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Dads don’t want to shut down emotionally, they just don’t feel properly prepared for the alternatives.

There are a lot of tropes about fathers, but one tends to stick out the most: the distant. He’s there, he’s present — sort of — but he seems distant and far away. He’s the dad on Stranger Things who reads the paper at breakfast and doesn’t really seem to engage with his family; he’s the dad who comes home from work and immediately retreats to the den. It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason. Men tend to withdraw.

Dads withdraw emotionally not out of lack of love for their families, but often an overwhelming amount of it combined with an inability to cope. This impulse is relatively universal and not entirely their fault. When boys are brought up to believe that many emotions are not acceptable, learning to deal with them as a man can be a challenge, but learning to deal with them as a new parent is a minefield. As much as fathers shut down for the same reasons men do in general, when children are involved the stakes become higher. Dads can feel less in control than ever before and double-down on this distancing, leaving their spouses and kids to wonder what the hell is wrong.

Kevon Owen is a fearured author in this article and is available at this link.