Little boys, full of energy and imagination, are always looking for something to conquer. Why not give them the tools to flourish in their conquest? Arm your little guy for boyhood battles with a wooden sword, shield, and a code of honor then watch him grow into a gallant knight.
When my boys were little I told them this story:
“In the days of old my son, when young boys grew up to be brave knights, they began their journey into knighthood on their seventh birthday. Back then a child of noble birth would go to the nearest castle to become a Page. A Page was a servant to the brave knight. He did whatever the knight told him to do. By and by, as the boy grew stronger and more trustworthy—and if he showed himself to be faithful, strong and true, he would become a knight.”
With innocent wide-eyes, that blinked with excitement, my boys decided on the spot that was the life for them.
Then, I had to gently break it to them that they would have to stay home because our house was the only castle in their daddy’s kingdom.
“A knight must know the old code of chivalry and learn to live by it,” I explained. This is the code that governed boyhood in our home.
The Boyhood Code of Gallantry
Defend the weak.
Always be courteous to all women.
Stay loyal to the king, (family) and serve God at all times.
Be careful not to talk too much.
Give mercy to a vanquished enemy.
Never attack an unarmed foe.
Be humble and not boast.
Never betray a friend.
Never kill an innocent.
In a child’s mind, there is a fine line between real life and imagination.
You would be amazed at how these rules play out in a little boy’s everyday life. “Never harm an innocent, never betray a friend, and never attack an unarmed foe,” came up fairly often as playtime spilled into real-life situations.
For example, one of my young Pages came into the kitchen for a glass of water. He was red-faced and hot from playing with a little boy who lived down the road. He had the most serious, thoughtful scowl on his face.
I watched him from across the kitchen. After a few gulps of water, he broke his fixed stare. Looking up at me he said, “Mom, Sam is never going to be a knight.”
“Oh, why is that?”
“Because he has already killed an innocent.”
Before I could ask, he blurted out—“ a frog!” With a disapproving shake of his head, he was out the door.
Needless to say, the home-made armor I made for him was everyday attire throughout that summer. Well into late fall that boy trained to be a knight.
As summers passed and my boys grew, we eventually moved up to heavily padded swords. In time, we accumulated stockpiles of swords, homemade bows, and arrows for neighboring Pages to come and join our boyhood kingdom.
The adventurous side of boyhood is deemed violent by our culture and doused at every turn. Without understanding the need for boyish triumphs, I’ve known mothers who have forbidden their little boys to even play with the imaginary weapons of boyhood.
By viewing these as violent, our nurturing smothers boyhood gallantry and robs young boys of their first taste of masculinity. Let them brandish wooden swords and practice protecting their little sisters from dragons and evil knights.
The art of mothering little boys requires us to balance the need to tame a boy’s adventurous impulses without breaking or wounding his spirit. The best way for mothers to do this is to nurture your little boy’s imagination and watch his sense of honor grow.