Those Daring Young Men in Their Dirty Dungarees
FROM THE ARCHIVES of Every Thought Captive magazine
Everyone remembers the Living Room at home, this despite many of us never getting to visit the sacred space. It was the immaculate room in your house that no one ever went in. You know, with the plastic covers on the furniture, the lampshades that still had the wrappers on them, and that carefully placed area rug, because Spot left a spot. There is a connection, a ratio between an immaculate appearance and the absence of people in the room. The Bible says one sure way to have a clean barn is to not keep an ox in it. (Of course an empty stall will not plow the back forty.) In like manner, one way to keep a clean home is to never allow anyone in it. On a smaller scale, you can keep that immaculate Living Room by denying most folks entrance. The trouble is, if we’re not in the house, then we’re all out in the dirt. Unless, of course, we live in some concrete jungle. Worse still, some who do live in our homes actually prefer the dirt outside to the clean inside. We call these beings boys.
Recently our son Campbell, along with several of our girls and I, were listening to a storytelling tape we had gotten at the National Storytelling Festival. We bought a tape of stories called “Grandma’s Boy.” In one story the main character, Jack, gets absolutely filthy. You don’t even want to know some of the things that were stuck to him. While we were listening to this story for the umpteenth time, Campbell said, “Mommy, Jack and I are a lot alike. We both like to get really dirty!” Now, what a thing to say! It was totally unprompted. We weren’t talking about anything, just listening and laughing. Campbell’s statement was heartfelt and most definitely true. My grocery bills for Shout, bleach and Oxi-Clean over the past seven years will attest to that.
All parents face temptations in child-rearing. Some are tempted toward being too harsh, some too lenient, some with being too rigidly structured or others too flying-by-the-seat-of-their-pants. And sometimes it’s not just dad who wants junior to be a mini-him. Too often, mom wants a mini-her, and so tries to raise up a little Lord Fauntleroy. While we can certainly teach our sons to be considerate of our labors in keeping our inside garden clean, we must recognize that they are made for the jungle. Though they may still be young, their default inclination is out. They are by their nature outward looking, and so have to go where the dirt is. That’s why it seems to be magnetically attracted to their clothes, why they don’t usually walk around the puddle but see how big a splash they can make right in the middle of it. We need to be careful not to squelch that while we teach them to honor our labors in our garden.
The first step, as always, is to have a grateful and humble heart. Let us remember that while we are called to tend our garden, that the kingdom isn’t all lily-white doilies and shiny linoleum. Let us also rejoice that God has given us boys and let us rejoice that they are warriors. We happily married our warriors and look forward to one day helping some godly young women to have the same joy in our sons. We should, in fact, be sending them out into the jungle. While this is easier for me than some of you because of the ratio of boys to girls God has sent me (I should actually say ‘boy to girls’), we all need to guard against the temptation of having our little boys help too much with our women’s work. Of course your son can feed the baby her carrots or dust the baseboards, wash the dishes or set the table. But be sure he is also out gathering kindling for the fire and tending to the livestock and that he spends a greater portion of his time doing that kind of work.
Let us likewise praise them in their labors, even if they got that adorable shirt we love dirty. Even if it was your absolute favorite shirt and it will take five washings before it comes out sort of clean, remember that even if you keep the boy in a bubble, the shirt will one day be no more. The boy, however, will one day be a man forever, unless we turn him into a girl. We should delight in the boyishness of our boys, praise God that He made them the way He has. Enjoy your son’s collections of various outdoor stuff. Be interested when he shows you the dirt mound he made into a fort for his toy soldiers. Take delight in the clever way he builds a ramp for his bike or develops a pulley to haul things up into his favorite tree. In fact, be delighted he figured out that grease would make the pulley pull more smoothly. Granted, as women it is sometimes difficult for us to really see things from our boys’ perspective, but we should certainly not make them feel defective because they’re not like us. They can be trained and expected out of courtesy to Mom to take their muddy shoes off before walking across the carpet, but they should not be expected to automatically think to do that on their own. Remember to encourage your husband to encourage the masculinity of your boy. Don’t begrudge him the time it takes, nor the laundry it takes, for Dad to wrestle with his boy in the dirt.
Finally, remember that dirt isn’t bad. God made it and He made man from it. As we’ve argued in this issue, it is both what we work and what we are. It is central to our lives. We should remember as women also that we need not be prisses and should not be afraid to sometimes get dirty ourselves, working and playing hard before the Lord and for His glory.
By Denise Sproul, the White Tornado