My husband likes to bemoan the fact that we have a team of boys. Every once in awhile he’ll cry out to some fellow parent, “Why couldn’t I have had four cute little girls?” Invariably, these supportive friends will state emphatically, “Oh, boys are so much easier!” This kind of response can only be delivered by someone who does not have a plethora of sons.
A Different Kind of Easy
Webster defines easy as “not hard or difficult, free from trouble, pain, or worry.” It must be a different “easy” our friends refer to when they are talking about boys. My boys are not “easy” according to Webster’s definition—they’re challenging! Somehow every one of my boys has turned out with strong opinions and stellar debate skills. Though untrained, they can argue about anything: doing the dishes, practicing the piano, making their beds, walking the dog, politics, the weather, whether or not their pants fit, doing schoolwork, who ate the last piece of pizza . . . or the last pizza—but the crème de la crème for fighting is who will ride shotgun when we go out. They will brawl, run, deceive, and swindle to get that front seat.
They also like to give unsolicited advice to each other, their parents, other relatives, teachers—even pastors. Somehow, we have raised confident young men who are unafraid of public speaking.
The uninitiated will also find that boys tend to smell. Whether it’s from bodily functions or just the natural boy essence, foul odors are part of daily life. Then there’s bathing (or not bathing). Food has been banned in our house prior to bathing. He who is not clean will not eat! There have been boys who will get wet in order to say they’ve showered but will still neglect to use soap. Lack of suds doesn’t mean they will be out of the shower quickly, however. They still manage to drain the water heater and clog the bathroom for thirty minutes. Deodorant must be kept in a prominent location where applying it is unavoidable. This may mean strapping it to the refrigerator door handle with a sign: “Apply Before Opening!”
A few years back, my husband gave a job to two of my sons—washing the windows. He then left the house to run some errands. As the boys were working on the second floor windows, one decided to snatch the ladder. The other dangled from the windowsill of the second floor. They found it amusing to display their acrobatic abilities for their mother. They survived. Someone once said there was a special place in heaven for the mother of sons; that day I really wanted to send them there. Today, one rides a motorcycle and the other is a Marine. No worries, right? Boys are so much easier than girls!
Does it seem likely that Jesus nicknamed James and John “Sons of Thunder” because they were meek and mild?
Not a Bad Thing
There’s no doubt that boys can be a handful, but being a boy is not a bad thing. However, sometimes it seems that our culture doesn’t like boys. In fact, one could make the case that there is a full-on war against them. Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote a book called The War Against Boys. Although a feminist, she gives some interesting insights and solutions to what boys face in our current culture.
Mark Twain is reported to have said, “When a child turns twelve, he should be kept in a barrel and fed through the bung hole, until he reaches sixteen . . . at which time you plug up the bung hole.”
Although I sympathize with this sentiment, there must be a better way.
Teaching Our Boys
The phrase “my son” is used twenty-six times in the book of Proverbs. Advice to sons must have been pretty important for it to be recorded in the Scriptures:
My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life (Prov. 6:20–23).
Since I homeschool, I’ve spent a substantial amount of time teaching my sons. I would like to think I’ve taught my children well. However, I can’t always tell if this is the case. According to Proverbs, Mom and Dad must instruct, but those boys must be teachable:
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God (Prov. 2:1–5).
This is actually encouraging, because parents can’t take all the blame for wandering, inattentive sons. The sons have to want to know and follow the Lord:
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (Ps. 119:9–16).
When All Is Said and Done
The reality is that our precious boys may not turn out as we hoped they would, and how a man walks through his relationship with the Lord in the many seasons of his life may not make his mother or the other women in his life comfortable. Even if the results of our labor do not meet our expectations, there is blessing in being faithful—teaching, accepting, and nurturing those boys.
So I will pray for my sons, love them, keep the refrigerator stocked and the windows open, get a second water heater, and stock up on soap and deodorant. I will continue to teach and strive to live consistently according to God’s Word. Then maybe when they start asking the question that the psalmist asked in Psalm 119, they will already know the answer.
What are some ways you can encourage your boys in their boyishness while teaching them to be men of God?