Of Boys and Men (and Mothers Too)

bros

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”—William Shedd

Yesterday my youngest son turned 3.

Our Peter has lived these last three years the same way he came into the world—bold, loud, and larger than life. He’s the family clown willing to do anything for a laugh. He refuses to let his age or size leave him out of what the rest of us are doing. And at three, he already knows two-column addition…as long as the answer is always “69”.

Peter: Mommy, let’s do numbers.
Mommy: Okay, Peter, what is 5+64?
Peter: 69!
Mommy: Good! What is 33+36?
Peter: 69!
Mommy: What is 27+42?
Peter: 69!

I have to admit, it’s pretty rewarding for everyone involved.

And while these last three years have often been tumultuous for us as a family, our Peter has always been a source of joy and comfort. Even in those moments of colic and RSV, he has forced us to take our attention away from external pressures and focus on what really mattered. And in these last three years, he’s stolen my heart just like his older brother did.

There’s a bond between mothers and sons that’s hard to codify. The closest I can get is the memory of breaking down and crying the day after my first son was born nearly six years ago. Blame it on hormones if you like, but I felt a distinct desolation at looking down into those blue, blue eyes and realizing that one day he would love another woman more than he loved me.

Then there’s what happened just a couple days before Peter’s birthday. A close friend got news that her son’s platoon serving in Afghanistan had just lost two guys—her son was okay, but he lost two strong, brave friends. And two mothers lost their strong, brave sons. When I initially heard, my heart was heavy for them but it completely broke in two when Peter came rushing into the kitchen a few moments later to retrieve a toy car he and his brother wanted to play with. In the moments that followed, all I could do was stand my kitchen bawling and thinking how only twenty-odd years earlier those sons had probably been doing the same thing.

People often say that if women ruled the world there would be fewer wars. That somehow our love for our families and our ability to talk through a problem would supersede the testosterone-laden response of military involvement. Apparently those people didn’t go through junior high. But I think this sentiment misses something else as well.

Women already rule the world.

We rule the world every time we love and correct our children. We rule the world every day as we guide them to who they will one day become. We rule the world when we teach them to love others and fight to protect the weak. We rule the world right from inside our own walls. And that’s why despite the politics and the questions surrounding this current war—trust me, I have plenty—I’m grateful for these kinds of moms. I’m grateful for mothers who have raised their boys, not to go looking for a fight, but to have the courage and fortitude to stand their ground when the fight comes. Mothers who have raised their boys to serve and not simply to be served. Mothers who have raised their boys to sacrifice for the good of others. Even if that means losing themselves in the process.

I don’t know what God has planned for my boys—at a three-year-old birthday party, I like to imagine a bright, pain-free future full of joy and dreams fulfilled. But realistically, it’s probably not going to be that way. Probably throughout their lives there will be many times that a sword will pierce my heart (Luke 2:35) too. Especially if I’ve done my job well. Because if by God’s grace, these boys become strong, good men, they will chose to sacrifice themselves—both in little and great ways—for the benefit of those around them. They will stand up for the weak and suffer because of it. And they will serve others, not because they are forced to, but because they understand that this is what real men do.

And then, if our boys grow up to be men like that, we will have changed the world.

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