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What I Wish My Dad Told Me More Growing Up, According to 10 Men

There's always more to say.

Kent Kanouse/Flickr

Raising boys to be smart, well-adjusted, thoughtful, tough, and emotionally aware human beings is not easy in a world that tends to devalue men’s feelings and value keeping a straight face over real emotional health. While the idea of what it means to be a happy and healthy man has changed, that’s not true across the board, and many growing men struggle with trying to make sense of a world that asks much of them without explanation. That’s why they need their parents — and fathers in particular — to set a good example and to talk to them about, well, everything. But, often, things assumed go unsaid and sons are the worse for it. Its incredibly difficult to know what should be discussed or brought up more often. Parenting, however, isn’t easy. To offer some advice about— or at least a few examples of —  what you might want to bring up more often, we spoke to men about what they wished their dads told them more when they were growing up. 

I Wish He Told Me About His Antidepressants

I was about five years into college before my dad told me he’d taken antidepressants in college as well. I wasn’t mad at him, and it’s not like that information would have changed too much. But I was just like: ‘Jesus, I’ve been dealing with depression for half my life now, and this is the first time I’ve been hearing about this?’ — Aaron, 25, South Carolina

I Wish He Told Me I Had Privilege
I wish my dad told me that mine was a privileged demographic, in the same way that talking about starving children helped me be aware that some people didn’t have food. But I didn’t understand it. But when I ran into it, I didn’t have to have a ‘holy shit’ self-discovery moment that made me feel very out of touch with the world. — Tyghe, 35, New York

I Wish He Told Me How To Assert Myself
I wish my dad had told me how to be less passive. As a kid, I apologized all the time. I worried constantly about what people thought about me. And I spent a lot of my youth without opinions or perspectives that were my own. I wish I heard more often that it was okay to like what you like and to admit to others that you like certain things, that there’s nothing wrong with defending your opinions to others. This would have helped me develop a stronger sense of self and solved a lot of problems as I grew older. — Eric, 29, New York

I Wish He Told Me About His Work
The truth. My father kept his business life and personal life separate. He didn’t share much about his professional life. To some extent, I get it. Why stress out a kid with the horrors of adulting, when you can shelter them from pain. However, I saw him leave for an office like he was working for a corporation rather than a commissioned salesman or entrepreneur. Had I seen that there were options, I might have done something differently rather than assuming that a corporate job was my only path. — Ben, 41, Colorado

I Wish He Had Been More Open With Me
I wish my dad told me more stories about his childhood and throughout his life. He seems really reserved and I feel that I do not know him as well as I should have. I want to understand the struggles and challenges that he has gone through, but he does not seem willing to share it with me. I feel that I am missing a part of him when he disengages from these conversations. — Wen, 25, California

I Wish He Talked To Me About My Feelings
Growing up I wished that my father had talked to me more about expressing my emotions in a healthy way. Despite spending considerable amounts of time together because of Boy Scouts and sports, he would rarely talk about how he was feeling. With some hindsight, I’ve come to realize that his tendency to sweep issues under the rug only to lash out when things get too intense is not how I want to be. I also saw how not talking honestly about oneself can lead to serious issues with romantic partners; hell, I went through a divorce that I believe might’ve been less traumatic had I shared what I was thinking genuinely. Thankfully, as an adult, I’ve pursued therapy and found a support network that’s helping me to open up and move past placing blame at my dad’s feet. — Andrew, 32, Maryland

That It’s Okay To Not Love Sports
That you’re not “weird” because you don’t like sports or participating in sports as much as everyone else. I spent a lot of time as a kid forcing myself to like things because I thought that was what boys were supposed to like. I’m glad I participated in certain sports (made friends, etc.) but I made it define my life for so long even though I was never very invested in it. There were plenty of other things I put to the side, like music and art, because I thought those were things that were not acceptable. — Matt, 35, New York

How To Date
I wish my dad had given me solid dating advice. I have 2 brothers, and we all have good traits going for us, but we all struggled with dating growing up. My dad would talk about how he’d play spin the bottle in 4th grade and how he dated a few girls before meeting my mom. Maybe things were different back then, or maybe my dad didn’t really know what he was doing either, but I definitely never got any good advice about dating. In high school, I always crushed on someone, but would scare them away with these over-the-top grand romantic gestures — clearly an area where I needed some advice. College was an improvement, but I still had no idea what I was doing, not until I took it upon myself to educate myself half-way through my 20s. — Zack, 36, California

That He Was Proud of Me
I think it took my dad forever to say he was proud of me. We still miscommunicate on who I am and what I like.  He told me he was proud of me when I was finally good at something — writing. That’s what stung about sports: knowing that a) I sucked and b) my dad knew I sucked. That, and I wish I knew what his dreams were and what did they become before he had me. I have no idea what he wanted to be vs. what he ended up doing, and how he negotiates that, especially coming from a working-class background. — Stephen, 26, New York

That He Struggled, Too
I wish my father would have communicated more to me that all the values and principles he was teaching me, he also battled with them on a daily basis. That he also sometimes fell short, but still strove towards keeping them. So many times, I saw him as the epitome of the things he was teaching me, only to realize as an adult that he wasn’t as “perfect” and “all knowing” as I had perceived. I would have been less hard on myself, yet more motivated at the same time, knowing that. — Pedro, 45, California

That He Was More Vulnerable
I wish my father had shared more stories of his life experiences with me, both the good and bad that comes with being a dad. He’s generally an introvert and has kept most of those stories and insights to himself, and I know plenty of men who are equally reluctant to share because it requires vulnerability. And that largely describes me too, but hopefully, I won’t pass the same habits along to my son. If he had offered insight into his life: the major decisions, motivations, and, perhaps most importantly, the mistakes, it’d make him less heroic and more human. — Nick, 40, Chicago