It can’t just be my boys. Please don’t just be my boys.
Hitting, shoving, kicking each other… for fun? As a woman I try to think back to my friendships and I don’t recall a single moment where I lunged at a little friend in the middle of tea cups and wrestled her to the ground laughing.
But if you’ve ever watched little boys play, it’s very much like watching puppies. They jump on each other, roll around, punch each other in the ribs- it’s rough. Sometimes it’s hard to know if they’re laughing or crying… and then after you’ve had four, you don’t even care.
I have literally established with my boys that unless they are actually on fire, bleeding profusely or frothing at the mouth, they should not scream for help. I won’t come. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve ran into a room with medical swabbing and car keys in my hand, only to find them laughing.
The main issue, as I see it, is that growing boys rely heavily on contact as a means of communication.
A shove = “Hey. How are you?”
A push = “This is mine. Wrestle me for it or go away.”
A wedgie = “This is the best day ever. Chase me.”
It’s all well and good… until someone gets hurt. In a culture where violence is sadly a surging epidemic, it is even more important to teach our sons balance and restraint. Knowledge of their own boundaries. Sympathy and understanding.
How do I raise a compassionate man?
Truthfully, I don’t know the answer. But just as navigators use a compass, I felt instinctively that I should offer my sons a ‘code’. A simple promise that brothers could make each other, to serve them as a guide for when the seas get rough.
We decided on the words together and the initial oath was sworn in the forest, over the trunk of an old tree.
To Love, to Teach and to Protect.
We called it: The Brother’s Code. It’s handy to have. I whip it out during name calling, X-Box arguments and headlocks. “Explain to me, child… Does aiming a nerf crossbow at your brother’s eyeball fall within your promise to love, teach and protect him?”
It’s a good little mission statement. We are given such guidelines through school, work and government. It makes sense that a family should have a mission statement too.
The reason we made our promise to each other over a fallen trunk? It was a little way to symbolize that developing better habits, often means letting some bad ones go. We vowed to leave many things in the forest- anger, impatience, selfishness- these things, they can rot away with the dead tree.
This is not to say we won’t behave badly again. Let’s be realistic. We will stuff up again eventually. Um, or on our way back to the car.
But we have new seeds to plant. And those are the ones we want to water.