It’s evening, we are all gathered around the table, in between pickups and drop-offs, homework and practice, signing forms and organizing schedules, we have this precious time together. Looking in, it would seem anything but — we are loud, a mouth is open while chewing, which irritates someone, a joke, a fit of giggles, and reminder to put the phone away. My elbow sticks to the table in someone’s leftover morning syrup, everything sticks to this table as everything is done at this table, from craft projects to bill paying, and figuring out how it all will work, it’s the epicenter of our life. We were babies when we bought this first table, no idea how many of us would be gathered around it. Mostly I think of replacing it, dated and scratched, food getting stuck in the cracks on top, the never ending stickiness. Tonight I pause, I need to pause often in the full chaos and see the faces across from and next to me at our table. Studying how their beloved faces have changed, listening to the stories of their day, stopping to really see them. God, I love them.
Recently we have had some hard conversations around this table on things we never really imagined talking to our boys about, somehow life became so different seemingly in the span of our childhood to theirs. We are having the conversations knowing these are just the beginning of many around this table, and I am sure they are happening around many tables. And yet there is a disconnect, we need to extend the conversations beyond our doors and tables. I get frustrated — disappointed in the excessive reaction to simply starting a conversation about the issues our boys face. We need to open the dialogue and I know the air is ripe with the feeling that this is the time for change. We need to pause and really see one another and listen.
I believe the boys seem all right, but they’re not fully all right.
Not all of them, not many of them, and we’ve sadly seen what happens when just one is not all right. As moms, as a family, we know the lengths we would go to for our one.
He leaves the 99 in search of the 1.
The belief that this is a non-issue, no discussion needed, that talking about our boys – the issues they face, the shame they carry, the pressure they feel, somehow the mere conversation leads to feminizing our boys. I just cannot see it, but what is clear to me is the red flag waving, that we can’t even think about talking about it. The idea the generations before us would turn in their graves, ashamed – they were able to handle war and famine and they didn’t have to sit around talking about it. The John Waynes and the Johnny Cashes would hang their heads and just get on with it.
Would they now? With life as it is now?
Collectively, we have learned from the generations before us, their stoicism at times unrivaled in the face of heavy things. It seems the only choice they had. We don’t question why, but we now know it wasn’t always the best way. We lived with some of the brokenness, the fall out , our burden.
The grown men, once boys, that weren’t all right. The anger, the shame they have held onto that turned them on themselves. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now as I watched a person I love resign himself to the harsh untruths of shame. The danger for that shame to be picked up by the next generation as it feels familiar, an intensified version of the critical voice we all hear and know how hard it can be to shake. We forget that healing one can impact many, and we begin to heal by bringing the hard things into the light, and by having the hard conversations even before we are ready.
He knows the one can save generations, but His motivation is simply that beloved one.
Our litmus test as a society needs to begin with an honest look at home and expand beyond our own sons. While we may not all have the exact same definition of what all right looks like, we do need to have some sort of collective understanding without adding bias. We need to get real.
Our boys need us to find the place in between coddling and shaming and meet them there.
Recently I heard it describe in this way, the words I had been searching for in a conversation between Brene Brown and Marie Forleo about Brene’s book Braving the Wilderness.
“Oh, Brene doesn’t want us to shame anyone. She wants us to coddle people.” (on some pushback this ground breaking, shame slaying, best-selling author still receives).
“Well if the only two tools you have in your tool bag are shame or coddle, that’s a sorry-ass tool bag. You need to upgrade your tool bag. There are like 500 tools between shame and coddle.”
YES! So many other options between man up and mamas boys.
I move toward this place in between the two ends of a vast range because of what we struggle with in our own home, with our crew of boys. I would venture to say most of us use the tools, sliding along the scale, but we don’t talk about it out of fear, honestly, because of shame. I too, have at times, pushed my sons because of what society expects, what I know they will face. When I look back, it’s always done in the intensity of the moment, a by-product of exhaustion or stress. I have always regretted it and known there was a better approach. Shame can be a quick motivator, it can produce the results we are looking for, at the price of a piece of soul. And so I am determined to find that better way the first time, to name the tools, to access them readily, to wear the patterns in so they are natural and my first impulse.
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. – Brene Brown
Starting at home, extending to our community. I am determined to open discussions to how we get to and stay in the in between. The place where we can lead our sons with accountability, lower our own prideful defenses, and set healthy expectations wrapped in grace.
It’s time to come to the table. Let this video remind us of our hopes for our sons. Maybe grab a kleenex. 😉
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