It's not as odd as it sounds...

Prayer happens everywhere, even in the tanning bed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Let the Boys Be Boys, Please!

I have been thinking a lot about boys lately. And I've been realizing something, not all parents are cut out to be "boy" parents. Maybe it's more like not all moms are cut out to be "boy" moms. Most of the women I'd put in that category don't have boys, or if they do, those boys are grown men today. I say that because the women I put in that category don't know how to pick their battles. I find they wear themselves out over things that are just plain meaningless. It may take me a bit to elaborate on this, but hang with me, hopefully by the end of this post I will have made my point.... hopefully.

Years ago when the liberals were working harder than ever before to damage the morale of the military, Rush Limbaugh quoted a friend of his saying "The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things". I bring up this quote because I think we have to keep this in mind when we raise boys. Yes, I know, we do have women in the military and I appreciate all Americans who are risking their lives to further democracy all over the world but the reality is that it's our boys who were made for that kind of work. Many a doctor, psychologist, or even a pastor will make the statement that failing to give our sons guns to play with will only result in them creating guns out of their own fingers and thumbs. Our boys were created to be rough, to be loud, to be fast, and to be reckless. It's our job to smooth out the edges not to completely flatten them.

Boys don't care what they look like, what they smell like, or who they are running after. They don't even really care who's running after them as long as they can either outrun the other kid (or animal) or if they turn and face their "attacker" that they can "take" them. Boys are funny like that - when they get upset with each other they beat the snot out of each other and then get up, dust themselves off, and go about playing what it was they were playing to begin with.

Of course as their mom (I have three boys) I did care what they looked like when they went off our property and always cared what they smelled like. I worked with them on this in the midst of compromise. I had one dresser drawer full of play clothes that they pulled out and put on whenever they were around the house or in the yard. Once we went somewhere they had to pull clothes from another drawer and match. They had to be clean before they went to bed and when we went out but otherwise I told them that if they returned from playing outside clean I would send them back to get dirty, clean meant they didn't play hard enough. They learned there were times and places for every activity but they could always look forward to being boys every day.

I tried really hard to not shriek when I thought a jump from one item to the other (of course no jumping on the furniture - a line has to be drawn somewhere) might cause a tooth to be knocked out or a lip to bleed. There are just some injuries these boys are going to get. A scar on the chin of man is rugged, shows he was a bit of a risk-taker as a child, and there's always a good laugh that comes from the telling of where that and other scars came from. Let the boys get roughed up. It's good for them.

They also need to be allowed NOT to cry. Of course, we want our sons to be able to cry when it's appropriate... it's rarely appropriate and truthfully, as they age, they need to learn when it's not appropriate. My favorite saying around here is "Suck it up and take it like a man" My seven year old daughter doesn't really like it when I say it to her though. The boys don't need to quiver their chins every time they fall and skin their knee. They don't need to cry each time their feelings get hurt. (Although the tears I get from my sons when other people they care deeply for get hurt emotionally or otherwise warms my heart to say the least). They need to realize that although frustration may make them want to cry, they can't, they have to take a deep breath, pray about it, and advance.

They have to learn to do all these things because one day there will be a wife and children that will look to each of them for rock solid stability when something happens to make them wonder if their world is about to crash around them. Because when the world is crashing down around them their wives are going to want to be held by them while they sob and know that until it's all over they have one who is stronger than they are seeing it all through. Because those children will learn to view their heavenly Father in a way based on how they view their earthly father.

Don't misunderstand me, there will be times when my boys will become men (2 almost are) and they will want to cry; they will have to cry. But it's my job, our job, to help them learn when to cry.

I don't want them to be afraid, not for one split second. If I spend my time saying "Oh, honey, don't do that you could get hurt. Don't do that it might break. Oh, Oh be careful" then they will be afraid of everything. I want them to grab onto a rope and swing as far and as fast as they can and free fall into the water. I want them to try to go further and faster and have more fun than they had the weekend before. I want them to try to do everything that they can and attempt to do things that they never thought they could. I want them to do that because one day they may need to protect their families from an intruder. Because one day they may need to stand their ground in opposition to something that is important to them. Because some day their wife or their children will need them to stand up to something that could define my son's character for a lifetime and they can't be afraid to do that. The implications are endless and I don't want to look back and wonder what I did to hold them back.

Of course, all of this comes with guidelines, common sense, and balance. When our daughter Rebekah died, my sons saw their daddy cry, but it wasn't until the funeral. They saw their mommy cry much more often. And they saw their mommy and daddy comfort each other as well. When our children got injured we worked hard to be calm and make clear how there was never a reason to get worked up. When it was something as meaningless as a cut on the knee we put on the band aid and sent them on their way. But when we needed to go to the ER we went. When Kate's toe got cut off by the weight machine, all three boys witnessed it and they screamed all the way up to their rooms. It was a horrible experience and it was appropriate for them to react that way. But they saw their parents being calm and in control in spite of what had happened.

I don't want the boys throwing knives at each other for kicks but if they want to get a bucket of ping pong balls and wing them at each other while shirtless to see who can cause the biggest, reddest welt then by all means, have at it. The only rule is: if you join in the game, there's no crying afterward. The best story of all is when Michael took Sam to play paintball and within the first 5 minutes ruined the whole game by shooting Sam in the groin with his first shot. Sam went down and rolled on the ground in pain for 15 minutes or more. Michael hit the ground as well, he was laughing hysterically. Both Sam and I learned lessons from that experience. Sam's lesson was that playing any shooting game with an FBI agent was probably not a good idea. My lesson was that although he was in excruciating pain and he never wanted to play paintball again (and he never did) he was more than delighted to share the story and hold up the pants with the white paint stain on the crotch. To this day, almost 5 years later, he still tells that story with pride.

I debated on writing this but a story I heard recently led me to this point. It was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back. The story was from a missionary couple I know who before their retirement watched young missionary couples come and go year after year because the parents of those young couples would call them and whine and complain about how far away they were and how they'd never see their grand kids or how dangerous it was. It broke their hearts as young couples who believed God had called them into the mission field couldn't stand firm in their resolve because their parents didn't want their children so far away and in possible danger. What have we done? What have we become?

My oldest son wants to become a full time missionary. He wants to go wherever God leads him, that might mean to China, Africa, South America, or maybe San Francisco (yikes). It's my job to make sure he's ready to leave our home, able to confidently say good bye, and know that his parents are praying for him, loving him, missing him, and available to him. But never should he worry that we can't get along without him or that we worry about him so much that we would tell him we need him to be here with us.

I don't know for sure what the other two boys want to do with their lives. Whatever it is, we will support them. Most likely it will take them away from us. But then, a long time ago, when they were small enough to fit in our arms from head to toe, we brought them before the Lord and our church and gave them to God. Yes... we GAVE them, with our whole hearts, with our whole minds. We GAVE them knowing full well that God would have His way with them.

We need to realize that boys NEED to be boys. We don't allow them to be disrespectful, uncaring, calloused, disobedient, or rebellious. But we do need to raise our sons to grow up to be the men that they are created to be. We need to raise the kind of men that God called to be judges and that Christ called to follow Him.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Marley and Megan

I really am not much of a movie watcher. I don't know why. I don't inherently dislike movies, some of them I adore. Shadowlands, the story of CS Lewis, is one of my all time faves. But then so is My Cousin Vinnie and X-Men. I know, what a combination. But I rarely love movies like Shadowlands because some parts are sad, very sad, and I think there is enough sadness to go around in real life, I don't care to experience the sadness of others very much.

Two weekends ago, I didn't have a choice. Megan died on June 2nd and we left on the 4th to drive to Jacksonville, AL for her visitation and funeral. We stayed with some of my favorite people in the world so we decided to stay for several days. Sam had been there for two weeks with Bradley, Megan's brother, trying to be supportive through Megan's last days and I really missed him. Plus we were going to bring Bradley home with us, I was looking forward to that.

So we spent a lot of time watching a lot of people shedding a lot of tears. It was hard but it was good, in some ways. I sat in the funeral, with plenty of time before it started, watching the power point presentation of Megan's life loop over and over. Many of the pictures on that loop were from her trip to Disney just before she was hospitalized. It was at that moment I realized who those "Make A Wish" trips were for. Those left behind. That memory of Megan having a blast at Disney and Sea World and all the places she went to will be forever with Gary and Ian and Bradley. It was good because I saw my 6ft 185 pound almost 16 year old virtually cradle his 7 year old sister on his lap during the funeral as tears streamed down his cheeks. I knew then he related to Bradley in a way he didn't realize he could relate before. I knew then that he realized that could have just as easily been him burying his sister.

But then, one day a long time ago, it was him. He did bury a little sister before. To my surprise, I realized a couple weeks ago that Rebekah was born the same year as Megan. Those girls are the same age. I wonder if Sam had any memory of the day he sat at the graveside of his sister as they buried her. We've been through our own times of sadness and I really don't enjoy living through other's whether they are real or imagined even if it all ends well.

Unfortunately I found myself last night watching Marley and Me. I'd not seen it, I never planned on seeing it. I love Jennifer Aniston but not enough to see a movie just because she's in it. But it was on my TV and I wanted to cuddle with my daughter so I sat through the last half. The only problem was as I watched the tender scene when John stared at Marley, knowing he was about to die, and told him all the wonderful things about him; then John laid across Marley's body in pure sorrow as his beloved pet died before his eyes, I couldn't help but think of Gary and Megan.

I wondered if Gary sat next to her bed and held her hand as her eyelids fluttered while she was unresponsive. I wondered if Gary told her all the incredible things that made her Megan. I wondered if when they pronounced her if he laid across her body to try to make a lasting imprint of her on him, that somehow if he laid on her long enough he'd forever have her with him. I wondered those things because that is what I did with Rebekah, I thought if I put my hand on her face long enough that her face would forever be etched in the palm of my hand. It wasn't, and Megan will fade in a way over time for Gary and Ian and Bradley, too.

On the way to Jacksonville I was thinking about how this long haul with Megan was finally over. She was in Glory with her mother. Gary and the boys, although incredibly sad, would be able to pick up the pieces and move on and maybe after 10 years of battling cancer, they could get a break. My thoughts were interrupted by my cell phone. It was my mom. My sweet sister-in-law, Na just received word that her cancer had returned - after almost 6 years of being clean. They are all devastated. I am devastated.

See... life is sad enough.