Since I am homeschooling a lone boy along with six girls, I am aware of the necessity to allow my boy to actually be boyish, to not act on my impulse to expect him to behave as my girls do.
My husband helps me in this area, because he is the rough and tumble sort. He encourages me to say “yes” when the boy asks if he can climb up on the roof to see how far he can see or if he can whittle a real arrow to go in the bow he fashioned from a stick and some old fishing line.
My husband has helped me to stop saying, “Be careful!” so much and start saying “Be adventurous!” and “Be brave!”
He has made me see that while we mothers like to say, “It’s okay to play that way as long as no one gets hurt,” maybe it’s okay for boys to get hurt in their play. (Note: I’m not talking about serious injuries, here.) Maybe, just maybe, when boys get skinned knees or black eyes, they are learning lessons about how wise or foolish it is to steal the ball from older boys in the middle of a game of tag football.
While mothers are inclined to say, “No wrestling! Put that stick down! Don’t climb up there!” I think maybe we should be letting our boys be adventurous even if it means a few scraped knees.
I remember when I taught in the public schools, an often repeated rule was, “Keep your hands to yourself.” There was to be absolutely no wrestling, tugging, or rough housing of any sort. I can see the sense in that when there are hundreds of students on a single campus with a few teachers responsible for maintaining order.
I do think it is a shame, though, when boys are not allowed to playfully, or sometimes not so playfully, figure out for themselves what kinds of behavior are not warmly received.
For instance, if my son decides he would like to interrupt a game of tag football which he was not invited to play, by stealing the ball and running away with it, if I stop the activity to chastise him and make him return the ball, he may see it as another occasion when his mother spoils his fun.
However, if I don’t intervene, and allow a chase to ensue and one of the boys tackles my son, wrestles him to the ground, bloodying his knees in the process of recovering the ball, has he not learned a valuable lesson?
I bet he would think twice about repeating that scene the next time a game of football is being played.
I think of the young David who kept his flock safe by wrestling and overcoming lions and bears. He had the strength and confidence to take on wild animals! Was it because he had been coddled and protected by his mother his entire life? Or had he been in scrapes before and learned to use his strength to his advantage?
While I am on the subject of boys and physical interactions, I may as well go ahead and alienate the rest of you by telling you that when I see little boys playing with their toy guns and I hear mothers say, “WE DON’T POINT GUNS AT PEOPLE! NEVER POINT GUNS AT PEOPLE!” I want to add the disclaimer, “except in instances where Somali pirates are holding an innocent captain of a U.S. vessel hostage or a mad gunman has commandeered an Amish school house. In that case, please, do point guns at people and hit your target with accuracy. That is the kind of gun control I can stand behind.”
I’m just saying that I think we are making a mistake when we encourage our boys to be docile and gentle in all settings. There are some settings that call for rough and tumble. Will boys be able to step up to those situations if they have never encountered that before?