Splashing my way through mud puddles I drove home from dropping the boys off at school. We’d been late and the morning had been hard—muddy in its own right. After breakfast I ran to get myself showered and dressed, but when I returned to load everyone up in the car they were gone. All three brothers, gone. Ten minutes after the school bell had rung a few miles away, they wandered up the back property, BB guns slung over their shoulders, covered in dirt and brush, shouting about how they had “tracked coyotes.” Their ruddy faces shone bright and their breath crystalized as they laughed and puffed their way through the cold air.
For just an instant I saw it there, a wild sort of masculine beauty… but I didn’t have time for it. Instead, I barked, I hollered, I threatened… and their faces crashed. I ran for fresh jeans and ordered them to wash their hands and find another pair of shoes. One kid didn’t have anything but flip-flops, so I rinsed the caked-on mud from his sneakers.
There is a time and place for order, for tardy bells, for lessons and restraint. Getting out the door for school at 8am is one of those times. But there must, there must also be a time for boyhood wild and free. Hours long, unencumbered to explore the world and its dangers, to fish lizards out of the pool and capture spiders in a jar, and to test for themselves what it means to be strong and courageous. Where else are they to learn it?
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I picked them up at 2:30 that afternoon and they slid into their seats, unsure what their punishment from this morning’s adventure would be. Silently we drove home together. When we pulled down the long drive I parked the car and turned around in my seat. Finally, I smiled and said, “Well, I thought you wanted to do some exploring. Grab your walkie-talkie so I can get a hold of you when it’s time to start on your homework, and don’t turn over any big rocks or you may find rattlesnakes.” The kisses came fast, and then they were gone–three brothers running pell-mell down the hill.
By the time they came home, flushed from the adventure, dinner was on the stove and homework was laid out. The oldest took his shower first and then sat down to long division, but before he started his work he asked, “Why’d you let us play this afternoon when we lost track of the time and got in trouble this morning?”
I looked at my man-cub, growing stronger by the day, and affirmed his deepest parts with these words, “Running off down the hill, having an adventure with your brothers, that’s some of the best stuff a boy can do. Instead of disciplining you for doing it at the wrong time, I decided to remind you what the right time for an adventure is. Do you think I did the right thing?”
“Yes, yes Ma’am I do.”
“Don’t climb on that, don’t break anything, don’t be so aggressive, don’t be so noisy, don’t be so messy, don’t make such crazy risks. But God’s design–which he placed in boys as the picture of himself–is a resounding yes. Be fierce, be wild, be passionate.” — John Eldredge, Wild at Heart
Dear Lord, You did a good job when you made my son. And though I don’t always understand why you choose me as his mom, I trust you. And I want to raise him to be exactly who you designed him to be – strong and courageous. Please help me understand the warrior inside, help me to affirm his masculinity and give him room to explore the world around him. You know I’m better at controlling the world around him, but I want to grow in this regard, so that he can grow into the man you want him to be. Strong and courageous, all for your glory, Amen.
Why do you think I was able to respond to my sons with such grace? Could it be I spent the afternoon thinking of just the right thing to say? When we respond without slowing down to consider the right thing to say, we often act brash and threaten wrong choices. When raising impulsive boys, we must remember to not respond impulsively as well. Read James 1:19 and consider what this verse has to do with responding to our boisterous, strong-willed, adventuresome boys.
Choose books that feed the wild parts of our son’s hearts:
(Complete list found here – along with some boyish poetry)
Billy and Blaze, written and illustrated by C.W.Anderson (ages 4-8)
Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss (Classic Starts Series, ages 8-10)
My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George (ages 9-11)
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls (ages 9-11)
Summer of the Monkeys, by Wilson Rawls (ages 9-11)
Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson (ages 9-11)
And one to help you understand the wild inside your men:
Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge