I was at an indoor playground with my toddler when it happened. Another kid picked up a ball, my 1-year-old snatched it away, and the other boy began to cry. The child's dad swooped in and said, "What's wrong with you? It's just a ball. Boys don't cry. Get over it." I took a breathe to center myself and to avoid commenting, then redirected my kiddo away from the encounter. In my mind, that moment perfectly demonstrated the ways our sons are being cut off from their emotions.
In our culture, we start putting our kids into rigid gender roles before they are even born. We have super-charged sex reveal parties based on the physical anatomy of a fetus, often accompanied with ballerinas and baby dolls for "girls" and footballs and guns for "boys." Then, once our babies are born, we reinforce those roles by picking out gendered toys for them to play with, hobbies we encourage them to pursue, and clothes we think they should wear. And, as parents, how we allow or encourage our children to feel and express the full spectrum of human emotion, or how we comfort (or fail to comfort) them when they cry, plays into a gender binary that's, honestly, for the birds.
As a result, our sons start to believe that remaining stoic when in pain, keeping themselves from crying, and failing to enjoy things that are stereotypically associated with being feminine or weak is what it means to "be a boy." Perhaps even more problematic is the fact that these hurtful lessons could negatively impact their social, emotional, and physical development. So with that in mind, and because knowing how to be better is how we do better, here's how we're cutting our sons off from their emotions before they're 5: