“Look what Dad bought – for me!” my 11 year old son shouted excitedly. He immediately tore the package open and proceeded to put together his new toy. Or that’s what I thought it was. Instead, he had come home from a dad/son trip to the local hardware store with a power tool.
UHHH… Does my husband not know our son?
A) He’s a boy.
B) He’s 11.
I don’t know about your boys but mine are always ready to dismantle, dismember and discombobulate anything that can come apart (including schedules, tidy drawers and burritos but those are for a different post). How could my son possibly benefit from having a power drill at his age? Plus, we already own one!
All I could think about was what a waste this purchase had been.
Soon that tool would itself be surgically taken apart; its fragments rolling with the homies in the Lego bin. As is my son’s custom, he quickly proved me to be moded. (ie. “moded” means proven wrong, use it in a sentence with teens and you will be cool).
Just when I thought the tool would go unused, I came across a chore. I needed to uninstall a telephone from the bathroom wall. (I’ll explain the telephone-in-the-bathroom thing in a later post. Suffice to say we don’t have a gold toilet.) The first thing he did was bring his power tool out from where he had carefully stored it. Proceeded to inspect the job site, placed the corresponding bits in his tool and BOOM! The next thing I know, he was done! I have to admit, it was pretty helpful…
Some time later, I happily received my quindecennial (yep 15 years) anniversary gift from my work in the mail. It looked nothing like the cool fire pit in the catalog. Instead it came in a flat package meaning: assembly required. I groaned at that, but my son said, “I can put it together mom!” Yes! Yes you can. If you can find your tool, that is. Out came the power tool again from it’s special storage place and soon we had the beautiful firepit we were waiting for. Now he won me over on having his own power tool.
What I came to realize is that my young son was craving ownership. As the eldest of three boys the lines of ownership over a single thing are blurry at best. Everyone is forced to take turns with most everything. While “X” thing might be “his”, “he” has to let his brothers take a turn with it too. Taking turns has worked for our family for the most part. But what I’m learning is that there comes a point in a boys life when he wants something of his very own that he can care for. His brothers were too young to handle the power tool which really made it HIS.
My son had been asking for a pocket knife for the last few months since coming home from a boy scouts trip. All the boys had one, he told me. “No, no! Too dangerous,” was my answer. “You’ll leave it lying around somewhere random and your brothers will find a way to skin a skunk with it.”
Well the time had come. I saw his maturity in how he used and cared for his first power tool. I decided to buy him his first pocket knife.
I’d never owned a pocket knife before so while shopping we sought the wisdom of the floor salesperson. It happened to be an elderly man. He introduced himself to my son with a solid handshake and a gentle exhortation to look him in the eye when introducing himself. They shook hands again, this time the right way. I told him we were looking for a good pocket knife for my son. He said, “I’ve owned lots of pocket knives in my lifetime so I can help you.” “How many?!”, my sons’ curiosity piqued. “Lots. Considering I owned my first one when I was 5 years old.” I love how God placed this man right there, right then, to help guide my son during an unforgettable boyhood experience. He proceeded to help us select a perfectly sized utility tool, knife included.
It’s been a few months since the purchase. While the power tool resides in its exact same storage spot the utility tool has found a warm home in the pocket of my sweet 11 year old boy. Having 3 sons, I know that every boy matures at his own pace. But as the parent we have to decide when to give them appropriate opportunities, more independence and greater responsibilities. The timing and trust is something we can pray about as Christian parents and trust God when it seems like the time has come. I am glad that I gave my eldest a chance to show us he was ready for greater trust. As of today, the number of times pocket knife has been responsibly used: Lots. Number of animals skinned: None.