Recently, we’ve had an influx of teenage boys on our team. As I laughed at them running around the base from my kitchen window, I realized, I love boys. I mean, I ADORE them. At the expense of sounding totally creepy, I’ll admit that I could spend hours watching them just being… boys. I love the wrestling, I love the teasing, I love the crazy stunts they pull. I especially love the in-between years, the ones when they are not quite grown men, but really not little boys any more. In some ways, I cannot wait to hear the changing voices of my own man-cubs even though I know there will be some not-so-lovely aspects to the hormone surges.
I guess what I love the most about boys is that manhood is stamped upon them from birth. They are male. Even hairless and helpless, they are little men. And they know it. I’ve seen it in my own sons as they dash off to “save” someone or work diligently for hours to build something only to smash it or show off their bravery in another daredevil feat.
Just today I watched Narnia : The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with my oldest. Not even 2 minutes after it was over, he was running outside with a plastic sword and shield pretending to fight his own battle. I could not help but laugh with delight because it is part of his make-up. Every day I hear stories of my sons’ plans to better the world by saving someone or something. Today they were discussing how they would free the rest of the world’s slaves – God would provide backup miracles if they got into a pinch. Yes, I know that girls are also passionate about being part of something significant (I am one too, remember!), but there is truly something male about saving the WHOLE WORLD and knowing that you are the one to do it. It’s why Star Wars, even with its outdated cinematography, continues to win new generations of fans.
Men are also protectors from the time that they are very small. We have always made a big deal about the right ways to treat women. Particularly, my sons know that they are free to wrestle with each other and other boys, but they are NEVER to use their muscles to hurt women. They believe to the bottom of their little hearts that even their mama needs to be protected and that they, as men, are made to do it. And I love it! I love it when they run up and tell me not to be afraid because they’ve “protected” me from some critter that is now smashed to bits on the floor. I love it even more when they tell me that they have refused to retaliate against a female playmate who hit because their muscles serve a greater purpose.
What I don’t love is the fear that I see in some eyes, particularly in the eyes of parents of girls, when they look at my children or other boys, pre and post puberty alike. Like the masculinity of these boys is something to be afraid of. Like it makes these boys predators. I don’t understand how the very things that I absolutely relish – the rough and tumble, the raw physical strength, the tender hearts wrapped in a muddy, loud boastful package – are a cause for concern. Parents, wake up! Don’t you want your daughters to be surrounded by men of character who will use their muscles to protect, who know that they are brave and are ready to jump into battle for anyone who needs a hero, who dare to face their own terror (and even humanity) simply for the sake of winning against it? Or would you rather see her with someone… tame, predictable, and easily persuaded?
As a mom of men, I have the huge role of shaping my sons into the men they will become. While I believe that much of who they are is made in their DNA, I know that how I respond to it will shape what they allow the world to see and especially how they interact with women. Will they feel that their strength is not needed? Will they come to believe that their masculinity is shameful ? That is why I must make it a point to delight in their strength and their bravery and, yes, even their daredevil displays. It’s not that my children are not allowed to cry, for being able to show emotion is in itself is a kind of strength, nor is it that they are discouraged from showing fear, for they are human. But I want to see them grow into this lion-heart that they were born with. I want them to know that their male-ness is to be celebrated, not feared.
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Susan asks about the lion, Aslan, “Is he… quite safe?” And the response is, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he is good.” I want this for my boys. In all of their wildness, their unpredictability, and their courage, I want them to grow in goodness. I have no desire to tame them. I want to teach them to use their masculinity for the good purposes it was created for, because I believe there really is a battle that God has put before them to fight and people that they will be called to be a hero for. I want them to be ready for their purpose.