My oldest son, Cameron, has always been an independent soul. He made his first sandwich at 18 months old, because I took too long getting around to it.
At 4 years old, his poor teacher at church called me because she was having a hard time. Cameron would crawl under the table during the lesson, and all 8 little 4-year-olds in the class would follow him. At this age, if I was going to tell him "no", I had to mentally steel myself for a long, drawn-out battle.
In second grade, things got rough. The school my kids attended gave the kids recess once a day at 2:30 pm, and PE once a week. To add insult to injury, when Cameron was wiggly, they took away his recess. He went weeks at a time with no outside time at school. A few teachers talked to me about medicating him. I remember screaming inside, "JUST LET HIM OUT TO PLAY!!!!" I knew if he had a physical outlet, he would be a different child at school. I felt like I was sending him off to fight a losing battle everyday, praying that those at school would love him and see through to the wonderful boy he was.
Midway through the year, we moved to a different state. PE everyday, and when he was restless, they made him walk the track. Hooray!
At the same time, he joined Cub Scouts. I felt like he was finally in a setting where his "little boyness" was understood and valued. We began to hear things like, "This kid is a born leader. Let's see if we can channel some of that energy into X,Y, and Z."
When he reached middle school, I got a call from the principal one day. Cameron had been caught swinging on the bar at the top of the bathroom stall. The principal said, "I asked him why he did it, and he said he didn't know. I completely accept that answer. We talked it over and all is well." Can I tell you how grateful I was for this man who remembered what it was like to be a boy?
D. Todd Christofferson recently said the following regarding society's view of our boys and men:
In their zeal to promote opportunity for women, something we applaud, there are those who denigrate men and their contributions. They seem to think of life as a competition between male and female—that one must dominate the other, and now it’s the women’s turn. Some argue that a career is everything and marriage and children should be entirely optional—therefore, why do we need men? In too many Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials, men are portrayed as incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed. This cultural emasculation of males is having a damaging effect.
(Full text of this message here.)
This has been on my mind a lot lately, and especially this last week as I attended this conference on scouting.
Can I take a moment, and as a woman, speak up for our men and boys? All of that energy and independence that can be so exhausting when they are little? That is what makes them great providers and protectors when they are older.
I heard it said by David Beck this week that boys have an innate sense of adventure. When they have no outlet to take risks (and how common has that scenario become?), they turn to things like video games. How many of our wonderful boys are wasting their time and energies and lives removed from reality?
I am grateful for a wonderful husband, who is different than I am in important ways. We complement each other beautifully. Appreciating his masculinity and giving him opportunities to lead, protect, and provide takes nothing away from my value as a woman and a human being. We each have things we are uniquely skilled at doing in our family. He appreciates my contributions as much as I value his.
I love my sons. I love their loud voices, crazy practical jokes, sweaty hugs after football games, rocks in pockets, school papers that go through the washing machine (regularly), tender hearts, perseverance, and the way they quickly forgive and are off on their next adventure.
So, hug your boys! Appreciate who they are. Give them opportunities to learn in ways that work for them. You may just have to put those spelling words on a poster so they can SEE them or spell them in shaving cream on the kitchen table, as boys are visual. Verbal drilling may not work quite as well. Don't freak out every time they get dirty, or bring something alive into the house. Listen to their adventures. Teach them what to do with those qualities that make them who they are. For us, scouting has been a great tool. Cameron will be an Eagle Scout within a year, and the leadership and service opportunities he has had have changed him forever - for the better.
As a woman and mother of two fabulous daughters, I am also a champion of girls, but that's a topic for another day. My mind has been with my boys this week, given the activities I participated in and the thoughts they inspired.
This last week, my boy climbed a mountain and was asked to be the spiritual leader of his crew. He did both beautifully. He came down off the mountain with a sense of accomplishment. The knowledge that he can accomplish hard things will be with him for the rest of his life. When he is trying to resist temptation, slogging through a tough athletic competition, or simply trying to make it through finals week at school, that knowledge will be with him. He is stronger mentally, spiritually, and physically for the experience. He learned things he would never have learned in school, from a video game, from sports, or even from his parents.
Hooray for boys and men, with great love and appreciation. I'm a huge fan.