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.