Monday, 18 December 2017

Even Montessori Boys Will Be Boys

For this Montessori Monday, I wanted to talk about something that is dear to my heart as a #boymom and have been reflecting on for quite some time now.

Boys Will Be Boys, Did I Really Just Say That?

When people see me with my three boys, I automatically get comments like: "oh, you must really have your hands full."
"You must have a loud house."
"All boys, woah-ho. Just wait until they are older. My boys fought all the time, were so rowdy (etc, etc)."
"You must want to try for number four so you can have a girl." (Because I could not possibly be happy with only boys.)

Boys will be boys, right? And doesn't that come with all kinds of negative connotations?

Except, I do believe my boys will be just that, boys, and I do not feel this truth should be met with so much cynicism. But it is. In fact, I find myself fighting the same misconceptions. The truth is, it is hard to remember the authenticity behind that cliche, boys will be boys, because it is so often used as an excuse for aggression, bullying, belligerence or other behaviors which pass for manliness.

We had some good friends and their little girls over a while back, and while the visit was a very nice one, it had left me with a lot of discouragement. Over the course of the visit, my son was wild, rough and loud and disruptive, and I could not help but compare him to the little girls who played quietly.

As I sat back, my mother's heart pondering what I witnessed that weekend, I knew I needed to be fair, to respect my son who is strong, and capable, and masculine - wild at heart. These behaviors he was displaying did not make him inherently faulty, even if I want to ultimately steer him toward more peaceful behaviour.

Boys are Created Wild At Heart

Long ago, before I had any idea I would be given so many boys to nurture and mother, I read a book titled "Wild at Heart" written by a Catholic author John Elderidge. In this book, he describes how boys are called to be bold, to be warriors in a sense. Not that we should excuse men for being crass, or violent, or abusive, but that a boy's heart is wired for adventure, for a fierceness and courage which reflect God in a way unique to men. This is a need boys are fulfilling when they chase, when they make their spoon into a sword at the supper table, when they run through the house making the loudest engine noises imaginable.

All of this trickled into my recollection that afternoon as I sat with my friend, watching my son chase her daughter around with a play fork, pretending it was a sword.

"I don't need to give him a toy weapon," I said to my friend, by way of an apology. "He'll make one out of whatever he can find." But why was I apologizing?

No, Jerome is not always rough. There are many times he surprises me. When Benedict was upset the other morning while I was changing his diaper, Jerome was so concerned. He lay down at Benedict's head and crooned, "you're okay, Benedict, you're okay" until Benedict was calm. He'll periodically come to me now, press his face against me and say, "I love you." Montessori has been so important in revealing to me how capable he is - of sitting and calmly doing work at the table, of restoring the playroom to order, of completing a sequence of work like putting his boots and jacket away after playing outside.

I see an awareness in him about what is expected in his environment and for the care of our home that I do not see in people much older than he. I have witnessed him gently reminding Benedict not to step on a basket, and then placing it out of reach, discovering a piece of garbage on the floor and disposing of it, tidying up without needing a reminder. All things that remind me of the magic of Montessori, and the capability of all children, regardless of gender.

But our days are not spent in quiet work, our house is not a serene classroom, and it is not always tidy. At least once a day, you'll find my kids barrelling down the hallway, yelling and laughing and chasing. You'll find the couch cushions piled on the floor with a gleeful three-year-old perched on top. He just found the foam sword his grandma gave him for Christmas, and at least ten times a day I have to remind him it is not meant for hitting either me or his brother. He absolutely rockets through the house pushing his Bruder vehicle. On a regular day, I do not view these activities as negative, even if other families may, because I see two thriving, well-rounded, well-meaning little boys, and I want them to be that way. (And no, this does not mean I allow them to destroy the house. They know not to crash into things with their vehicles, throw, jump on furniture, and other expectations. I believe it is important to give freedom within limits.)

“Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man.”
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart Revised and Updated: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul
“He created Adam for adventure, battle and beauty; he created us for a unique place in his story and he is committed to bringing us back to the original design.”
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart Revised and Updated: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul

What This All Means for This Boy Mom

This is not to say we will not expect our sons to be respectful, to learn when gentleness is appropriate, and to help around the house. Especially since Jerome and Benedict are the oldest in our family and I will need to rely on them. We want to raise gentlemen, men who know how to respect their environment, other people, and expectations.

This is also not to say I do not believe girls are created for adventure and wildness, as well; as a girl who grew up sandwiched in the midst of brothers, I was in my fair share of battles and bike races, swims in questionable creeks and tree fort builds. I know how important it is for girls to know adventure and freedom. I know not all girls are wired for quiet games of dolls and house, and not all boys are drawn to the same kind of rough play.

However, I am convicted that part of my vocation as a mother, specific to my boys, is learning to nurture their boyhood and inherent attraction for adventure and battle, to not suppress them in the God-given design of protector and provider. This will mean not comparing them, not being discouraged if they are drawn to rough play even if I may desire a quiet and calm household. This will mean providing them with the necessary outlets they need for rough play, time to play outside, play sports, explore. This will likely mean allowing them to learn more kinesthetically and visually.

This will mean not excusing them for aggression, especially when it is toward others, or belligerence, but leading them toward healthy ways of expressing themselves and their emotions, through courtesy lessons, music lessons, peace exercises.

I feel truly fortunate to have been given these boys to care for who will one day be men. For now, they may chase each other through our house with trucks and swords, but someday they will be fathers or priests, business owners or members of trades and companies, and they will need to have boldness and integrity, to be men of strength and dignity, and as children, they understand what they need for this development.  As Maria Montessori wrote in the Absorbent Mind: 
"If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for children are the makers of men." 
So, even if it may sound old-fashioned, even if it may be taken as an attack against equality or femininity somehow: boys, even Montessori boys, will be boys. And I think, with proper guidance (especially from amazing role models like my husband, my boy's grandpas, and all the uncles we are so fortunate to have around) and the expectation of gentlemanliness and courteousness, that boys should be allowed to be boys, so that these same boys may become men.

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. And if you are interested in following along in our daily adventures, follow us on Instagram.

God bless,
Olivia Fischer