Outdated gender stereotypes would have you believe that men aren't supposed to cry when they're in pain, or express much emotion otherwise. But author and mom Jaime Primak Sullivan is raising her son to crush those stereotypes. In a post on her Facebook page on Thursday, Sullivan wrote about an incident during which her 8-year-old son, Max, was hit in the face by a ball at a basketball game. Instead of forcing him to "man up" or move on, Sullivan was instantly by his side, despite a comment from another spectator that she needed to "stop babying that kid." "I saw his eyes widen and then squint from the pain — he looked around trying to focus," she wrote. "I knew he was looking for me... In that moment, I saw Max start to run around the court in my direction as the silent cry began."
Once at his side, Sullivan told her son to "catch your breath buddy... Max, breath. It's okay." She let him cry on her shoulder before sending him back to court. "This notion that boys can never hurt, that they can never feel, is so damaging to them long term," she wrote. "The belief that any signs or gestures of affection will somehow decrease their manhood — this pressure to always 'man up' follows them into adulthood where they struggle to fully experience the broad scope of love and affection." This toxic masculinity, she wrote, teaches boys and men that their emotions are meant to be suppressed. "They're taught that sadness is weakness, that talking about their fears or short comings makes them less than," she wrote. "They don't mourn properly. They struggle to grieve. They're afraid to cry. It all spills into the way they husband and father and I hate it." She concluded, "I will always love him when he is hurting and my prayer for him is that he is alway open to receiving love so he can love in return and keep that cycle going." Sullivan makes a powerful point — loving a child and nurturing their ability to express emotion is not "babying." The urge to cry when in pain is completely natural, no matter your gender, and a parent shouldn't be guilted for comforting their child.