Bruce Jenner--Hero to Emasculated Dads Everywhere
I should preface this by admitting that I have never watched "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," and Bruce Jenner has crossed my mind maybe five times since 1976, the year I pulled off several wins in track events at the Cub Scout Olympics, which I attribute, along with my hairstyle at the time, to Jenner's inspiration.
All I know about the former Olympian is that he has become something of a joke: currently cast as an impotent, surgically altered father figure in a family of women who are famous for being attractive, horrible, and famous. Did I get that right?
So, how did Esquire magazine end up naming him father of the year? And why in May? I'm guessing "creating buzz with a counter-intuitive headline" and "because it's sort of near Father's Day," respectively.
The Esquire article, by Chris Jones, is actually called The Strange Thing about Bruce Jenner, and it's worth a read. It paints Jenner as a man who has given up, and is not the least bit bitter about it. "On the show," Jones writes, "Jenner can seem emasculated, as though his testicles are in a jar somewhere, along with the rest of his former presence, this once-proud man drowning in a sea of estrogen and petty humiliations. He can seem that way because that's essentially what he is." In other words, Jenner has become literally selfless. He has given up on competition in any form, and is content just to drive the two youngest girls (the only ones that are biologically his) to school and play with his RC helicopters. At the same time, all the women in the household speak of him warmly, referring to him as "strong," and assigning him the dubious honor of the family's moral center.
Although the article makes Jenner seem more or less checked-out, there was something about his parenting ethos that resonated with me. As a father of toddlers, I have often felt that selflessness is one of the most important traits of parenting. I'm not just talking about putting your children's needs ahead of your own. I'm talking about relinquishing any sense of ego, pride, or basic self-respect. Giving up on your self.
I get angry at my twin girls for being unreasonable, and they're not quite three years old. The anger doesn't happen because I think they should know better. It happens because they're not doing what I want them to do. Regardless of whether I'm right, and regardless of whether it's necessary to change their minds, I'm engaging them in a power struggle. A battle of wills. A competition. When I fight them and win, the struggle hardly seems worth it. But when I suppress my own ego, their willfulness doesn't get under my skin. This approach to parenting could also be called "patience." And ironically, I'm able to achieve it more easily not when I'm rested and engaged, but when I feel utterly exhausted and beaten. Perhaps even emasculated.
That's why, as portrayed in this article at least, Bruce Jenner doesn't seem like a completely absurd choice for Father of the Year.