Well, after starting off with a bang in my attempt to become a blogger, I fell off the wagon in May and for most of June. Like most of you, I was juggling happy events like Mother’s Day, weddings, graduations and birthdays along with some unexpected funerals and tough times with my youngest son, Benji. Hopefully, Benji won’t be mad at me for sharing this (maybe he’ll never know, since he’s on a mission trip in Haiti right now,) but a few weeks ago, he was in his first real fight. I’m grateful this didn’t happen until he was 17. He swears it won’t happen again, but every man I’ve talked to about it tells me it’s an inevitable part of being a man.
When I first got the call from Benji that he needed me to come and pick him up, I was mad at him for getting into a fight for ANY reason! He said emphatically, “Mama, I don’t need a lecture right now, I think I have a concussion (as diagnosed by his big brother over the phone in California) and I need you to come and pick me up.” I won’t go into all of the details, but after hearing the “whole story,” I understood it was probably unavoidable. Benji told me the next day (after we were both up and down all night) “Mama, you don’t understand “Man Code” and that if this happened 100 years ago, we would’ve had a duel and one of us would have been shot“. So, I felt a little better that he only had a mild concussion and promised he’d walk away next time, regardless of the names the other guys shouted at him.
I find that the same part of Benji that decided to “fight” a few weeks ago, is the same part of him who “fought” his own fears and emotions to get on a plane Saturday morning at 5:00am to fly to Haiti for two weeks to work with an mission organization there working with kids in orphanages. The day before, Benji was diagnosed with a rare disease that has been alluding doctors and chiropractors for the past several months as they’ve tried to treat him for chronic pain in his hip. On Friday, Benji was told he’d need to have surgery when he returned and that he’d be on crutches for the last month of his summer. The prognosis is good, only a 10-20% chance his problem will reoccur, but as a young man who’d already started the summer with several big personal disappointments, it was tough news to swallow. He’d go to Haiti with no pain relief and return to spend his summer in a very different way than he’d planned. He wouldn’t be able to report for his summer job that he was excited about, no driving (truly a hardship for a 17 year old young man and for his mother!), no swimming, a huge curve ball…. you get the picture.
As they say, “to add insult to injury“, Benji’s former girlfriend was in a bad car wreck 6 hours before his flight Friday night. Ironically, the boy he fought was driving the car when it happened, so there was a lot of emotion around all of these events leading up to his departure. I can’t say much about this event, but I truly believe God spared their lives and pray that it’s a wake up call for our community.
Benji had been impacted by his first trip to Haiti with his school in January so much that within 48 hours of being home, he’d organized a group of 30 to return to the same place for a week. He’d also signed up for an additional week by himself hoping a few friends could go, but they weren’t able to make it. For months, he’s told me that he couldn’t wait to get back to Haiti and that being there was his favorite place on earth. The week before he left, it seemed like daily there were obstacles discouraging Benji from making the trip to the point that I finally clued in that there must be a higher purpose for Benji in Haiti than I ever imagined. Over and over again, (as in my own life) in my boys journeys to manhood, I’ve seen a true battle take place around them when they are at important crossroads.
So, my brave 17 year old son faced his fears head on and left Nashville by himself after an exhausting day and night. As a mama of boys, I think it’s hard for us to understand sometimes that some of the strengths our sons carry are a mixed bag. Instead of trying to “domesticate” them to the point of emasculation by making sure they always “behave like a good little boy“, I think we need to embrace the good, bad and the ‘sometimes ugly‘ parts of their manhood.
We all know that our strengths can be weaknesses if they’re not harnessed well. Sadly, I’ve seen too many mamas respond with the extremes of throwing their hands up in frustration and quitting or turning into drill sergeants and “micro-managing” when they have strong-willed, independent offspring. I think it’s easier to fall off in “either ditch” then to do the hard work of training them to be who they are designed to be. Walking the hard road avoiding the ditches requires more from us as parents. I told my boys for years that I was going to do my job regardless of what they thought about me. I’d hopefully be their friend and ‘consultant’ later, but right now, I’m still wearing my “Coach Mom” hat and fighting the fights worth fighting for my boys. When they’re adults, they’ll be responsible for their choices, but until then, it’s my duty to them to stay in the game, even when I’m worn out.
Both of my sons have made plenty of mistakes and foolish choices (just like we all have), but that’s part of growing up and part of their training as young men. Hopefully, our boys learn from their mistakes so that they’re not making “foolish youthful mistakes” as adults. I realize more each day that we ALL face battles privately and publicly and we need all the help we can get. How much more do our sons need grace as they’re growing and maturing into manhood? Encourage your son today that you see WHO he is and the good that will come from his life. He needs to hear from you as his mom that he’ll be admired and loved, that he can be brave and you’ll always be in his corner!
If you’re a mom of a boy, I’d love to invite you to our first “BoyMama weekend” coming up July 11-12 at The Nashville Treehouse.