I am a boy mom. I didn’t know if I’d be one or not. But from the moment the midwives handed him to me, it felt absolutely right. I love having a boy. I love how he picks me flowers. How he kisses my hand and waits for me to curtsy. How he says “Aww” when he hugs. When he says, “Sit by me, Elden, Mama.” or “Good morning, Honey.” or “Thank you supper, Mama.” at breakfast time.
But it’s a bit of a surprise still, that I’m one of those boy moms, and a bit of a challenge sometimes, especially now that the toddler years have begun. I’ve always been kind of an indoor girl. I don’t like loud noises or over-stimulation. And while I’m not a neat-freak by any means, clutter stresses me out. So does stepping on something wet or sticky in clean socks. I’m no poster child for this boy mom thing. But God still knew that that’s what I was, that this little boy was the perfect fit for me.
I’m also someone who leans toward the end of the parenting spectrum that focuses on discipline and obedience. But kids, and sometimes boys in particular, are not always fond of boundaries. Yes, they need boundaries, and boundaries make them feel secure. But boundaries can also feel quite restrictive to these little, newly-independent souls who yearn to run wild and free. It can be a blurry line to walk, between disciplining them and squelching them, between refusing to make excuses for their behavior and failing to really understand them, between what’s truly for their benefit and what’s more for our own convenience. I’m learning, trial and error, every day, and probably will be for many years.
He’s getting a big boy room soon. In my lack of foresight I had my parents paint the extra bedroom pink when we moved in, so I decided to redo it for him, the first room I’ve ever really made an effort at decorating. I wanted something that he wouldn’t outgrow in adolescence but something that would still feel a bit magical and create a sense of childlike wonder. I decided on a night-sky theme. So fourth of July weekend I put my husband in charge of the little guy and shut myself away to paint the walls and ceiling and about a bajillion little white stars. It felt like a joyful labor of love for him, like my own toddler-version of nesting, since I didn’t get to do much nesting when we moved in a week before he was born. I brought up a little CD player and popped in a “new” (to me) Andrew Peterson CD I had just scored on clearance (woohoo!). I chose it for room-painting day because his music is peaceful but dream-fueling and passion igniting and delightfully whimsical. (Have I mentioned I love his music? 😉 ). I hadn’t heard the songs on this CD before, but one of them stopped me in my star-painting tracks. This one:
I had been struggling with discipline, figuring out balance like I talked about, and feeling like I was failing as a mom sometimes when all my efforts to teach him didn’t seem to be bearing any fruit. But God reminded me through this song that although leading my son to the Kingdom, to Jesus, is of utmost importance, it’s not just rule-following that’s going to get him there, and it’s not just rule-following he is going to find when he gets there. It’s passion. It’s wonder and worship and courage and grand adventures. It’s a heart fully alive. I don’t want to squelch that. I love the line at the end that says, “This is the love of Jesus- so good, but he is not tame.” I want to remember that good does not equal tame. It’s hard for this indoor-dwelling, quiet-loving girl to remember that sometimes. But if I don’t, I run the risk of snuffing out something beautiful and vital in my son’s soul. I long for him to be nothing less than fully alive. And he’s already so alive in that little heart of his. Why would I want to rid him of that? For the sake of my own ease? I realized as I sat there under the “stars” that it’s not worth it. No, I won’t give up teaching and training my son to do what is right. I think that’s vital to his soul as well and I’m passionate about it (whether or not I know what in the world I’m doing as I go about trying to figure out how to teach him that). But I don’t want to overkill one at the expense of the other. I don’t want to tame him. And I don’t want him growing up like so very many other people do, thinking that following God is legalistic and passionless and not worth it. It’s hard to blame them, when that’s all they’ve ever really been shown. But I’m determined that my children are shown something so much more than that. That they come to know him as the fountain of living water, the source of life, the lover and nurturer of their souls who takes them on grand adventures and fills them with a wild, deep joy they won’t find anywhere else.
So I wrote a letter to my son that day, under the stars. It’s something I’ve been trying to do once or twice a year in a little journal I plan to give him someday, just to be a little more sure that I’ll be able to convey to him all of the most important things I really want him to know. Here’s what I wrote that day:
I am sitting in the floor upstairs in our house on ____ Avenue covered in paint. I am painting your “big boy room” for you to move into sometime in the next year. I’ve been listening to an Andrew Peterson CD while I paint, and there is a song on it called “Little Boy Heart Alive.” It makes me marvel at the wonder that is boyhood, the wonder that is you. You love to explore these days, usually head straight for the gate when we go into the backyard. You usually want to go up and down the little hill and try to keep your balance, a big task for someone not yet two. You also often break into a run down the street to see “Tree Man”, a strange, totem-pole looking thing that you are a little scared of but still valiantly want to go see daily. I want to support your adventurous boy-heart and help lead you through a childhood of wonder and conquering and imagination. It is hard for me sometimes because my job is also to keep you safe and to teach you wisdom and self-control. The three of us read a devotional together at breakfast this morning and one of the readings was about how true freedom comes from discipline. This is something I’ve been learning in my own life lately. Doing whatever we want seems like freedom, but often it is a disguise for selfishness and we can unknowingly become slaves to those things and they master us and keep us in bondage, hindering us from fully living. It is true of addictions, lying, cheating, laziness… and it is really the opposite of freedom. But if we master our desires and habits, with God’s power, then we are free to be who we were created to be, live up to our fullest potential, follow the passions of our hearts without being held back by our flesh. I want you to know this, and I pray for you to have self-control in all areas of your life, because I believe that is one of the biggest keys to a successful, truly happy life. I struggle with self-control and feel behind where I could be spiritually and in life if I had learned discipline earlier. That is why, in addition to God commanding me to do so, I try hard to teach you right behavior. Not just to make my life easier or to make you a “good boy” (we can’t ever be good enough to earn God’s love, or do anything that makes him love us less- he just loves you because he does, because you are his child.) I discipline you because I know the battle between spirit and flesh is real, and I want to give you every advantage I can. I want to help you learn to control your desires and your flesh from an early age so that when you are old enough to enter into the battle (or maybe you already are), you’ll be trained already and more prepared to choose what is good over what is easy.
Yet in my quest to teach you these things, I must remember to let you explore, to take risks, make messes and sometimes do things that scare me. In that song I was listening to, it refers to Jesus as a lion, and reminded me that he is “so good, but he is not tame.” There are so many people who are living half alive, without the spirit of God flowing through them, and many people who are passionless, sitting in corporate offices they don’t like because the world deceived them into pursuing money, status, “stability”, and they’ve given up their heart’s dreams and God-given talents and passions. Now maybe the corporate world is the path God does want for some people, and there is something to be said for working hard even at things we don’t enjoy, being responsible, and providing for our families. But my point is, I never want you to lose your passion, and I’m reminded today not to push harder than I should for you to be “good,” “safe,” “tame.” My goal as your mother will be to teach you discipline while keeping your little boy heart alive, and ushering you into the Kingdom.
The room I’ve been painting for you today is a night sky that will be filled with stars, and Bible verses (in frames meant to look like tree branches) to help guide your way:
“Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him all you shining stars.” -Psalm 148:3
“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.” -Psalm 112:4
I hope it will help your childhood be filled with wonder, and with God. I’m so blessed to be the keeper of your little boy heart alive.
You came upstairs in the middle of this entry and asked me to dance. 🙂 You’ve also been asking me to curtsy today, because your dad told you that if you kiss a lady’s hand, she will curtsy for you. 🙂 You are such a joy and a delight!