“Mom, the Less You Know the Better”

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“Mom, the Less You Know the Better”

  “Do you think one of us should be out there with them?”, my wife asked with a calm concern in her voice.  “They’ll be fine,” I answered.  “I gave them specific instructions and I’m checking on them from time to time.”  “Ok”, she said, “I’m not going to worry about it then”, and she retreated to the bedroom.  My wife is a good mom.  She doesn’t deny the genuine care and concern that she inherently possesses as a mother, but she also knows when her boys need to be boys.  She knows that there are times where the less she knows what they are doing, the better.   That afternoon was one of those times.  My boys, 14 and 15 years old, had built a foundry in our backyard…I’ll wait while you google “foundry”….That’s right, they were melting aluminum at temperatures upwards of 1,500 to 2,000 degrees fahrenheit in our back yard.   It was awesome! It was awesome that metallurgy was happening in my back yard. It was awesome that my boys have the intelligence to make a foundry from supplies they bought with their own money at Home Depot. It was awesome that they were bonding over something so manly.   It was also dangerous, and that’s part of the point.   Mom, your son has in inner craving for danger.  It’s as real as the craving you have to keep him safe.  He is curious!  He wants to know how things work!   He wants to test his physical and mental limits!  And I know that it sounds dangerous and that you think it’s best to play it safe, and that’s why mom, the less you know the better.   Of course I’m not talking about the grand scope of knowing and loving your son.  You have every right, the responsibility even, to dig into his life, to know what he’s doing and thinking, to know what his grades are, when he’ll be home and who he’s hanging out with.  He needs the security of knowing you care enough to be deeply involved in his life.   But he also needs the security of knowing that you know he craves adventure on one level or another.  He needs to know you trust him with a little bit of responsibility…even with a little bit of danger.  Sometimes that means letting him explore the world without hovering.   Maybe my perspective as a dad can help.  I cherish the thought of raising strong men and in order to do that I know my sons needs some danger in their lives to make them strong.  I know that strength comes from the successes and the failures and I know that in order to achieve one or the other, a guy has to try things for himself.   This doesn’t mean just passively letting my boys do what they want to do.  That’s foolishness and bad parenting!  I just have a decent sense of when to offer instruction versus when to intervene.   My boys knew enough to include me in the process of making their forge but I took greater pleasure in stepping away after instructing them to watch them work together to make a quality foundry without my immediate help.  At one point during the metal melting process they got frustrated with an unforeseen problem.  I could see what was happening so I said, “Boys, look at me.  You have a decision to make right now.  You either need to decide to stop because you are too frustrated or you need to decide to stop being frustrated so you can work with a clear head, because if you continue to work frustratedly, someone’s going to get hurt.”  They knew that I was serious and it was a joy to watch them make the conscious decision to drop the frustration and to continue working safely.   Mom, truth be told, you can do the same.  You can let your boys be boys by letting them experience some adventure and a bit of danger.  Don’t be naive about it.  If he’s walking out the door with a lighter, some styrofoam and a gallon of gasoline (not outside the realm of possibility) then a line of questioning is in order.  You can learn how to offer good instruction and then let them explore with that instruction in mind.   Look for small ways that you can let him explore his freedom, his curiosity and his sense of adventure.  It may take some willpower and some prayer on your part but there’s nothing wrong with that.  You’ll find that in the long run, it will serve to strengthen your relationship and it will allow him to become the man you hope to admire.      

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