“Are you ok daddy?”
It was my 6-year-old son. I looked up from my pillow, I was just able to make out his worried face through my tears.
He hugged me for what seemed like ages.
“I’m ok pal, I just have a lot of pain in my neck and it got a bit much.”
I hadn’t slept that night and my wife and kids had left me upstairs in the hope I could rest. My neck pain had got so bad, at that moment I was crying into my pillow.
My son had crept upstairs to his room looking for a book and heard me through the wall.
Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow
I think a lot. Since having a second child, moving jobs & moving countries, life has become very different from what it once was.
I’ve let the worry and stress build up over time, and during Christmas, I fell ill. Last week the tension building in my neck got so bad the pain was unbearable.
And that hug from my son somehow made it all disappear for a few moments.
Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself
At the age of 14, I got home from school one day to find my mum on the living room floor crying uncontrollably.
I froze, not knowing what to do. After a few seconds, I went to the kitchen and made her a cup of tea.
That day, she’d learned the love of her life had died unexpectedly. She and my father had divorced many years before and a while later she’d met someone she’d fallen deeply in love with.
And when she lost him, the best I could do was make her a cup of tea.
I think we all have empathy. We just may not have enough courage to display it
There aren’t many moments in my life I’d like to go back and change. But if I could, that would be one of them.
I’d open the door, go over and hug my mum.
At the time I wasn’t equipped. I’d never really hugged anyone, we weren’t a hugging family.
I don’t think I’d even thought about empathy that much.
So when I realised my son’s instinct was to ask if I was ok, and then hug me when he saw me crying, I felt proud of him.
We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful
In Denmark, males and females are seen as equals. There’s room for improvement, though for the most part society has moved gender equality nicely.
It’s somewhat noticeable in Danish movies that they don’t ask a shorter man to stand on a box or the women in a hole so the male is taller (in an attempt to look more powerful).
I’ve also learned that men here don’t feel the need to hide their vulnerability like in the UK, and I’ve yet to see a Danish parent tell their boy to ‘man up’ (a common request of a father to son where I used to live).
Kindness, I’ve discovered, is everything in life
Both my sons feel comfortable displaying kindness. It’s wonderful to see, and my wife and I can’t take all the credit.
The Danish kindergarten my son attends has males and females. The males are kind and strong, and so are the females.
He gets great role models in Denmark.
To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength
Strangely, on that day I felt like my son shouldn’t have seen me cry. I talked to my wife about it, I felt I should be displaying strength, not weakness.
She reminded me it’s healthy for children to see real-life emotions. She also reminded me crying is not a show of weakness.
What’s key is I wasn’t putting my emotion on him, I was simply expressing an emotion, and that’s good for him to see.
It’s healthy to be vulnerable, and healthy for children to see their parents are not invulnerable.
Danish society doesn’t appear to include many of the hang-ups around male vulnerability, and that’s pretty cool for everyone here, especially my children.
Also, it’s one less thing for me to worry about 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!
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See you next time for Episode 15.
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