(This week I am only blogging once because I have a nasty cold. What you are about to read is something I wrote a year ago. Noah is now 12 and taller than me and will soon end the 6th grade. Learning to let go is a lesson I will never fully embrace. But I am trying.)
My only child is about to turn eleven-years-old. He’s entering a phase in his life that scares me to death. Not because the prepubescent phase is racked with frightening questions about sexuality. Not because he is about to enter the lion’s den called Junior High. And not because he is getting less affectionate with me. This phase terrifies me because I won’t be his number one coach anymore.
My husband John and a friend of mine have both remarked to me this past week that it is the time in Noah’s life where Dad takes the front seat in guiding him. Even though I know this is for the best, I hate it.
John told me a story about a jungle tribe that keeps all the women and children in the inner circle of their village, while the men mainly live on the outskirts. When a boy turns a certain age, the father comes into the village wearing ceremonial gear and kidnaps his son. The boy then moves in with the father and learns how to live on the outskirts of the village.
When John told me this story my first thought was “Seriously, John? This is how you comfort me?”
It also made me think about the word outskirts. Basically, the etymological meaning is “beyond the borders of a woman.”
Soon, my little boy who is not so little will be on the outskirts of my influence.
Not completely, of course. I mean, John is not going to kidnap him away from our home and teach him to live in Motel Six. I will still be an integral part of my son’s life and will always be. But the relationship is changing, as it should.
Yesterday, I walked by his room and heard noises. The same noises I’ve heard for years. The first time I heard these sounds my forehead crinkled and I tilted my head towards his door.
Part of me wanted to walk in and catch Noah doing whatever he was doing. The other part of me sensed that interrupting would be akin to disturbing a sacred act.
I was right to go with my second instinct. Later I would ask Noah what he was doing in his room. He gave me a one word answer. “Imagination.”
It became a simple and wonderful explanation for the sounds. Little boy battles were fought in that room daily. Battles that I could not be a part of. My son has lived his life as an only child (his sisters are much older) and he has learned how to entertain himself. I love that his imagination has grown through the years. He still loves books and movies and video games and playing outside. But from time to time, he goes into his room and all I hear are the sounds of a young warrior.
Sometimes I imagine that world. Maybe he is dressed in camouflage, crouching in a fox hole, bullets blazing above his head as he plans how to unleash the grenades that will end the battle. Maybe he is flying on an enormous dragon, swooping low to kill monsters and save those in danger. And maybe he is a knight drawing his sword and fighting the enemy of the castle.
But I know his heart is being built into a warrior as he practices his courage. Once I had a thought that it would be horrible to find out he is some kind of serial killer, so I asked him if he was a good guy or a bad guy when he practiced Imagination.
“Mom, I’m always the good guy. And I always win.”
I sighed and thanked God for the guidance of my husband and brother Phil. See, without them, I would never have encouraged this side of my son. Violence is bad. Violence never leads to any good. This is what I believed. But part of my education in raising Noah is learning that every boy needs to learn to defend himself. Every boy needs to know that they have what it takes to fight evil and win. John and my brother Phil have schooled me in this. Especially in those moments where I thought Noah might get hurt. As his nurturer, I would sweep in and make sure Noah knew that some things were unsafe. Like climbing too high or trying something he’s never done before.
It was a difficult lesson to learn, but I learned it. I let go of trying to control my boy’s boundaries, within reason of course. And as I did, I noticed that the sounds from his room became more frequent. Even more intense at times.
Now I have to learn the lesson all over again. Noah has needed me to draw him in and soothe his heart and teach him gentleness and courtesy. I’ve modeled for him the kindness and love of Jesus. But he needs new lessons and John will be a better teacher. He will soon enter the classes of Becoming a Man 101 and Integrity as a Leader 102 and How to be a Good King 103.
I hope he always likes to be tickled. He and I have colossal tickle wars. I hope he always enjoys a little cuddling with his mom. Even when he is taller than me. I hope that my warrior grows to be a man who is after God’s heart and one who meets a woman who is crazy about Jesus. And I hope that even after he leaves our home and his room of warrior dreams and sounds, he will always be the good guy. And always win.