Hardwired

 

There are some important differences between males and females, hardwired into us, to use modern-day computer language, that requires that we take our fathering responsibilities seriously.

 

To use biological language, my brain is different from my wife’s because of genetic and hormonal differences and those differences be honored as we enculturate our boys into men and fathers themselves.

 

One of the things I do that tends to drive my wife Joan wild is this: when I work on a writing project, on any kind of project for that matter, I spread my materials around not only in my study, but on the coffee table in the living room, and on the living room floor, and on the kitchen table, and on the T.V. tray in the family area, where Joan’s study is. It’s as though there isn’t enough room in our three bedroom plus family room home for me to work. And I’m not odd. Recent research on males has shown that we tend need space, a large amount of space to work. It’s kind of a male thing to need to spread out.

 

Now I’m not saying that because it’s kind of a male thing, it’s therefore not my job, but Joan’s job, to pickup after me. It’s not okay for me to invade what we’ve agreed to be her space. I’ve got to learn, or be taught, to pick up after myself and respect the space of others.

 

It’s always amazed Joan that such a gentle guy as myself can love to watch boxing. It’s such a violent sport, she says. But it’s not the violence per se that captivates me, but it’s the competitive nature of the sport, and the terrible risk. Recent research has shown that this is a proclivity of the male brain and hormonal system. Boxing is so explosive and unpredictable. But it’s not violence that is hardwired into us males, it’s the competitiveness that animates us. We can be taught by our fathers and other male mentors how to be competitive without being violent. I myself am inclined to compete in more gentle ways.

 

For example, I’m proud of my yard and garden. You know, our neighbors have noticed that I’ve done wonders with the yard and garden compared to others who have lived there. My yard is not perfect. I have those white and yellow spots in the holes in my lawn.

 

I also don’t mind catching the biggest fish on a fishing, though I can be satisfied with just being near flowing water. I didn’t mind writing the best short story in writing class, and being told by my peers that mine was the best.

 

Living, through the sixties and seventies, it’s always bothered me, and bothered Joan, that when she tells me how she’s feeling about something, or about some situation, my first impulse has been to fix her, or fix the problem. All she wants is for me to listen and hear her. Recent research has shown that males are hard of hearing, because we are hardwired to be task oriented.

 

Now this doesn’t mean that as fathers and husbands, we don’t have to learn how to give focused attention to those we love. We can learn to do this, and we can be taught to do this by appropriate male mentors.

 

It’s also bothers me that it takes me so long, sometimes hours or even days, to figure out what I am feeling. Something happens, and Joan knows what she feels right away and usually articulates what those feelings are. And, it bothers me that in contrast to myself, my oldest son can fly off the handle and slam the door to his room.

 

Recent research has shown that it’s not that males have no feelings, or know only how to rage, but that we are hardwired to process our feelings differently. The male brain has fewer connective fibers–the corpus callosum–between the left and right sides than the female brain. Because of this the male can be expected to be less able to discuss his feelings than females.

 

Now this doesn’t excuse us males from expressing our feelings when we are ready or from responding to familial and community needs for intimacy. Nor does it excuse us from learning to manage our anger, or from teaching our sons to manage their anger.

 

Because of the way we are constructed as males, there’s a great need for us to midwife, as it were, a second birth. We don’t do that very well anymore, whether as fathers, or male mentors, or as a community.

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