“You will not cry about this any longer. That is it! It is time to MAN UP. If you want to be a navy seal, this is your first lesson. Sometimes, you just gotta be a man, so GIRD UP.”
That is what came out of my mouth to Wes yesterday while riding his bike. You know, the bike that he said he would neeeeveeeeerrrr ride? He asked me if he could go outside to ride his bike without training wheels. I stared at him dumbfounded and wondered if he was having a seizure.
Once out on the hilly terrain of West Creek Drive, he started out really strong. He was riding, unafraid of any turbulence and also sturdy, like a robust mountain lion. (That might be a motherly exaggeration.)
Then we took our standard turn for the worse. Hi fear. He began grabbing at me and leaning at a 90-degree angle towards my direction. I’m like, “How are you gonna steer those handles while ridin’ parallel to the street? And just how is your hiney still on that seat while you’re inclining like that?” Then he began diving off mid ride, arms flailing randomly.
And he was beginning to cry.
I had no time for this. I knew he knew what to do. I had seen him do it before. I knew he had the skills. I had seen him use them before. All of this erratic behavior boiled down to one thing: fear. I had HAD it. I was about to push him off the bike myself. Like hard. To the street. (Please make note that I did not push him off the bike myself. To the street.)
As a mom, most of us are nurturers at heart. I am no different. We coddle, we protect, we pull them into our little human cocoon and tell them everything is going to be all right. And I honestly think this is best thing we can do for them.
Until it isn’t.
I once heard someone say, “Why do we have ‘safe places’ filled with play dough on college campuses for the students who’s presidential candidate lost the campaign, when we have other college students out in Afghanistan fighting for our freedom?” It seems the term “cupcake generation” really does ring an accurate bell.
I think important pieces of becoming a man begin at the age of six. There will be hard times. Things will not always go his way. What I do now in those moments is what he will do later in those same moments.
Well, our training started yesterday…
I began with a short, but flashy pep talk. “Nope. We are not quitting today. Look, this is something you already know how to do. It is time to stop letting fear get in your way. You are going to punch that fear in the face.” He began to chuckle. He thinks punching anything in the face is freaking awesome.
I started pushing him down the middle of the street yelling, “I’m a MAN! I’m a MAN! I’m a Navy Seal! I’m a Navy Seal!” Then he started laughing (through his crying) and chanting it with me. Loudly. “I’m a MAN! I’m a Navy Seal!” Over and over down the street, back and forth in front of the house, we were shouting and chanting and making a real scene.
And guess what? He actually manned up. Is that even a phrase? Manned up? Whatever, I’m making it a phrase. He manned up!
And once he did, I saw that robust mountain lion again. The confidence and the pep talk got his adrenaline going. He was so fired up from all that roaring and macho hollering, you would have thought he was getting ready for Navy Seal’s training of hell week out in the middle of the woods. When he finished and hopped off his bike, he talked a little deeper, walked a bit taller and he might have had a tiny piece of hair grow out from his chest.
When we came back inside, I hugged him, told him how proud I was of him and sent him off to shower. As he walked down the hallway I heard him saying, “I’ll punch you in the face fear. I’ll take you out.” He could feel the excitement in his achievement and I figured we could work on his pride later. I’d let him have his moment.
Yesterday did something to him in a really, really good way. “Manning up” like that gave him something, and I think it was a deep 6-year-old sense of triumph. Victory and conquest were his and he felt it, largely.
And it did something to me too. It made me want to give him more opportunities to to do the hard stuff. Now don’t think for a second that I won’t still shelter him, shield him and love on him, of course I will. And I will still let him climb down from the tree when he’s scared and I’ll let him say no to rides too daunting at Six Flags, but occasionally, when I feel the moment is right, I will mandate that he mans up. It is good for him, and for me. Let's take out this cupcake generation and give our boys plenty of opportunities to be men.