Grow brick, grow.

FullSizeRender-5There are many things that little boys are good at. They’re good at making friends and making noise. They’re great at picking noses, scabs and fights.   Boys can make sounds with their bodies that seem disproportionate to their size and innocence.

Really, when you think about it.  Boys are great at many things.

But the thing they tend to do best, is GROW.  You spend stupid money on career-making football boots one season, only to discover they can’t get their toes into them the next.

This kind of growth requires no effort.  The growth happening on the inside, however, is a different matter.  I often remind my sons that I’m not raising boys, my job is to raise men.  The lessons I fail to teach them today, life will most certainly teach them later.  Usually without mercy.

Kids don’t get this of course; and they often resist learning.  If only all the adults would shut up and stop trying to make us better.  We’ll grow up eventually.

Or will they?

The other day I decided to do something rather strange to illustrate to my sons the very crucial difference between ‘growing old’ and ‘growing up’.  We pulled over outside a construction site and borrowed one brick (for an indefinite period of time!).  We then drove the brick to an empty lot near our house and I asked one of my boys to place it on the grass.

We sat in the car watching the brick for a few minutes.  After some time in silence, I asked the boys if they could see anything happening.  No, nothing happening.  “What about if we come back in a week, do you guys think the brick might become a wall?  Or in a year, what are the chances of it growing into a house?  In ten years, could it become a cathedral?”

They all looked at me like I was stupid.  Cue for me to make my point:  even in a million years, that one brick won’t become anything more than it is today.  Because time alone, changes nothing.

I explained to my silent audience that to grow into something better, is a deliberate choice.  It is a choice to learn, read, explore, challenge, accept correction, take risks… and the sad result of ignoring opportunities to grow is seen in the many so called ‘grown ups’ walking around with the emotional and intellectual capacity of a child.

Every morning as we drive past Lord Bernie Brick (as they have named him), we check if he’s grown into anything amazing overnight.  And each time that he hasn’t, it serves as a reminder to the boys, that they won’t grow into good men by accident either.

It’s going to be a daily choice.

The Adventure

nomad

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been trying to get into the habit of reading a book with the boys each night. We all clamber up onto my bed and (after the usual negotiations of who is sitting where) we eventually settle into a few good pages of our latest adventure.

The book we are currently reading is ‘The Alchemist’, by Paulo Coelho.  Nominated as one of the top 100 books of all time, I figured that it would be a good enough read.  Yes, it’s true I’ve had to simplify a few adjectives here and there, and even fudge a few descriptions.  But overall, it has been a book filled with valuable lessons.  And the boys are captivated.  Which helps.

Tonight, the chapter related to the main character, a nameless boy, as he makes the decision to go on a great adventure to Egypt.  It spoke about courage, the value of taking risks and the rewards of responding to opportunities with a ‘yes’.

But then I paused, as I looked around the bed at my half dozey little bunch, in a range of assorted dinosaur and skull pyjamas, my imagination begun to run wild.

I imagined moments in our lives that might lie ahead, like perhaps driving one of my sons to the airport, watching him and his backpack disappear into a crowded departure lounge.  I thought about receiving post cards from far away places; or waiting for the phone to ring from destinations I might not be able to pronounce.

How will I cope?  Truthfully, I fear distance from my boys.  My inability to protect and guide them- it’s all slightly frightening.  But when the time comes, if I’ve done my job, I should be able to trust in their ability to leap out into the world and… go.

I put the book down.  A heavier thought occurred to me- and I voiced it to my sons.  Life rewards those who step forward, those who rise to a challenge and say ‘yes’ to life.  But sometimes, lads- the real adventure, is to say ‘no’.

You’re on the sidewalk one night, about to get into a car full of mates.  They’re off on an ‘adventure’ around town.  Everyone’s excited.  And everyone’s been drinking.  It takes no courage to get in.  It takes courage to say, ‘no’.

We spoke about a few more examples.  In a world where little boys challenge each other to jump higher, run faster, kick a ball farther… it becomes terribly easy to confuse bravery with stupidity, and caution with weakness.

Teaching him that difference might mean that one day, in a far away place you can’t even pronounce, your boy makes a choice that keeps him alive.

 

Boytherhood

IMG_1082

The ancient art of raising boys, as mastered by none.

Welcome!  My name is Cristina and I am a 36 yr old writer and single mother of four sons.

Those are the general facts that sum up my life.

It seems kind of obvious looking at this information, that I should at least have a go at writing a blog about raising the miniature male species.  It has only taken me twelve years of brilliance to realise this, but I’m going to forgive myself because I’ve been kind of busy (see- barely coping).

Raising sons (well, children in general) is a job that requires a serious amount of fortitude, sense of humour and a strong gag reflex.  It will drive you mad with fury, mad with joy and just mad in general.

Some of the situations we find ourselves in are plain ridiculous.  The negotiations, conversations and explanations are sometimes so outrageous, you can only laugh.  Or you would cry.  And maybe never stop.

There is no manual that could have ever accurately describe the abstract art of trying to turn a little boy into a somewhat decent man.  Or at the very least, not a criminal.

And yet, isn’t boytherhood just the most wild, beautiful and marvellous fun?!

So it’s kind of ironic that the day I have casually chosen to start writing this introduction just happens to be Valentine’s Day.  Not because I am desperately bored and without a date, but because after all the craziness is said and done, raising my sons has been the love affair of my life.

***

The ancient art of raising boys, as mastered by none.