messed up place (war, violence, rape, injustice, hunger, poverty, etc.) because it is, for the most part, run by men. Men who struggle to share their emotions and model this inability for their sons who perpetuate it.
I reckon that physical affection is a much neglected form of communication among fathers and sons which, if practiced more enthusiastically, would go a long way towards spreading love, self-assurance and happiness.
And now for more important things: I’m off to hug a son.Do you agree or should we leave all of that girly stuff to the mothers?