It was the beginning of a two-day ski-trip. I was beyond excited! No kids, no wives, just me and the guys out there on the slopes for two whole days. We started off pretty easy on the first run, the muscle memory of what my legs and feet were supposed to do started to kick in. We took the gondola up for a second time…this time a little more challenging of a hill. A double-black diamond hill. I looked down from the top at moguls that covered the first 200 feet…oh crap, I thought, I don’t know if I’m ready for this! But there was no other choice, it was time to go down. I went right and started to glide left when I caught a patch of ice…wham!
I went down hard. I could feel something in my shoulder blade, I thought for sure I had dislocated it. A few hours later, X-rays would show that I had fractured my collarbone. No more hills for me…just the chalet from that point on. When I got home, my fractured collarbone was more of a pain-in-the-butt then I had initially thought. Changing a two-year old’s diaper with one hand was pretty difficult!
My wife told me she would arrange for someone to be there when she went to work to make things a little easier for me. NO! I insisted I’ll be able to manage on my own.
She backed off.
A few days later, I was getting my son in the car to take him to daycare. He slipped out of my grasp and took off down the street. I went down the driveway after him, went to turn the corner to the sidewalk and found a patch of ice that sent my feet towards the sky and my shoulder, the one hung up in a sling, toward the frozen cement. I lay there for a few moments watching my son run towards a busy street as I started crying from the pain.
You would think I would have called someone for help after that.
But I couldn’t do that. Men don’t ask for help when they are hurt. They walk off the pain and get back to work… right? So that’s what I did. I ended up getting my son in the car, drove him to daycare, and then drove myself to work. After realizing that I wasn’t going to be much help to anyone that day, I drove myself to the hospital where I found out that my fractured collarbone had turned into a broken collarbone.
After that day, my wife started having people “show up” to our house when she was at work. At first, I was upset. I’m a man dammit! I can do this on my own! I can’t show weakness by accepting help from others. That would look terrible. What would I tell my friends? What would my wife think about me as a man? But that anger turned to gratitude once I saw that I was not in any position to be helpful to my family.
You would think that experience would start to challenge me about a man’s role in society. But something within me was holding on to this “manly” picture in my head. You know the picture right? That man that is tall, dark and handsome. The one that has the full beard, is physically fit, and has the well-paying job. The man that can fix anything he touches and can protect his family from all potential harm. The man that has it all together, at all times, in all situations. The man that feared nothing, backed down from nothing, and took no shit from anyone. The man that was a rock. He didn’t budge at emotions, nothing seemed to bother him, and he always had room to help others.
And asking for help? Yeah…that wasn’t part of my image for that guy. I desperately would hold on to this image of what a man was supposed to be for many years. Until I couldn’t.
Until I realized that men didn’t have to hide their emotions. They didn’t have to shield their weaknesses. They didn’t have to bury their vulnerability. That exposing these things, and more, actually made them stronger. Looking back I realize how much more of a man I would have been if I had come home to my wife and said, Hun…I don’t think I’m going to be able to do all the things I need to do for our family and get better at the same time. Can we call in for some help for the next couple of weeks?
Would she have super excited that I had just broken my collarbone? Ha…now that’s a fantasy land…no, of course, she wouldn’t be! But I’m willing to bet that she would have been supportive of where I was, and she would have helped me to arrange extra help to care for our family during that limited time. And as a result of that honesty…our relationship would have grown and been taken to another level.
About Jason Dykstra
Jason Dykstra is a husband, father of four (three living), and a conflict management specialist. After the loss of his son in 2016, Jason started a blog called, They Call Me Dad, where he explores #dadlife, grief, the role of men in today’s world, and shares his many mistakes as a parent.
For work Jason serves organizations and churches as they turn conflict situations into creative solutions. As an international speaker and trainer, he journeys alongside his clients as they unleash their potential in the areas of conflict management and leadership.