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Why Is It So Difficult To See Our Fathers Cry?

For most of us, our fathers are synonymous with strength and resilience at any moment; They cry so rarely (or never, in some cases) that witnessing their vulnerability can change our entire perception of them.

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Tanya Savkoor
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Scene from Modern Family | Image: ABC Network

I remember the first time I saw my father cry. It is a memory etched deeply into my mind, one that I never saw coming and threw me off balance, redefining my understanding of him. It was a happy moment, in fact; when he dropped me at my college hostel for the first time. The entire day had been exciting, with a flurry of last-minute preparations as my pappa, as usual, meticulously made sure everything was in order. Once the day drew to a close and we had finally caught our breath, we stood outside the building exchanging goodbyes. That was when I saw it, a tear trickling down his cheek. 

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At that moment, I realised the depth of love and pride he held for me. Until that day, I saw pappa as the epitome of composure amid any situation. Even in our family's moments of weakness, he held himself like a rock in the stormy sea. However, seeing him cry shattered that perception; It humanised him in a way I had never experienced before. 

Seeing Fathers Cry

In South Asian households, seeing our pappa, baba, or appa cry is a sight that can break our spirit. Until that moment, we see him as a stoic, composed figure who puts aside emotions to deal with a problem head-on. Many of us have either never seen our father vulnerable or only seen him shed a tear well into our adulthood.

My friend once told me, "When my mom cries, I feel like crying too, but when my dad cries (rarely, she emphasised), I feel numb and anxious that something terrible has happened." These words became a poignant reminder of the complex emotions our fathers have held in, just to be a pillar of strength even in dire times.

In school, we are taught to mug up the words, "The father is the head of the family" dozens of times until it is permanently woven into the fabric of our understanding. Our patriarchal society forces us to adopt gender roles that often do more harm than good. A family runs from the support of all members, not just one parent.

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As 'heads of the family', fathers are expected to be providers and protectors, putting mounting pressure on them to serve as an unyielding force for the family. Not only does this concept negate the endless contributions that mothers make, but also expects fathers to hide their vulnerability behind a facade of strength.

Our fathers grew up in a generation when masculinity and toughness were synonymous and equated to being powerful. They were exposed to the Angry Young Men and the rebels without a cause who never showed weakness. This outdated stereotype fails to recognize the emotional depth of every individual, regardless of gender.

Why Fathers Deserve To Shed A Tear Or Two

Since most fathers shoulder the burden of holding it together for the family, watching them cry feels like our entire world is crumbling. However, this is an unfair and selfish reaction to their genuine emotions. When fathers cry, it is a powerful reminder of the empathy and sensitivity with which they support the family.

A lot of paternal figures are associated with emotions like anger, strictness, and seriousness. However, fathers must be encouraged to show and embrace their "soft" side as it can enhance the emotional intelligence of their young children, that is, teach them how to authentically express their feelings and empathise with others.

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When fathers embrace their real emotions, it can open new conversations and create deeper connections within the family. It also teaches children how to provide support or attention to someone in need. This, in turn, helps break down harmful stereotypes and promotes healthier attitudes towards masculinity and vulnerability

In essence, fathers deserve to cry because they are humans too. Witnessing my pappa's tears that day became a cherished memory, one that connected us on a deeper level. I learned to appreciate my father not only as a provider and protector but also as a compassionate and emotionally expressive individual. 

My family has been going through some big changes lately and as we navigate them together, I find myself reflecting on that moment more often. His tears of pride as I entered my dream college served as a motivation for me to work harder towards my goals and be able to support him the same way he has always been there for me.

Views expressed by the author are their own.

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