A lady made a comment to me the other day that most of my articles are typically positive in nature and are what she considered “fluff.” Her comment did not bother me, but it did remind me of something that has been weighing on my mind for quite some time, so maybe this article will not be considered fluff.
This article is written about men and for complete transparency, at no point do I consider myself a finished product here (just ask my wife). My growth is a constant battle as a man, a father, a husband, and a child of God.
I want to begin with a song my Dad used to listen to often many years ago.
Every mornin’ at the nine you could see him arrive. He stood six-foot-six and weighed two-forty-five. Kinda broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip. And everybody knew ya didn’t give no lip to big John (Big John, Big John).
(I skipped a few verses here, but the mine collapses on the men).
Through the dust and the smoke of this manmade hell, walked a giant of a man that the miners knew well. Grabbed a saggin’ timber, gave out with a groan. And like a giant oak tree he just stood there alone, Big John.
With jacks and timbers they started back down. Then came that rumble way down in the ground. And then smoke and gas belched out of that mine. Everybody knew it was the end of the line for Big John (Big John, Big John) Big Bad John.
(Jimmy Dean, 1961)
Men, please pay attention. We are falling short of our duties.
This past year I have spent some time in waiting rooms while my mother has had some procedures completed. It was during this time that I have heard some very interesting conversations. Most of them not good toward the male gender. On one of those trips I spent about four hours in a hospital waiting room and happened to be joined by two women in their mid ’30s. They were discussing their husbands and it was amazing how much they talked about what they did not do. How they not only did not help in the house, but they did next to nothing outside the home. Both women commented on how they had to hire people to do routine tasks because their husbands were too busy doing other things or nothing in general.
I found this discussion very interesting. I was trying not to eavesdrop, but the women were clearly not trying to be unheard. A few moments later one of the women turned toward me and asked about my son, who was playing with some toys beside me. The lady said, “Is that your son?”
I said, “Yes. He is 5 and we are here waiting on his grandmother’s procedure to be done.”
The second lady chuckled a little and said, “You brought your mom to the hospital and are keeping your son?”
I was thinking to myself why was that was so amusing to her, and then it hit me. Her husband likely would not be in that position. She then proceeded to ask me how much I help my wife at home? I decided to play along and answer their questions. I replied that my wife and I try to help each other equally as much as possible. She has a full-time job as well, so we parent together. I likely carry the larger burden of the outside work, and my wife carries the larger burden of the inside work, but we cross over when needed. Both women seemed to think that was not common and it made me question my fellow men.
I sure hope that is not the case. Men, where are you?
I am not a perfect man. Who is? But it seems that the obvious thing lacking in family structure these days are fathers because they are absent, or who are there but basically are non-existent. Real men are the protectors and providers of the family. They are the leaders and the head of the home. I have three boys, and I have no issues with my boys knowing that their father helps their mother with all tasks. It does not make me a weak male. I makes me a male who does what it takes to value his wife and his role in the family. I intend to always pump my wife’s gasoline into her car, open the door for her, do the heavy lifting. That does not mean that I do not think she can do those items. It just means she should not have to do that, because I have already taken care of it.
Big John was a “real man” in the lyrics of the song. I would like to think he was a man that stood on his morals and valued his fellow human. So much, in fact, that he gave his life to save his fellow miners. There is a lesson there.
What would our family unit look like today if real men stood up and took care of their homes, took care of their wives and children, and stood when a real man was needed. What would our communities look like? I would really like to see that picture.
I am reminded of a story that took place when my oldest son was a fourth-grader. My wife and I attended a field trip with him and his class. As we were departing that day the teacher broke us up into our groups and I was given a list of the kids that were in my group. As we arrived one of the young girls stayed very close to me and my son. We were nearing lunch time and were moving on to another exhibit when I felt someone grab my hand. I assumed it was my son’s hand, but when I looked down it was not. This very quiet, young girl grabbed my hand and was swinging it as we were walking.
At first, I was unaware of what to do. I looked up and made eye contact with a teacher and gave her that unsure look and she quietly nodded her approval. She held my hand as we walked to the next stop, and then it was lunch. I mentioned the incident to my wife and we talked about it a little as we were finishing lunch. The teacher was in my area, and I stopped her and questioned her about the young girl. I asked the teacherr what she knew about the girl and the incident with her earlier in the day. She responded, “You are Ethan’s Dad.”
I was confused so I asked what she meant by that statement. She went on to explain that this young girl lived with her grandma and had no male figure in her life. She went on to explain that Ethan talked about the things we did together and the fun that we had. This young lady yearned for that male connection. That father that she heard only stories from others about but was non-existent in her life.
Men, where are you?
Not all men can be a Big John, but we can be the best version of us — a protector, a provider, faithful, honest, driven and dedicated to our families. Be that real man today, men. Stand at the bottom of that mine with a wood beam and be the support that you were called to be. Your family needs you, your community needs you.
Men, please stand up.
Chad McConnaughey is the Highland County recorder.