Monday, February 27, 2012

Adventurous boys

I’ve found that as a parent, you learn things as you go along...a lot of things. Mostly how to not pull your hair out of course, but in raising boys, I’ve learned a few specific things.

1) Boys are physical. Whether it’s tackling, dog-piling, pushing, whatever...they usually find it very difficult to keep their hands to themselves. (at least mine do) And when they’re sad, a comforting hug or hold of the hand is all they need to recharge and be completely fine again.

2) Boys have soooo much energy. I’ve heard that girls are usually good at sitting and doing a certain activity for certain periods of boys can’t sit still for even a minute. I have to admit, at times it is exhausting, especially trying to think of positive ways to expel this energy.

And my biggest revelation of the last year:

3) Boys crave adventure. It’s hardwired deep into their hearts. Being superheros, playing pirates, pretending to navigate the jungle in the backyard, building forts (that could essentially be anything-a cave, a castle, whatever), action figures that fight, all these things and more are what my boys do on a daily basis. There is something deep within them that desires the need for adventure, to conquer, to have a purpose and do something significant. I absolutely love that God made boys (and men for that matter) this way.

So, what does the newest quest for adventure look like to my 2 little boys? Their recent obsession with play swords and play guns. And in fact, I have not seen anything wrong with encouraging this type of play. And then doubt and fear crept in as they always do. Is this wrong? Are we promoting violence? Are we raising our children to be violent weapon users? I asked Ross what he thought of this, and he didn’t seem at all concerned. Well, let me ask a veteran mom friend then, I thought.

So, at church on Sunday, I asked my friend who has raised three lovely children, two of whom are men now. Her advice was simple, yet so wise. She started out by telling me that when her oldest son was little, she never allowed toy guns or swords in her house at all.  Then at age three or four, for the boy, everything became a gun. His fingers were a fun, his car was a gun, I bet even his toothbrush became a gun. I think she realized some things at that point and that she had been a little too uptight about the issue. She soon started allowing gun and sword play.

She told me that it was a good thing for boys to be adventurous with their imaginations, and that pretend gun and sword play was fine, after all, being a protector is something that God built into them as men. But she advised me to listen to them as they’re playing. What are they saying? How is the play directed? Are they being mean or hurtful, or is it just role playing or done all in fun? I thought that was brilliant. If we pay attention to how they are playing, if it turns to something destructive or unhealthy, we can talk to them and direct it to a more healthy place. They can be a superhero trying to get the bad guys, or a knight rescuing a princess from a dragon guarded tower, instead of something hurtful or damaging. And this can be directed and influenced by me, especially if I am playing with them, which I usually do. 

So, I am more at ease about the gun and sword obsession. Boys will be boys, and they should be allowed to be boys. But in being boys, things can get out of hand if I’m not mindful of issues like these, after all, we are all sinful at heart. To be honest, I love seeing my boys have such imagination and such desire to be men of adventure. I just hope and pray that some of it sticks around long enough for them to be adventurous for Jesus.  

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