May 18, 2007

Undamaged Boys

D and I spent Mother's Day up at the Princeton Blairstown Center with a groups of other (mostly) Quaker families for a gathering of Young Young Friends. (T's idea of a perfect Mother's Day weekend is full of peace and quiet, sleeping in, staying up late watching movies, and golfing.)

The weekend is full of adventure. Here's the fearless D tackling an extremely precarious "tip-over ladder":

D looks forward to this trip for months in advance, and was quite an evangelist in his First Day School and Beginning School classes. As a special bonus, this year he invited his friend JT to join him.

On Saturday the boys participated in a trust-walk course, in which the sighted person has to lead the temporarily sightless person through a series of obstacles. The limits of language quickly become apparent. How big is a "big step?" How far to the left is "a little to the left?" (And which side is left, again?) Our boys did a great job of being patient and careful with each other:

How sweet is that?

On any hike we took that weekend, the boys were quick to claim their highly independent status, working their way up through the column so that they could be walking with each other and behind some big boys, rather than next to their mothers. The confident spring in their steps was a joy to behold:

Adventure, trust, independence, confidence... such great gifts! I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities my Quaker community has provided me as a parent. A few days after we returned I had dinner with a friend who is the father of two young boys. Upon hearing my stories about Blairstown, he shared that he spends a lot of time thinking about the challenge of raising undamaged boys. The phrase has stuck in my heart.

Another friend of mine is dealing with the return home of her eldest son, who has left school and is struggling with depression.

What would an undamaged boy look like? And how can we raise them?


Wendy said...

oh this touches my heart deeply.

to me an undamaged boy looks confident, compassionate, strong, yet sensitive, intelligent, kind, witty, adventurous, joyful...

i so wish to raise an undamaged do we do this?

Stacy said...

I think that one way we raise undamaged boys is by treating them like the treasures we know that they are. By encouraging their independence and freedom; by showing our confidence in them and by holding up the safety net.

By loving them fiercely and with abandon and plenty of laughter.

And camping and dirt and really good friends are essential.

I love this post.

cloudscome said...

I don't think you can raise an undamaged boy. But one with resilience, courage, hope, compassion, honesty, love, and joy - that's my goal. We all have our wounds; it's how we heal that makes the difference, and how we love each other in spite of it.

Thanks for your kindness, friend.

Nancy Bea said...

I think I know what your friend means, and I respect the intent, but I find the term "undamaged" somehow a little off-putting. Just as we all enter adulthood with some physical damage from childhood (slight if we have been lucky): a cat-scratch scar, a broken finger that healed crookedly, a chipped tooth, spots and too will we have some emotional scars and sore spots. Despite protective and loving parents, friends and community: things happen beyond anyone's possible control.

Anyway, it is obvious, friend Shelley, that you are doing a wonderful job of parenting your boy! What a good day you had...thanks for sharing it!