You may recall that we’ve recently been encouraging our boys to take the subway without us. Good thing, because last Saturday there was no one around to get them to their soccer game. This was not an adventure, not a chance to spread their wings. This was transportation.
We had it all worked out. They would get a ride home from swim practice, change into soccer gear and walk to the subway with Nafisa, their sister. From there, they would use their Charlie Card, get on the train without Nafisa, take it to their stop, and then walk the quarter mile to the field. Sounded reasonable.
But when I saw Zach packing his bag, the one that was supposed to contain a water bottle and cleats, I noticed something that didn’t look quite right. “What’s that, buddy?”
He proceeded to take out his six-inch blade from its sheath. We had gotten it for him so that he could whittle. I couldn’t imagine that he’d have a lot of time for whittling on the train. “Why in the world do you need that?” I asked.
“In case someone tries to harm us.”
“What do you mean? What would you do if someone tried to harm you?”
He took out the blade and acted out what he would do while narrating. “I would pull out the knife, slice them like this, and then stab them like this.”
There wasn’t a hint of ambivalence in his voice. No sense that this might be unwise. No attempt to hide it from us. And I can’t figure out what to make of it.
From his decision to take a knife, and from comments he made about his first solo train ride, it’s clear that Zach thinks our neighborhood is far more unsafe than we do, but I’m not sure why. Is it developmental? Have we not been explicit enough with him about the homeless, mentally ill, and addicted people in Central Square, and about the fact that their behaviors, which can look scary, do not pose much of a threat? Is it a boy thing? A first-born thing? An anxiety thing?
Should I be touched that he wants to protect himself and his brother? Is that some form of honor? Or is it a sign that we allow too much violence in our home – in the form of TV, iPad apps, and brotherly tussles?
Is this something his father and I should worry about? Is he going to bring knives to the park when we’re not looking? Or is this just a one-off thing and we can relax?
Honestly, I’m kind of tired of figuring things out.
Everyone, including me, says that parenting gets easier as the kids get older. And in most ways, that is absolutely right. The boys are less physical work, and I enjoy them so much more than I ever did. Nafisa, at sixteen, could run the house without us. But more and more, I find that I’m not sure what I should do in a given situation. Guiding them now takes a kind of discernment I often lack.
This is one of those times when I wish I heard more clearly from God. But I rarely do. So I pray what I always pray (more on that tomorrow), and I pray that God will keep all my children alive long enough for us to figure out what the heck we’re doing.
That happens at some point, right?