I’m guilty. As a mother of one boy and three girls, I admit that I cringe and have to turn away when my husband is rough with my son. Just the other day we went down to the river with another family who has five boys and one girl to cook hotdogs, enjoy the scenery, and let the kids get dirty. Good clean fun! Or rather, good, messy, fun. I don’t know about your husband, but with mine and my friend’s husband, when you mix water and dirt and four-wheelers and campfires….there shall be rowdiness. There was danger and discomfort and dirtiness.
The inevitable did happen a couple of times when one of the boys got near the edge of the water and near daddy at the same time. Suddenly dad scooped up his 4 year old son and carried him up above his head and plunged him into the cold (glacial!) water. All the while the boy screamed and pleaded and just about cried. “No, daddy! I don’t want to! No! No! It’s too cold! I don’t like it!” It was pitiful. Both of us moms cringed, tried to smile as if nothing is wrong, and tried to ask “Why do you have to do that?! He doesn’t want to.” Our motherly reflex is to rescue the child before the impending tears. But the dads wanted to rescue only when and if there was true danger. Tears are not a consideration. To the dad’s credit, he ignored us women and proceeded to dunk his son. Of course, it wasn’t 5 seconds afterward that his son was laughing and splashing at the whole thing.
Now, in defense of us moms, we restrained ourselves. We did not take action to interfere. We didn’t call the police. (Her husband is a State Trooper, so that wouldn’t have worked!) We are not wimpy women! If we were fluffy moms we wouldn’t have been out there in the first place. We knew there was a reason for this kind of insensitivity even if we didn’t know what it was.
I suppose it will always be this way. In fact, I am becoming more and more desensitized to this scene as the years go by. But it still just does not come naturally to me to ignore my son’s pleas for mercy, nor to push him to the edge and beyond his comfort zone. As is our habit, my husband and I spent some time discussing the events of the day before going to bed, and it launched us into some discussion about philosophy and strategies of parenting and theology. I know. We’re weird.
My sweetheart gave me several reasons why it was a good idea to push the boy beyond his comfort zone and ignore his distress.
1. For Safety
I know this is counter-intuitive. What we moms didn’t see was that the boy was getting a bit too reckless by the river and needed a healthy dose of fear. This is a good tactic for moms too when a child is lacking in a wisdom and is getting too near a dangerous situation. Give him that fear he needs within the safety of the parent’s protection. I’m reminded of something my mother-in-law did with her son when he was in the habit of wandering off in the store. She hid from him. She followed at a distance until he began to worry. He called out for mom, and fellow shoppers told her, “He’s right there.” She would politely say, “He’s not scared enough yet.” She waited and waited until he was balling right there in the store. What a mean mom! No, it was a loving teachable time. He never did that again.
In my humble opinion, I think most of us women need to let go of our nurturing tendencies and let the dads do what comes naturally to them. The time will come for mom’s comfort and sympathy, but if tenderness and sensitivity is ALL a child receives, he will have missed bravery, toughness, caution, and poise in difficult situations. Let them experience a little hardship. It’s a good thing. Let the children see the edge of their abilities. Let them make the good judgment call to keep themselves safe.
2. For Strength
Our men need to be strong. Strong men were once strong boys. Strength of body is important, but strength of will and strength of temperament is needed even more. We all need to keep our wits about us when things aren’t going our way. Our world needs strong men! Not strong physically, necessarily, but possessing a robust character with a keen eye for danger and a quick wit to find a way out. Most dads are really good at teaching that to their boys if their wide-eyed mom won’t interfere.
The phrase, “cowboy up!” is more than just about being able to lift heavy weights. It has to do with being tough and tenacious and steady. The benefits of this character quality has many ramifications even in the spiritual realm. Let’s suppose my child grows up yielding his life to the Lord, and then he answers the call to a full-time ministry somewhere. How will he respond when the going gets tough? Will he bear up under the rigors of the ministry? Will he stand fast on the Word of God when Satan is attacking (Eph. 6:11-13)? Will he give up? Or will he find a way to use God’s strength which is always available to us?
3. For Trust
Boys need to know they can trust their daddies. They need to feel the strength of dad’s arms, the one who will never hurt him and who is able to protect him. When a boy feels the strength of his dad in a physical way, he gets an illustration of Who really has the power over his life. In a parallel way, just as dad was in control the whole time, so is our Heavenly Father. He keeps us safe in His arms not allowing any real danger to happen. If anything does seem to get out of control, the boy can cling to his daddy for the needed strength. Isn’t that what we do as a mature believer? Don’t we cling to the promises and strength of the Lord in times of trouble (2 Cor. 4:8)?
Moms need to trust daddy too. Let dad take the kids out of their comfort zone. Let them. Don’t deprive them of these important object lessons. There is no way on earth that the kids will always remain in the nest. They will venture out. They will spread their wings. They will launch toward a target. It is a good exercise for moms. It is a warm up time for me to watch adversity happen in a small way. It always ends in laughter and triumph. So someday, when my beautiful children are out on their own and I have to sit on my hands and turn my eyes away from the adversity they will inevitably face, will I run to their rescue? Will I blame God for allowing such tragedy and “danger”? Or will I trust God and allow Him to work in the trial and bring about praise and honor and glory (1 Peter 1:7)?
Lord, please teach me to trust You. Teach me through the everyday dynamics of home life that loving tender care you have for us. Show me that the love you have toward me is not always easy to bear, but is for my good and for your glory. Teach me, Lord, to yield myself to Your ways. Help me not to be fearful, but to be trusting and strong. Thank you for teaching me every day!