More thoughts about boys in the suburbs…

Current mood: frustrated

Yet another inward groan as I see (again) that MySpace doesn’t have a Family category, nor one for Outdoors & Nature.  “Travel and Places” are the closest they come to the second.  But, no Family category?  So, we’re all just dropped off down here by ourselves?  Lab-developed test-tube babies?  No parent, no sibs??  And none of us have children???  Ugh.  And with that non-Family, we just like to go Shopping, do Parties, and talk about something Automotive.  Double ugh.  An Automotive category, but no Outdoors???  Gimme a break.

Well.  This is largely gleaned from my posts at SL  about this topic.  But, as my thoughts are a little more together since I posted the Amish entry, I thought I’d update the blog.

This is gleaned from several different posts, so I hope it flows clearly.

I refer several times to a specific argumentative poster.  While I don’t agree w/ him much of the time on either his views of manhood, nor how to raise a boy, AND I think he worships his own intellect, I’m thankful for his thoughts, b/c considering his comments and questions helped me to better form my own.  IOW, I don’t like him, but I do appreciate him.

Some (well, one who stated it) were worried that I was just romanticizing “something quite foreign and removed from [my] context.”  I really don’t think I’m doing that.  I’m actually NOT a romantic nor a dreamer, and I have learned that the grass is very seldom greener on the other, unseen side.  Or the other, unexperienced side, as the case may be, since I’ve never been an Amish cowboy.

There were also a couple others who noted that “muscles do not make the man.”   After giving some thought to that statement, I came to this: What makes a man a man is that he’s living up to his potential in Christ, and being who he was created to be. If the Father created a boy to grow up to be Type A, a muscle-bound, risk-taking, leader type, it would be a shame to his manhood to be anything but that. However, I certainly do not think that all boys are called or created to be Type A men.

I do think, though I didn’t state it on SL, that removing muscles from the image of manhood is emasculating.  Now, I’ve seen enough WWE commercials on USA while watching reruns of House to make me sickened.  It can definetely go too far.  But, as someone else stated, privately:    “I think men that sit in front of computers and pay other people to do everything so they don’t have to get dirty are sissies.”  There’s just an intangible “sissy” factor to completely removing action, adventure, and muscles from manhood.  Can a man be a man w/o them?  Can a man in a wheelchair, for example, still be a man??  OF COURSE.  But, under “normal” circumstances, a flacid, fearful, powerless man is just WRONG.  IMO.

The things that compelled me about Jerry were character issues (and maybe some God-given personality) — not that he was some muscley cowboy.  The description I gave of him [He was very polite, soft-spoken, direct, friendly, humble, funny, smiling, an obvious hard worker, kind & patient & attentive w/ small kids, yet speaking with ease & confidence with adults, looking you in the eye…. He loved his life, was in awe of God’s beauty, carried his Bible (a tiny “Cowboy Bible”) everywhere, was satisfied with his accomplishments, while maintaining humility… basically, everything I’d like my boys to be.] could also be said of a computer guy. And, it could also be said a home-designing worship leader (my own dh ).

My concern is that my boys gain strength of character in an environment where their lives are extremely easy, and the lessons they have learned, so far, are “created” ones given by dh & me — not lessons of necessity, which, in my observation (and from my experience) are ones that stick harder.

Our family just — by the grace of God, and I’m NOT complaining — has such a good life… My boys’ lives are absent of hardship. NOT that I want a hard life, but I think living a hard life can contribute to the growing up process. Living a hard life requires responsibility, whereas, living our relatively easy life in the suburbs means I have to go out of my way (which I *am* willing to do) to teach the value of responsibility, and the lessons that are available to me are much less dramatic than the ones available to those living difficult lives.  I do find the lazy side of myself wishing that parenting was a whole heck of a lot easier than it is. But I don’t think “rustic” life would remove the need for parental discipline (as one thought must surely be my motivation for wanting a more-countrified life); I just think that it naturally provides experiences that I/we in the suburbs, have to “create” substitutes for. But, I am willing to create. I’m not just going to pine away for what I think would be ideal and ignore the life that the Father has given me here, now.

The same shoot-me-downer mentioned above also said that an example of Godly manhood was what was most needed for boys to develop into men of character.  I said, sometimes, just an example of real manhood isn’t enough. It also takes personal life lessons in the lives of each child. We don’t learn just from simple observation, although the models that we live with certainly *do* have an impact, and a positive model is certainly going to have a powerful positive effect.

He also said that instead of trying to influence his children towards his own interests, he specifically went out of his way to push them in a different direction.  I think that’s odd.  However, before my first child was born, it drove me NUTS that everyone kept saying how great it would be that we’d have another worshiper/music lover in our home. I certainly wasn’t going to push him to be something that dh & I are!! Well, I found out that I didn’t have to ‘push.’ Turns out that, for example, my oldest ds is a baseball loving, musical, worshiping, opinionated leader who is too smart for his own britches and loves science and the outdoors!! Sounds like his parents, to me.

There’s a reason that God gave our kids to us to parent. Some of my kids’ interests are genetic, and some from environment, I’m sure, but I’m not going to be *intent* on NOT encouraging my dc to pursue something, just because I’m interested in it! To me, that doesn’t make sense. It’s overcompensating.

A friend posted this:   

I think that when it comes to raising boys in suburbia you have to work much harder at finding ways for them to get that adventure, to get that hard work that creates the man. You have to take them to it rather then have it come to them, kwim? We do live in the country so I can say stack that wood pile here and that gives them the hard work that they need to work out some of those boy issues. It is amazing what hard physical labor does for a boy, trust me. I have said, “go back to the cougars (that is what we call the back part of our property, I know, it doesn’t sound very good but it is true) and build a fort. Don’t come back till it is finished.” They come back with tales of adventure and daring and a pretty neat fort for me to check out.

Dh just bought dirt bikes for the kids. Now, I am scared of dirt bikes, always have been. I have to stand back and smile (and pray) while they have an absolute blast. Dh is teaching them to take risks (he does teach them well ) and yet how to be responsible with machinery.
I *do* think that physical activity, and connectivity to the natural world — which is usually easier to come by in a non-city environment — is instrumental to the making of a healthy child.

Someone in a wheelchair can go on a nature walk, and closely inspect a bug, or sketch the pattern on the back of a leaf. Someone w/o great physical coordination can STILL build a fort, or dig a hole in the ground. They can watch the clouds drift by, pick flowers, jump in a puddle.

And, it’s not just me: research shows that outdoor exposure is vital for the physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual well-being of children. (See the work of Robin C. Moore, Richard Louv, Mike Davis and Edward O. Wilson for starters. Davis’ and Wilson’s work is not specifically kid-related, but all the authors stress the need — on many levels — for people to be able to interact with the natural environment, not just have a book-knowledge of it.)

And, to me, it’s not JUST nature, though that plays a big role.

It’s the fact that our suburban lives are devoid of many of the realities of what much of the rest of the world goes through, and how they live. THANK GOD that my kids will not know the harsh realities of seeing their parents’ marriage dissolve violently (as both dh & I saw). THANK GOD that they will never know poverty (as dh & I did). Just the ugly, harsh things of the world, which we work to protect them from, aren’t the lot of my kids’ lives, and I praise God for that.

Subjecting my kids to hard things IS hard for me. I’m a mother. I want to be tender with their hearts. I want to nurture them and cuddle them. I am SO GLAD I have a husband, who is an excellent model of manhood, and who leads our children with me. There is a HUGE part of me that does not want to subject my kids to hard things, but I’m aware — increasingly aware — that it is necessary, and my parents’ version of Low Impact Parenting is just not going to cut it, and I need to continue to find more and better ways of challenging my kids.

I find it hard to explain that which seems so apparent to me: Life is easier in the suburbs. Life is easier in a happy home. Life is easier in the 21st century, in our culture which works to make things easier and softer.

And an easy life does not a strong child make — witness the heir-lings in the news who consistently make @sses of themselves, unaware of their folly.

The unliked-but-somewhat-appreciated poster stated: 

I don’t know Jerry, but I’d say I’d expect to find places where he is quite soft — math skills for example. Understanding calculus and trigonometry and fourier transforms isn’t work that gives you chiseled pecs, but it’s by no means “soft”. It’s freakin’ hard work!

I replied:  I don’t disagree with you. I weathered engineering calculus in college myself, and it was a slap of academic reality in my ‘soft’ face, because I had, up to that point, found school easy.

I also think it is important for kids to study things that they may not need, later in life. Who knows what they will end up becoming? Who knows in which situation they may find themselves in, needing that trig lesson? I certainly don’t want to unwittingly shut future doors for them by not investing in their minds now.

BUT… I think it would be unwise to say, “Well, my 12yo can do calculus, so I don’t need to physically challenge him.” There are many brainiacs out there who have physical health problems, emotional disturbances, and relational difficulties because they focused only on their IQ and academics, discounting the rest of the hard stuff as unimportant in comparison.

SO!  That’s where I stand on the whole thing.  For now, anyways.


Currently reading :
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
By Richard Louv
Release date: By 17 March, 2006

About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on July 21, 2006, in Books I'm Reading, Homeschooling, Introspective Musings, Life in the Desert, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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