Tapestries: The Little CowboyBy Guest
By Nancy Pando
A little cowboy rode into our family on April 27, all eight pounds and two ounces of him: our first grandson, Wyatt Van Bonwell. When word of his safe arrival rang throughout the family, we let out a collective whew that could have blown a house off its pins.
Wyatt has a mop of dark hair and blue eyes. When he sleeps, the noise coming from his crib sounds like puppy wrestling. His favorite pastime is being fed … again and again. Like a lump of Play-Doh you roll between your hands, he’s forming into a round little ball. Each feeding time, whether it was three minutes or three hours ago, he reacts with the same urgency. It is as though he was abandoned in the woods somewhere for days and just at the brink of starvation, a stranger found him and rescued him.
With the arrival of this little boy, I have been noticing the décor in our house. We will likely need to establish some balance for our little buckaroo. Right now, our home is dotted with pink glitter, jeweled tiaras, tutus and Hello Kitty stickers. This place is no “man cave.” About the closest thing to a dump truck we own is Barbie’s minivan. One can readily see that our 5 year old, Lola, is applying for early acceptance to become a princess. She has been vocal about having no use for Batman, Spiderman, or whatever man because they are not pretty. She doesn’t see the point in all of the leaping, web spinning, and karate chopping. Really. It’s just not very civilized. With a little brother in the house now, someone is about to rock her kingdom.
Before long, Wyatt will probably be morphing random objects into weapons: bananas, crayons, a turkey baster. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated the weaponry; it’s the purpose that it serves. Why do most boys instinctively do this? They can’t help it; it’s how they are wired. You can tell a boy he is handsome, smart, got a great personality: Yah … that’s nice … whatever. Those sorts of compliments really don’t cut it. There’s something deeper and primal in their bones that makes them tick. Every boy (young or old) needs to believe that he is brave. This is why boys make capes out of tea towels, scarves, trash bags, etc. When you are a superhero about to leap off a coffee table, you’ve simply got to have a cape. Convince a boy of his bravery and you have knighted him.
Years tick by in a boy’s life and Underoos no longer come in his size. The superhero within becomes internalized, moves underground. The cape that once helped him to fly must remain hidden. The boy must find a way to feed the superhero within. This unending quest for heroics can often be realized through sports and/or video games.
In sports, a boy’s arms and legs (and sometimes his noggin) become the weaponry of choice. He doesn’t wear costumes anymore; they are called uniforms now. He gets to use sticks, bats, balls, and so on. Better yet, he is encouraged to hurtle forward, shove, leap, defy, etc. It’s the good guys vs. the bad guys: The war is on.
For similar reasons, boys dominate the video game arena. Boys get to morph themselves into the main hero, the conqueror. Inside the universe of video games, there is color, drama, intensity. It’s not just one bad guy anymore, they’ve multiplied. Singlehandedly, the hero defeats warlords, shoots monsters, and slays the dragon. Why, there is even a princess or two in need of rescuing. He doesn’t worry about getting killed — superheroes are immortal.
Underneath it all, boys know they are not exactly superheroes. But their longing to feel the same breadth of strength and bravery often remains. The developmental task for a boy is to define the true meaning of bravery. So he stands at a fork in the road examining his options: Does he take the low road where bravery is defined by the fist? Or does he choose the high road where courage is defined by integrity?
How a boy defines courage is largely influenced by the men in his life that have marched before him. As for our dear little Wyatt, he’s surrounded by good guys. He lives in a town filled with good and decent men. His grandfathers, uncles, and all of the other influences in his life — they chose the road of honor. These are the men who will never forget to keep turning around to help make sure our boy is never lost. Most of all, Wyatt’s dad, Eric, will walk beside him. In this little boy’s heart, as he looks up at his dad’s tall frame, there could be no greater superhero.
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