Clients I work with all want to know, “What’s my purpose in life?”  and “Why am I here?”.   Sometimes the answers are really exciting and ‘sexy’ like, “You’re here to help heal small children” or “You’re here to learn this major lesson about love and family” or “You’re here to work in foreign countries bringing education and quality of life to orphans.”  However, sometimes the answer is just as important and amazing, but less sexy, like “You’re here to be present.”  Which always gets a ?????? response.

Here’s the thing.  One of the major issues in most industrialized countries at this time is the disconnect between men and pretty much everyone else.  That’s a generalization so let me explain.  Male paradigms right now pretty much fall into three major categories:  career driven-competitive-goes out and does stuff then comes home to sleep, gay, or romantic guy from chick flick who is sensitive and in touch with his emotions.  All of which are caricatures of real people and very extreme.  There are not  a lot of other role models out there.  In fact I just had a conversation where my friends and I noted that commercials for cleaning products have yet to use a male actor.  Being at home, caring for family, being connected and in relationship just isn’t a role model that we as a culture are supporting in the mainstream right now.

However, it is something that is happening quietly out there in the world.  I meeting more and more men who are beginning to speak up that they are none of those role models and either are happy family guys who balance work and family and person interests or that want to be and don’t know how.  To the latter I give them the not so sexy answer to who they are supposed to be:  be present.  You can’t be connected if you don’t listen. You don’t have to act, you don’t have to react, you just have to witness your family living its life.  How can you know what they like, want, and need if you’re not there?  Sometimes its hard for a man to not have some goal or something that needs fixing, some ‘thing’ to do.  But the thing to do with families is ‘be’.  Be who you are.  Like what you like and share that with them.  Show them you can be happy and allow them to share in that happiness.  And be ok if they don’t want to share that.  Welcome to relationships.

Have an opinion about things and share it, but don’t shove it.  Perhaps wait until you’re asked.  You might be amazed or at least surprised at the question(s) because they might be completely different from your assumptions or the stories you have playing in your head.  Create trust by being available.  It’s not enough to say “I’m here for you any time, just call me….”  Uh-uh.  Be there, right there in the moment so when they need you, all they have to do is turn around.  Be there so they can take in ‘this is what a man is, this is what a man does…’ even when they aren’t asking questions and aren’t in your face.  A dad is the guy the daughters judge other men by (for better or worse) and if he and she are lucky he’ll be the sounding board for her to figure guys out.  Sons will find themselves by measuring how much they are like and dislike their dad and their siblings, which like the tides, will ebb and flow.

The best gift you can give them is to be present.  You’ll never be perfect.  No one is.  But that also is a gift.  Because if you were, what a horrible standard to set for your family which will always fail to meet it.  Let them see your imperfections.  Let them see you apologize and mean it.  Let them see you try harder the next time.  Let them see you struggle.  And find joy.  Let them see you smile at the good and laugh at the ridiculous.  Let them know you.  With that light to guide them they’ll find their way….and so will you.