Let Them Be Boys!

I recently read a news story about a 6 year old boy suspended from school for three days for shooting an imaginary bow and arrow at recess. Despite an outcry from parents and the community, the principal made no apologies for coming down so hard:¬†“I have no tolerance for any real, pretend, or imitated violence. The punishment is an out of school suspension,” he said.

Look, I get it. Violence is commonplace in our world today, and unfortunately violence in schools happens on a regular basis. But letting boys play cops & robbers or Batman & The Joker will not prevent – or cause! – more violence. The issues challenging our world go much, much deeper than boys being boys. And I’d venture to say that all this overprotective PC nonsense will cause more problems down the road.

I have boys. Two of them. One about the same age as the boy I referenced above. And we have dealt with issues from well-intentioned adults trying to stifle his boyhood. I’ve found that mothers to only girls have an especially hard time with boys.They just don’t understand why boys want to chase and kick and wrestle all.the.time. But we (normal) moms of boys can give each other a knowing glance and shrug off the eye rolls. We’re not raising tomorrow’s serial killers – we’re raising energetic boys!

Mack doesn’t watch violent movies. He doesn’t play violent video games. He has never seen a real gun. He has never heard a real gun shot. He doesn’t talk about killing people. He just likes to shoot pretend guns he creates with grilled cheese sandwiches and big sticks. He builds Lego spaceships that battle each other until one explodes in a zillion pieces. He imagines underwater battles in the bath tub. To think that he could be suspended for this behavior boggles the mind!

I believe many boys (and many girls, for that matter) have an innate desire to protect. When Mack fashions an imaginary gun out of his slice of homemade banana bread, he isn’t practicing how to be a homicidal maniac. He’s practicing how to protect himself and the imaginary world he is creating at the moment. Chris was a captain in the Army, and Mack views that service as the definition of manhood. Our country would be lucky to have another man from our family serving in the military someday, and I believe the games Mack plays now are preparing him for that option.

I believe we are doing a great disservice to our young boys. We are telling them that the things they are naturally interested in doing are bad. What Mack wants to do (most of the time) isn’t bad – its just part of his DNA. And as his parents its our job to encourage his imagination and creativity while keeping him and his friends safe. Will they get hurt climbing trees while playing ninjas? Probably. ¬†Will they need stitches and extra hugs when a cowboy game goes awry? Maybe. But I won’t let those ouchies and booboos scare me into stifling Mack. There is a time and a place for everything, but that means there is a time and a place for letting boys be boys.

At the end of most days, when Mack has spent every drop of energy in his growing body, he loves a nighttime cuddle. We climb into bed with him and talk about the day. We scratch his back and he gives us kisses. In every way, that evening ritual is the total opposite of how he behaves during the day.

But, that’s the charm of these little boys. They like to be gruff, but they love to be loved.

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