5:00am

Fri July 22, 2011
Opinion

Want To Be A Macho, Macho Man? Be A Daddy

Po Bronson is the co-author of NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.

I'm not sure why my friend Todd had genuine AMF white bowling pins at his apartment. But I know the yellow metal Tonka dumpster was a present from him for my newborn son, Luke, something to grow into in a year or so.

Luke was less than three weeks old, his blue fuzzy keeping him cozy. Somehow, these parts just seemed to go together. White, yellow, blue. Cocktails in martini glasses, the long narrow Victorian-era hardwood hallway gleaming like a bowling lane.

This was back before anyone else had a baby. Before they knew, this is really against the rules.

Noah went down by the pins to catch. We put Luke into the bed of the Tonka. And like a Canadian curler, with a gentle release, I gave the first push.

A slow push.

Other people, they want you to hold your baby. They wanna see if you can handle it when he cries. I let the guys bowl with my son.

This was my cigar moment. My way of announcing to the menfolk, it's gonna be OK. The stork paid us a visit, but we're still guys here. Since then, I've watched other men intuitively find their version of this symbolic moment, signaling to all that despite the Bjorns and Boppys and burping, manhood is not lost.

My friend Ethan somehow trained his 8-month-old daughter to stand on his hand, and he'd balance her in front of us, like a broomstick on a finger.

It usually didn't take that much. Sometimes the symbolism had to be more covert. Stuffing 'em in a Packers jersey has worked. Or showing us how the kid wiggled to the White Stripes' "Hotel Yorba." We know what it means, just like we know what you're saying with one of those strollers that looks like it was invented by Q from MI6.

See, James Bond didn't have kids. Neither did the Man of Steel. OK, he did, but his story got boring the minute the twins came along. Precisely the point.

Before I had kids, I couldn't see how the pieces would go together. I remember one Saturday going out to play in my soccer game when my wife was pregnant. I was thinking, man, these days are numbered. Then our coach, Papa, showed up. He was so proud that day. "My son, Luis, is finally a man," he announced.

Luis was my age. "What'd he do?" I asked. "He had a child, a daughter," Papa said. I wished I'd come from a culture like Papa's. A culture where manhood doesn't end when you have a baby — it doesn't even begin until you have a baby.

It's easy now, 10 years later. On Thanksgiving night, Luke and the guys can go out under the streetlights and toss perfect spirals back and forth across the road. He easily beats them at cards, and sports trivia.

Just not at bowling.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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