America has a lost generation of men who can’t deal with emotions
We won’t know the whole story behind the tragic Las Vegas shooting for days. But as we consider yet another tragedy, I can’t help but look at them from the perspective of a mother. From that perspective, I’m trying to find ways to stop my daughter – and your children – from growing up in fear of each other.
About a year ago, when my daughter was 3, a little boy her age walked up to her at gymnastics class with his finger and thumb forming a gun. I watched in stunned motionlessness from the parent viewing area — the kind where you can see in through the window but the kids can’t see out. It happened in slow motion: the boy walked up to my daughter with his finger gun, put his pointer finger to my daughter’s head and pulled his thumb trigger. I felt dizzy.
I looked over to his dad because the immediate next move as a parent should be intervention to explain why we don’t pretend to shoot our friends in the head, but the dad’s face was in a phone.
My daughter may not have understood at the time what the boy was doing with his hand, but she understood that she in some way was being threatened. She understood that fear and came to me for comfort. All I could tell her is that what the boy did was wrong and that it was up to his parents to tell him what’s right. I question that approach to parenting. Maybe I should have intervened myself and suffered the consequences of his parent disagreeing.
I should have stood up for my daughter. The boy continued to exhibit aggressive behavior during gymnastics class and nobody was stepping in to help him through what he was feeling.
I’m trying to atone for that parenting failure right here. I’m calling on all parents to start raising your children first with innocence and most importantly with the capacity to filter their emotions in any other way — literally any other way — than aggression or violence. I’m advocating for parents to see their boys as whole humans and stop stunting their emotional capacity by saying “boys will be boys.”
We’ve been raising them wrong for generations and because of that, we have a lost generation of men.
As we add music festivals to the growing list of places we cannot feel safe — theaters, schools, churches, malls — there is a clear pattern of men with an inability to work through complicated emotions. They turn to violence instead of dealing with them. It’s a lost generation. Not strictly of Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, etc. It’s decades’ worth of men who were raised in a way that is damaging to a society evolving beyond them.
As a mother, I often see the raising of young boys, even today, with the inability to deal with emotions. It’s always “be tough,” “man up,” “don’t cry,” and what you get on the other end are adults who have no tools in their toolbox to filter strong emotions.
I told this to my KIRO Radio colleague Tom Tangney. He argues that the “be tough” approach to raising boys was more of his father’s generation, and perhaps a bit of his own — he’s near the same age as the recent shooter in Las Vegas. But not today, he says, society has moved on from that mentality. I disagree.
I’m not saying this is the case for every mass shooter, but I do think that it is indicative of somebody who resorts to violence; it is likely somebody who has been raised without an outlet for strong emotions. What do you do? You take it out on others.
During the recession, we saw fathers killing their entire families before of themselves because they couldn’t deal with the failure of losing their job. The news reports are always there: a man who shot someone in a movie theater over texting; a man who opened fire on utility trucks parked in front of his house; a man who shot a younger man for being disrespectful at a bus stop. And yes, you can find reports of women shooters, too. But finding a square egg in a case of round eggs does not mean there is no pattern.
What are we seeing in a lot of these domestic terrorists? The ages vary, but they are all men. We have lost generations of men who are turning to violence and doing nothing about it is like shrugging at the Vegas shooter and saying “boys will be boys.”