My son runs up to me, “I cut myself.” I ask him how he did it and he tells me he was using his pocketknife in the backyard. This is the second cut in as many days. It is actually more a scratch than anything but I am appropriately impressed, offer band aids and kisses. He passes on both. Apparently he has outgrown these vestiges of childhood while growing into pocketknives and self inflicted wounds.
My responsible husband thought it a good idea to teach our six year old son the ways of manhood. He chose to do this by presenting him with his first pocketknife. My husband grew up in the country. He spent his childhood running wild through the woods with axes and knives in hand to cut down any tree that looked menacing. We do not live in the country. We live in suburbia. My son cut himself while hacking at a drooping tulip stalk.
Still, here is my little boy with knife in hand ready to conquer the world, or the backyard, because his father told him he could. I am left to watch as they discuss the merits of whittling versus filing. I am left to worry whether a finger will be nicked and require more than my motherly ministrations can handle. I was not consulted on the knife issue because apparently this is boy/man territory and so my son must go be a boy the way he is meant to be with his father by his side.
Ok, so, yes, my husband is a wild one. Not everyone has to get their six year old a pocketknife. I’m not even convinced of the merits of said pocketknife. However, I get where my husband was going with this gift. I get that he was trying to pass on a little bit of his childhood to his son. I get that he was trying to instill responsibility and though every part of me rebels against the idea of my little boy growing up, I also realize that this is a milestone. One which he is inordinately happy to go through by the way.
After the second or maybe it was the third cut, I told my husband he needed to give our son a refresher safety course. Obviously some of the initial excitement was still there for the first lesson and the safety instructions hadn’t quite stuck. Or maybe little boys just get cut a lot. Either way, my husband sat down with our son. He talked to him man to little boy and went over how to use his pocketknife correctly, when it is safe to use, how important it is to own one and be responsible, you know the drill. It was good information. My son has been cut free ever since.
Here’s the thing about dads, and maybe as a mom this makes me a bit uncomfortable but I think it’s true, I think dads push our kids more. I think dads are the ones that stretch our kids beyond their capabilities. I think dads are the ones that make our kids think the world may be a possibility after all. I think dads are high risk and high energy and make moms so scared sometimes, what with the tossing high in the air and the knives and the unknown garage paraphernalia, but dads make kids explore the world in ways that moms can’t. There’s a great reason for it. Our kids need to know that they are wonderfully made and that they are full of possibility and who better to show them than the men in their lives who survived BB guns, pocketknives, homemade tree forts, wooden swords, treasure hunts, and puberty.
I’m still not sold on the whole pocketknife thing, but when I see my son pull it out carefully, show me how to open it properly, display each individual item, the file, the tweezers. He describes the uses for every piece. He wants to go camping or hiking or conquer the universe. That last thing is just me seeing the potential in one little boy with a father who loves him so much he gives him a pocketknife because he knows the world is his if he wants it.