Carefree Knight is nine years old, my second oldest child, and in 4th grade. This year for him has been a year of self confidence, perseverance and determination. See, he was never motivated to study, to read or even to apply himself. He got frustrated quickly, gave up easily and seemed to prefer the path of least resistance.
Then, he got into 4th grade. I have never seen him work as hard, striving to get every possible answer correct, ace his quizzes and/or tests or study as diligently. All mind you, without my reminders. So what has changed. A mother must evaluate to determine what shift has moved this boy in the direction I have prayed for him to go in.
A multitude of things has contributed to this change. 4th grade. He is top dog now, as 3rd and 4th are combined in our school. He is no longer in the same class as Thinker, something I always wondered if it stifled him a bit.
He became a Knight of the Altar, something he takes very seriously, up early to serve Mass, shining his shoes, combing his hair and keeping his reference. He moves about the sanctuary with a noble presence and in dutiful service.
And then, there’s reward. For almost a year now, he has requested a knife. Yes, I know, a knife. A real one, not some toy, mind you. In working to convince me, he would come up with the multitude of uses for said knife. He could cut small pieces of wood for burning fires in our home, to keep us all warm. He could defend the family if some robber came in the house. He could whittle some animals out of stray wood pieces from the back yard, for his little brother to play with. He could build, play and defend, and probably a few more uses that I can’t quite remember.
To all these ideas, Knight’s father and I would always answer, “Well, a knife is a serious thing. It takes a lot of responsibility, because someone can get hurt with it. Do you think you are old enough or responsible enough for a knife?”
Our comments and questions always seemed to fall on deaf ears, until I noticed small changes in this young man. He started to take the garbage out without my asking. He began thanking me for making dinner each and every night. He would answer most requests with a “Yes, Mom” and move with purpose on homework and chores. HH and I both noticed these changes in his attitude and actions, and even HH mentioned something to him, “I see you are working on something. I don’t know what, but keep it up.”
Days after HH made this comment, Knight found me alone, whispered in my ear, “You know what Dad said?” I nodded. “Well, I am working on something. Do you know?”
I told him I wasn’t sure, but that I was so proud to see him taking up responsibility. His huge grin told me everything. He was working to prove himself, prove himself worthy of the responsibility of owning his very own, real knife.
His birthday came and went, and still no knife, and I could see the disappointment in his face, and yet a firm determination to prove himself worthy. He worked harder still. He maintained his grades on High Honor Roll, all the while keeping up his chores, his good manners and helpful nature with his siblings. What age is a good age? Who knows.
What I do know, is that this boy worked for this privilege, proved his maturity and showed his understanding of the dangers this gift presents. Santa will be credited for Knight finally getting a Swiss Army Knife, and that’s ok. If Santa sees he is ready, then it must be the right timing for him.
The day after Christmas, while examining all the tools included with the knife, he cut himself. Not deep, not too bad, but enough to need a good sized bandaid. That moment, I wanted to scream and cry, “See! See! He wasn’t old enough, he wasn’t ready!”
Confident in himself, he simply came to me calmly, showed me the wound, and played it off as no biggie. “I just need a bandaid, Mom, it’s nothing, though, just a little cut.”
Seeing my son, as this young man in training, I kept my calm, looked him in the eye and said, “Well, now you know, right? Now you know just how careful you need to be, right?”
He nodded as I wrapped his little finger with a bandaid, and as I kissed his head, I said, “I’m proud of you. You earned this gift. You proved yourself. Now, respect the edge of the knife, it will cut you, if you let it.”
And off he went.
My little boy is becoming a young man before my very eyes. He worked hard, he earned something he so believed he was ready for. He got hurt, yet, instead of reverting to childish ways, or even tears, he assumed a new role for himself. It’s a role filled with masculine elements, a work ethic, and a determination to move forward as he watches his own father demonstrate personal responsibility for his actions.
Just the other day, Knight asked me about the cross on his Swiss Army Knife, clearly the logo this company has chosen for their pocket knives. When I had explained what a logo is, he shrugged his shoulders, and said to me, “Mom, it has to be about Jesus, why else would they choose that out of all the possible choices?”
Good question, my Knight, good question. All I could think to say was, “Well, you did get it for Christmas you know, maybe Jesus is trying to tell you something.”
Days such as these remind me of the privilege it truly is to witness my children grow from one stage to the next. They find their own ways to blossom and become who they are meant to be. I sit and wonder, where the years have gone, when I can, in a instant be back to a time when this Knight had a fever as a baby, and we snuggled together for hours on the couch, as I rubbed his back and kissed tiny hairs on his head.
He is assuming a kind of man-hood. And this knife, this gift, is a concrete recognition of that assumption. He can look to this, and know, he worked for it, he earned it, he built a reputation of responsibility and maturity: both traits necessary for a Man In The Making.
Copyright 2012 Sahmatwork