Men cry in cars

by Third Fuse writer, Phil McNamara (photo courtesy Cleland Parkrun)

Back in 2015, I wrote a poem called, ‘Men cry in cars’. It was about how we perceive the role of men in society and how men tend to hide their emotions. So, with Father’s Day approaching I thought it a good opportunity to write a blog about the role of fathers and grandfathers in how we cope with our two biggest global environmental crises (climate change and habitat loss) and how these crises might be causing our fathers and grandfathers to grieve during this significant time of global change.

The role of fathers and grandfathers

As a father myself, I am acutely aware that many children in Australia are suffering from climate change anxiety. There are so many environmental and societal changes that our children are facing and will have to face in the future, and fathers and grandfathers can play an important role in their child’s life by leading by example. By this I mean living a sustainable life and respecting nature in everything they do and everywhere they go (two of The Third Fuse Project’s mantras).

They can also help children become resilient to these changes by developing their child’s skills as individuals and members of our community. According to the Australian Psychological Society1, parents can build this resilience by teaching their children values of justice and equity, encouraging flexibility and adaptability, teaching cooperation and involving their children in community activities.

It’s all about community!

This generation of children will need to adapt to faster and more wide-ranging changes than
we have ever seen before. Even with swift action on climate change, there are still likely to
be more extreme weather disasters and serious shortages of fuel, water and food in many
places. Further, as we move to a zero-carbon economy, there will be major changes in our
lifestyles – in the ways we work, consume and travel. These changes will require great
adaptability and capacity to cooperate with others.

APS (c) 2018 Raising-children-climate-18APS-PI

Why fathers and grandfathers might be grieving

APS1 also suggests that parents should maintain a strong relationship with their children by (amongst other things) making it clear that their love for them is unconditional and acknowledging their feelings. But isn’t this counter-intuitive for fathers and grandfathers that have grown up in communities where there are toxic expectations of what it means to be a man? It was these same stereotypical notions that I was trying to represent when I wrote my poem:

Men cry in cars

Men cry in cars
when alone on their way to work.
They cry through paddocks of wheat
in the lonely cabins of harvesters.

Men cry in sheds too
(That is the shed’s real purpose).
Away from the eyes of women and children,
any place of solitude will do.

It’s not that their daily responsibility,
to provide and protect,
is a façade to sensitivity –
To stand strong is an inherent duty.

Rather, their damp sleeves
are secret outpourings of pride
in daily struggles, won or lost
A misinterpreted emotion that no-one must ever see.

In hindsight, my poem was more a reflection of my own state of emotional openness than a reflection of all men in today’s society. I think, however, there is some truth in the generalisation that men don’t express their feelings very well, particularly for father’s and grandfather’s of my generation when that was an expectation that men had of themselves. This is a stereotype that must change. And it is a stereotype that is changing, albeit slowly, and I think this is why many fathers and grandfathers might be grieving during this significant time of global change. Society is telling us (and rightly so) to avoid gender stereotypes and be more accepting of gender diversity, to be more open about our feelings, while also telling us that the actions of our recent past (in a world of significant male privilege) have caused these current global crises. It’s no wonder that men of my generation might be grieving the loss of the old ways but also grieving the legacy they might leave their children.

Darcey volunteering at Parkrun

I recently asked my daughter what role she thinks fathers and grandfathers have in tackling climate change and habitat loss. She said, ‘As a young woman of generation ‘Z’, it is scary thinking about the future. I don’t blame your generation for the problems we all face now but I want all parents to talk openly about the impacts we’ve had on the planet and teach children to be confident, resilient, how to be quiet yet powerful, and strong-minded about our lives ahead.’ When Darcey wrote this, it made me think that our legacies as parents are not just represented by our past. They are also represented by what we do in the future and we shouldn’t expect that it is up to our children to drive change. For our children’s sake, we don’t have to hold onto what my poem portrays about the role of men in society. Us fathers and grandfathers can teach our children by simply leading by a new example of what it means to be man.

I’m interested to hear your views on the role of parents of all genders in tackling our most important global environmental crises. Please leave a comment below!

Father’s Day Special:
Leading up to Father’s Day 2022, The Third Fuse Project is giving away a free Third Fuse t-shirt with every hard-copy of Red Reflection sold via our online store. And for two lucky people, Third Fuse will also give away a free bottle of wine courtesy of Mark and Kirrilee at Merriworth Wines in Tasmania. The two lucky winners will be randomly drawn on Father’s Day.

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