“You know, Sandy, when you’re angry, you’re a really scary guy.”
As a high school sophomore, I remember hearing those words from a friend and being proud. After all, I was only five foot five and 160 pounds, so I wasn’t very intimidating at the time. It was good to know that when I meant business, people recognized what was going on. As I got older and bigger, I probably got even scarier and always assumed it was my secret power. “Don’t get Sandy angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry.” I was achieving Hulk status.
By the time I reached adulthood and thoughts of parenting came about, I started to think that this temper would come in handy in the discipline of children. After all, you don’t want to upset an scary father, right? Of course, for whatever reason, I also assumed I would have two boys. In addition to keeping them in line, I also never wanted them to be intimidated by other kids. The playground can be a tough place to be a boy and they need to learn to stand up for themselves. I would help make them tough. Those other kids would have nothing on their old man. My boys wouldn’t back down from anything.
And then along came two girls and everything changed…
I rarely raise my voice and never resort to intimidation–even though I’m pretty sure I’d do it if I had boys. This is a one double standard that I allow for and the reason why I made this choice came to light a couple of weeks ago when a football player named Ray Rice was suspended for two weeks for domestic abuse. While both the crime and the ridiculously low punishment are disgusting, what may have been even worse was the response of the broadcaster on ESPN named Stephen A. Smith. Smith, after condemning the attack, then went on to give advice to women about how to avoid some men we’re just going to do it anyway. He seemed to say “hey, it’s wrong and not your fault, but it’s going to happen and you need to be prepared.” He attempted to apologize ahead of his suspension, but I’m pretty confident it was to save face. He still believes he was right. I don’t.
I never want my daughters to think that it is acceptable for a man to raise his hand in anger. I never want my daughters to accept this because that’s what allows it to continue. If either one of my girls ever says “yeah, it’s just like my Dad”, I’ve failed as a father. I’m not even talking about actually hitting the children. To use intimidation and the threat of violence is reprehensible. Physical differences exist between men and women. It’s the responsibility of men to never attempt to exploit this difference. If either girl ends up with a sad excuse for a man who can’t accept this responsibility, I want them to be confident enough to walk away.
I still have a lot of aggression. I still let my intimidating presence out. However, it is reserved for ball fields and board rooms. This isn’t to say I’m not strict or don’t get upset with Iris or Robyn. But I go out of my way to aim for constructive dialog, not only because that’s how humans should interact, but also because setting proper expectations are an important part of their future relationships. If they meet a Ray Rice, they need to walk away. And if they meet a Stephen A. Smith, they need to tell him where he can go.