The problem with being in a roleplaying relationship is that there are inherent expectations tied to the roles that come from both parties and are born of their experiences and needs. One of the hardest things I have faced as a Daddy is that there is a level to it that goes so far beyond love that it can be painful to handle for me. To illustrate this let me tell you a story:
There was once a boy in my life who loved to sew. He wanted to make me something comfortable to wear around the house because it would make me happy because he thought of me. He wanted to keep it somewhat a secret so when I asked what he was doing he’d say ‘making a surprise’ and motion for me to go away. He spent a great deal of time crafting this gift and was obviously extremely proud of how it came out. When he gave it to me he was practically bouncing in anticipation of me being happy, which of course I was, but there was a problem.
He didn’t even wait for permission; he started taking off my clothing right away so he could watch me slip into it. It was a simple lounging robe, more like a caftan, so once my head was through it should have fit. It didn’t. It slid right down over my shoulders and got caught over my waist. He was heartbroken and even my laughter didn’t seem to break him of it. I made it clear that I appreciated his gift, but even more so that i knew why the mistake was made: that his mental measurements of me were greater than my physical ones. He’d made it for the Daddy he held in his mind.
It was made to the dimensions of the span of my arms around him, the size of the chest he rested his head on, and for the strength of the man who made him feel safe. I was touched deeply by what i saw in his gift, where he felt ashamed because he’d made it wrong. It took me a long while to explain to him that he hadn’t made a single mistake, it was perfect, because the gift he hadn’t intended to give me was the gift of how he saw me.
I was his Hero, even more than his Daddy. I was something more than ‘just a man’ to him because of what I did for him and what I meant to him. In his mind I was bulletproof, I was his superman, the one who could turn back time to make things better. These weren’t things I’d ever intended him to feel, they came entirely from within him and he’d pinned them to my chest like medals of valor given to the Man who let him believe in something so purely and innocently.
As incredible a gift as that is, it presents me with a problem. I became the protector of his hopes and dreams and most vulnerable self because I’d become that hero in his heart. It meant for him I was infallible, superhuman, and untouchable by the world and it meant I could never let down my guard or put down my own burden for a time.
The problem with being a hero is that you can’t just be a man anymore without it hurting someone else. You don’t get to have bad days because the fact that you have them just doesn’t cross the mind of the one who sees you as such a being. It can’t actually occur to them because Hero’s don’t break. They can be temporarily weakened, but can never truly be hurt by the bad things in the world. Men, however, aren’t like that.
You can only hold up the world for so long before you need to rest and can only take so many hits before you too must fall. A Daddy needs his boy for so many reasons but not the least of them is because his boy is also the place where the world goes away for Daddy too. While it may be true that a Daddy can drive away the demons of the world, it is the ‘mouse’ in his shadow that can drive his away.
In a way, being a hero is inevitable in this game. You become more than a role, more than a partner or friend, and being his hero means you’re in a place of adoration and responsibility which is part of being Daddy. The difficulty is that because such a gift is precious and fragile, that it becomes very difficult to remain human or to endure your own suffering in silence to preserve the illusion for him. Daddy needs rest too.
For a boy, part of what you can do for your Daddy is understand that even Hero’s have weaknesses and need a place to rest. It may not mean much more than just being able to be with each other. No words, nothing more than silence and touch. It may mean needing to let out his pain the way he helps you do with yours. It’s your chance to be there for him and it means that you can give him the strength he needs to continue to be your Daddy in the way you’ve come to appreciate him.
Show him all the ways you care for him, the ways you need him, and take away all the expectations so he can just be human and comfort him without it being a ‘role’ you are playing. Appreciate the man and not the myth, even if it’s only for a time, because he’s the reality that gives rise to that hero you worship and adore. In all the world he chose you for a reason, and it may be that it’s because you have the same power for him as he does for you.
Daddy may be able to hold up the breaking sky, but he needs someone to keep the pieces from hitting to be the reason he tries. Batman needs the boy wonder, his little amazing sidekick that keeps him being his best self and feeling like the hero his boy deserves. That’s the power of a boy, being his real self, to bring out the best in his Daddy and to be the place where it’s OK for him to simply be human.
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