Over the past nearly 14 years of my life we have always had a son in the house. At times we have had up to five boys (not including myself) wrestling it out in the living room and if having 12 kids from hard places has taught me anything it is that regardless of the background of a child, boys and girls are just different. I have not yet met a little girl who didn’t want to be a princess, if not actually dressing up like one, then at very least being treated like one. Oh we’ve had some divas in our home! And the boys are different. Period.
This should and could really be a multi-part blog but I thought given some of my experiences with my kids lately I would just share some thoughts on what we are finding is important as we raise the boys in our home.
One: Be comfortable with who your boys are.
Not all boys are sports fans, not all of them will love hunting, fishing and farting and we need to become familiar and comfortable with who our boys have been created to be. In our house, I’m the not-jock; I could, quite frankly, care less about most sports. Happily I do somewhat care about football (of the CFL variety) and surprisingly even my 9-year-old is starting to take an interest so that’s something. However, just because I’m not, and never was, a volleyball player in school (or basketball, or badminton, or track) doesn’t mean I can’t go and cheer on my boys when they make the team; I’m comfortable with their foreign-to-me enjoyment of sports. Unfortunately I can offer virtually no practical advice on playing the game better, but I’m as embarrassing as the best parent from the bleachers.
However, we do need to find a shared interest that we dads (and you moms too), can do with our boys. For me and Malachi we go to the shop and get frustrated together at our lack of woodworking skill together. This past week we spent a few hours in the shop of our dear friend Alan Holmes, who was Malachi’s small group leader when Malachi was in Kidzland at Southland. Learning the lathe together, and from such a gifted worker and teacher was amazing!
Regardless of the age of your boys, find out what they like, don’t try to change it and look for that thing you can do together. Boys need moms and dads like that.
Two: Boys need meaningful work.
It’s not secret that we are watching a work-ethic-less crisis in our youth. It’s so bad that Millenials are now being referred to as “generation snowflake” (that’s so bad I can’t stop laughing!) Books, yes books, are being written on the ease and frequency of offense that this age group experiences. Pathetic. If we want our boys to grow up to be real men we need to teach them to work hard. And that means the menial tasks like dusting, vacuuming and dishes to be sure, but if we are going to teach our boys to work hard we also need to find meaningful work for them to do.
When we built our house a few years back we decided that we really wanted to sod our yard instead of seeding it, only we couldn’t afford sod, at least not all at once. What we decided to do was wait for the left-over pallets that people don’t use and buy them at a discount. As a result we have had patch-work yard for a few summers now but we are getting ever closer to having a full yard! However, the challenge is we can’t plan our sod jobs, we often get a call or a text near the end of the week, pick up a pallet of sod with a borrowed truck and then lay it. It has been great spending time with Malachi doing real work. Now when we pick up a pallet we look at it and gauge whether we can lay it faster than the previous time; we were actually running with sod last time.
If we want help our boys grow into men we need to give them real jobs. When they are little they need to sit on daddy’s lap while he tills the garden. They need to be trusted with an axe LONG before their mother is comfortable with it. I have had to learn to share my joy of mowing the lawn (I’m serious, it hasn’t been easy to let it go.) They need to see us working hard at our jobs. And when they are old enough and we ask them to do hard dirty work, we need to join them and work side by side.
Three: Teach them to love their church.
In our family God gets everything first. We pray before we eat because we need to communicate our thankfulness and recognize God’s provision for our needs. We give the first of our money to God as a gift recognizing that He is the One who gave it to us first. We give God the best part of our day whenever possible. And we give God our time in serving. I have had a fear as a pastor that my boys would grow tired of the amount of time we spend at church but it would seem that the exact opposite has happened. Several years ago already Seth started serving on the “Action Praise” team in Kidzland and this past weekend he started helping in the 2’s room in the Early Years Ministry at church. In summer, Malachi was a counselor at camp for the first time and he has been a cell leader with the same boys in Middle School Ministry for two years now!
And here’s the shocker – our boys enjoy serving at church!
I think one of the reasons is that Tara and I love our church, and certainly we give credit to God for gripping their hearts, but I think they also see that there is meaning in the church that doesn’t exist in the same way elsewhere. Parents, dads, hear me, to love church is more important than to love hockey. It is more important than having lots of friends (friends you make while serving are the best kind anyways!) There are very few things that will last into the next life, but our service to God will be one of those things. Invest in the eternal, do it cheerfully and willingly, and watch as your kids catch the serving bug and being to thrive!
Regardless of the age of your boys, I would encourage you to ask God for strategies to help them in these three areas. And rest assured, I blow it as a dad more than I get it right! But I am beginning to see the value in these principles as Malachi becomes a young man (with Seth close behind) and I can look back and see where some of the seeds were planted along the way to this point in our family.
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