The things we teach our sons
Both of my sons love football. They play it together in the backyard, a tangle of legs and two-hand-touch drills that devolve into tackling in the small green patch between where we park our cars.
Occasionally, Caden lets Zay score a touchdown, but more often he spends his time explaining the rules of the game to his three-year-old brother who could care less about rules (he gets that from his father).
I am amazed, really, at the grasp Caden has on the game of football and the complexities of the game. When we sit down to watch a Georgia Bulldogs game together (RIP our #2 status after that last game), he yells things like “they made it into the red zone" or “Daddy, its fourth and goal, they should go for it!”
Because I went to the University of Georgia, I myself love watching college football, and we often watch together as a family. Plus, we have a flag football team/league with boys in the neighborhood, and we love a good high school football game on Friday nights to cheer for our neighbors on the team. However, to my knowledge, we have never sat down and carefully explained the rules of football to Caden. Instead, he has picked up on cues and lingo, on rules and behaviors, and an understanding of how the game works by watching from the sidelines and questioning the older boys while they watch Falcons games together on our couch or in the backyard.
I have been thinking a lot about the other things my boys are picking up on. What cues will they pick up on at school, on television, from our family, or from the world at large? Watching the news and reading the headlines scrolling past my twitter feed, I cannot help but worry about what we are feeding our sons. What lessons are they learning, implicitly and explicitly, from the behaviors they observe around them? How can we teach them to be kind and gentle, when the world insists they be tough? How do we encourage them that no means no when the world tells them to take what they want? When a culture offers chance after chance to boys who look like my sons, while denying the dignity and humanity of those they hurt, how can we empower them to live in a way that looks more like the upside-down Kingdom of Jesus than the world his “followers” have constructed?
I have more questions than answers, but I keep landing on the importance of what we are modeling for our children, and what we are putting in front of them. When I hear the kids repeating things we have said or acting out the things they have seen, I am reminded how important it is for Adam and I to live out a mutually sacrificial relationship. We let them tackle each other in the backyard, while reminding them every day of the ways every voice matters. We teach them to listen to woman, to voices of color, to people who don’t look like them. We pay attention to the things we do and say and get involved in as a family because we know, for better or for worse, our children are noticing and learning from the world around them. So when the world seems dark and, occasionally, all hope feels lost, we will find ways to point them back to the light. To love and hope, to grace and humility. I pray they will become boys and then men who refuse to settle for the status quo, who value truth over power and love over winning.