I've been pretty busy lately, what with the in-laws here, and a spring break that doesn't involve spring, which translates to three cooped-up boys in the house. Actually, it's this last circumstance which has led me to my musing for the week: competition.
An example that happened yesterday went something like this: I was cleaning and it was raining, and the boys were starting to aggravate each other, which is what happens if they get bored for long periods of time. So Mommy remembered a game that her mommy taught her on a rainy day. It involved hiding something in a room and then letting another person find it. So I gave the two older boys bean-bag kitties (beanie babies are a favorite toy at our house; they're generally what the boys pick out at the thrift store!) and sent them to different rooms, and told them to hide the cat somewhere. Then they switched rooms, and each tried to find the cat that the other had hidden. Simple, right? Well they did this twice, and then decided to "improve" upon the game. I guess it wasn't exciting enough, because they began adding "traps", alligators, guns, and other various obstacles to overcome. I distinctly remember as a girl that the excitement of finding the hidden object was exciting enough for us! Not so with boys...if there is not mortal peril, then the game isn't worth playing!
The more time I am spending as a mom of boys, the more I realize that competitiveness is a big part of their make-up. I read a study recently that monitored young kids on a trampoline. It showed that when a group of girls were on the trampoline, they had a tendency to organize their jumping so one would jump at a time, taking turns with each other. When the boys took over the trampoline, they turned it into a rough and tumble, "king-of-the-mountain" scenario, in which a complex system of points was involved. As I read this, I realized that the spirit of competitiveness was something that was a significant part of a boy's inner life. I have also noticed that collectively, society has done away with some of the healthy competition/awards motivation, which leaves me wondering if that doesn't have something to do with the reason so many boys now are kind of "girly". Is competition such a part of their make-up that if it is weeded out, it changes their personalities completely? Hmmm...makes you wonder. Boys are punished, especially in the school systems, for being, well, boys. Boys tend to be the ones medicated, sent to other classes, and labeled "trouble-makers" for exhibiting fairly normal boy-like behavior. Drawing battle scenes, pushing, shoving, wrestling, yelling, and many other "boy" things are red flags in the classroom now, with many kids ending up labeled unfairly.
Now, it's not that I think boys can't be trained to sit still, listen, and be respectful when it's appropriate. I work with my guys all the time concerning this matter of "appropriate." There is a time and a place for certain behaviors. Early on, I tried to teach "hands-to-yourself", but I am realizing that this may be too much for boys to grasp. So, with the help of Our Fearless Leader, our rules involve no hitting in the face, or when someone's back is turned, and no bullying smaller people. And you never put your hands on a girl...ever. So far it seems to be working. There are times when they are all three rolling on the floor like a pack of hyena pups! As long as they maintain fair play and are not actively trying to injure out of meanness, we let it ride.
Competition is something God instilled in boys from early on. I'm sure He knew that it would stand them in good stead as they grew up, raised families, and "conquered" their domains. Now the only thing left to do is to use it to our advantage to train boys who want to do right above all else. I am trying to teach that each day we want to be better than we were the day before. Although, this is a lesson that we each can put into effect in our lives! But don't ask me what to do about the yelling...you're on your own on that one! :)