A note about raising boys

Little Mack used to insist on a particular type of story every night before bedtime.  “Tell me a story, Mama, about when we were all little kids!”

By that, he meant when Bryan and I were little kids, and all our other kids were little, also—of course not possible, at least not until they figure out time-travel–but an unusual and thought-provoking scenario.  It tickled me to begin with, imagining myself as a little girl, charging around with my own children as little kids, along with my grown-up sons and their wives.  And he would also push and ask me to include Grandpa and Grandma as little kids, too, and maybe even a few aunts and uncles, if time permitted.   This boy.  I love him so much.

This boy. I love him so much.  He melts my heart over and over and over again.

This was our bedtime routine every night.

I would start: “Once upon a time . . . when Daddy and I were little kids, and you and Matthew and Andrew and Bethie and Timothy and Amalia were little kids, too—”

And when Rachel and Sonia were little kids,” Malachi would interrupt.

Yes, of course—Rachel and Sonia, too . . .”

Also–when Grandma and Grandpa were little kids,” he’d prompt.

Yes, Grandma and Grandpa. . .”

And when Uncle Matt and Aunt Paula were little kids. . .”

Well, you get the idea. These introductions were murderously long, especially when you’re at the end of a long day and really,  really longing to just drop into bed. I’m the mother of six, after all, and a gentlewoman farmer with scads of critters to care for, and a penchant for trying to do too much.

It’s a tired life I lead, Gentle Reader.

But anyway, the stage would be set and all of us, as little kids, would get into some sort of adventure in the story series–of which Malachi never would tire, by the way. I followed the usual story curve, with introductory material, then rising tension, then a conflict of some sort.

This is how it went:

So we were all little kids—and we woke up one morning and we were all robots!”\

“Cool! What color was I?”  Mack pushes for details.

“Um, you were, let’s see—gray.”

“What color was Grandma–I mean, as a robot?”

“Ah—dark blue, I think. With maroon trim.”

 “Trim?? What is ‘trim’? And what color was my—trim?”

*Sigh* I would bring up trim. So then we would segue into a brief discussion on robot trim. Which I had just invented, by the way. I am certainly the victim of my own creative mind, in many ways. But let’s please not get unnecessarily narcissistic here. After all:

“We actually enjoyed being robots, but we did wonder if we would ever be ordinary people again. And then the phone rang, and a mysterious voice said that we must go to a warehouse on Mars, if we ever wanted to be humans again.”

“What color was Bethie, again?”

“Ah, teal, I think. With silver undertones. So anyway, we got on our rocket—“

“’Undertones’ . . . what . . . WHOA! We had a ROCKET!?”

 “Well, of course we had a rocket, but listen now, here’s the scary part—we then went to the warehouse on Mars, but it was very very quiet, and pitch black inside! But then! A deep, mysterious voice rang out from the back of the cavernous, cobwebbed space—”

And here’s the funny thing that occurred every time I would arrive at the conflict in the story.  Every night.  No matter what the action or setting, Malachi would utter, in his husky, tough-guy voice:

And then I pulled out my GUN!” 

I find the manly-boyish protective impulse kicking in to my little boy’s nature so touching, and so sweetly endearing. I waited for this moment in the story every night, and it never failed to tug at my heart.  It is so much a part of him, so much of what makes him a boy.

My boy.

My boy.

When our older boys were little, I was determined not to raise (I’m sorry, boys, but at least I came to my senses) noisy, boisterous, “violent-natured” boys, so I determined that there would be no gunplay in our (quiet, serene, peaceful) home. I feel like a fool about this now that I understand boys better, but I was young, stupid, and an unwitting victim of the feminist biases in our culture.  I admit it, I was duped.

So naturally, the boys would surreptitiously fashion guns out of their Legos, out of sticks from the yard, out of their oatmeal cookies, out of anything, and quietly shoot each other while I wasn’t looking. (Their guns were equipped with silencers.) Anybody who has raised boys will nod their heads knowingly at this. You’ve heard it a million times, the time-worn cliche: “Boys will be boys.”

Do we really want boys to be girls? If a robber steals into our home during the night, or a mountain lion leaps out at us while on a walk in the woods (both scenarios, thankfully, not likely, but still–!) I don’t want my boys to run and hide, or to duck behind their mum. I want them to stand bravely and to be equipped to protect me and their sisters!

Not (I can feel that I’m raising ire, here) that girls cannot defend themselves. When I go for runs on our country road, I try to remember to carry mace against the occasional wild dog or mountain lion (well, we’ve seen tracks, and I have had encounters with strange dogs before, too) and I do know how to shoot a gun, and how to throw a brick. If there’s one available. But I’m perfectly okay with allowing my boys to be the heroes, if the situation arises.

I don’t try to quell Malachi’s forceful impulses to protect me and his sister, as long as he doesn’t actually turn the imaginary weapons on us. I cheer him on, instead, and make a mental note to have him spend some time learning about gun safety, and how to handle a knife and how to learn to work hard to provide, some day, for his future family. These things are so important for our young boys to learn. Not to mention how to be kind. Generous. Helpful. Godly. Wise. Good. Like his papa.


How to wash dishes. Change a baby’s diaper. Scoop the walks. Haul wood, and balance the checkbook. There are so many things that our boys need to learn, and so many time-wasting distractions that are vying for their attentions.

My story: So we were all on an airplane, going to Egypt to look at the pyramids, when–all of a sudden! The weather changed and it was horribly windy and stormy and very dark outside!!

Little Mack: “And then I pulled out my GUN!”

My story: “We were all fluffy, silky bunnies, and we were hopping through the garden, and we saw some delicious radishes!  But then Mr. McGregor appeared, and in his hand was a pitchfork–“

Mack: “And then I pulled out my GUN!”

Me: “We were driving shiny, state-of-the-art, super-fast cars, all of us, even though we were just little kids, but then our tires all blew out, all at once, and we started swerving all over the road. .”

 Mack: “And then I pulled out my GUN!”

I have much more to say about raising boys, having raised three and being still in the trenches of raising two more.  Boys have a lot going against them these days, but I do think it’s still possible to raise smart, respectful, honorable young men.

But that’s a longer post, and for another day! 🙂


24 thoughts on “A note about raising boys

  1. Shawn

    Yes, I had the no gun idea in the beginning as well. Soon found that would be a losing battle. God did equip the sexes with some gender rules and I was never up to fighting a losing battle weather it be with boys or God.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I’m glad God gave me enough boys to learn more about raising them, or else my first one probably would have been pretty messed up. As it is, God taught me lessons with each one, and now with my youngest son nearly 7, I think I know what I’m doing. (Hopefully!!)

  2. Donovan Dreyer

    This is a thought provoking post in light of all that is up for debate with guns and violence these days. Boys will be boys is straightforward. Perhaps some matters at issue these days are just as common sense at the core. I like that your article, though personal and kid-focused also ties to current issues in the world at large as well.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Well, Donovan, I didn’t try very hard to pull in the anti-gun controversy right now. Hopefully if we raise our boys right, they won’t have a desire to take somebody’s life with a gun. But I don’t think gun laws or lack of gun laws will change whatever is wrong with our society that results in so many of these awful tragedies. Killers aren’t generally stopped by laws.

  3. Chef William

    Amy, I believe that in a previous life, you were a frontier women headed west with your family. A wheel broke off your wagon somewhere in Nebraska and the wagon train moved on without you. So your husband staked his claim right where the wheel broke. You and him raised a house, broke sod, raised your own food and kids, and experienced a life that is unknown by most people living today. You have reincarnated as a modern day Nebraska frontier women to do it again, loving every minute of it.
    Some of my fondest memories are of when I was 7 and 8 years old. My foster parents were from Oklahoma, living in California, following the crops up and down the state. That’s where I learned to pick potatoes, harvest grapes, milk cows, feed chickens and the wonder smell of fresh baked bread. It wasn’t until I was 10 that I learned to bail hay, but that’s also when I started to learn to cook…thanks for bringing back memories…I really enjoy your posts……..

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Chef William,
      Well, you have me pegged! I’ve always been fascinated by that frontier period of the U.S. history, and a bit jealous of my great-grandmother who actually got to stake a claim and dig a garden out of the sod, and live in a soddy on the Nebraska prairie, with the nearest neighbor miles away. I know it was monstrously difficult, but I would have loved to have watch the state grow up around me. I would have loved to travel everwhere on horseback, my skirts billowing behind me. *sigh* And there is such satisfaction in producing and preserving food and good things for our families, isn’t there? Thanks for sharing a bit about your background with me. It sounds you have a plethora of skills under your belt, besides Chef-ing!

  4. Carolina HeartStrings

    This tickled me so much. First of all what an opportunity to let the imagination go rampant by several generations all being kids at the same time. Wow… I see a series of books here. And, Little Mack, an absolute character. I agree let the boys defend first. We can always be back up.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I’m glad this story made you smile. It happened actually, nearly four years ago, but I’m really, really glad that I wrote it down, else I might have forgotten about it! I still tell stories to little Mack, but this particular phase is over. Although I’m thinking about bringing it up again. It was such fun!

  5. Anita-Clare Field

    I love the fact that little Mack loves stories about his family before bedtime, I used to do the same with my niece and nephew when they were his age. I am not sure about a teal robot but hey, I am liking the trim ! I have not grown up in a culture with guns so from that perspective I am lacking from that perspective, I am sure every little boy thinks for themselves as a ‘pistol packing’ cowboy once or twice in their lives 🙂

  6. Timmy C

    What an interesting yet brave take on the old Mars vs Venus:
    A girl trying to figure out what makes a boy tick. Much easier than a boy trying to figure out a girl– they are much more complicated. Boys are ……..pardon the slam, much more……….er …………”simple”.
    I would say you have a pretty good grasp on how to raise boys there, mom. Think it’s that gentle nature mother’s possess that allows boys to grow up to be……….bigger boys with bigger toys. And gives us that ability to protect our gentler, more loving and nurturing/ finer ‘other half’.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I appreciate your thoughts! Thanks so much for your comment. I agree that it takes both mom and dad to properly “civilize” the wild impulses of most boys! 🙂 I realize that sounds very sexist, but I’ve never been a member of the club that thinks boys and girls would be the same creature, but for the truck or the doll that parents choose to hand them.

  7. Nathana

    Mitch and I were a basketball game last week and there was a little 2 year old boy who made a gun out of his mom’s inhaler. I leaned over and asked him if he thought that that was cute a normal or disturbing as a little boy was pointing it at everyone and shooting them. Mitch laughed and said it was pretty much the essence of boyhood. Which was reassuring to me because Mitch isn’t the stereotypical guy.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      You’re ahead of me as a young mom, Nathana. I was disturbed that my adorable little blue-eyed boy (our first son, Matthew) would ever dream of picking up a gun and pretending to shoot somebody. But I learned! 🙂

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