Alternative realities

William gets a taste of reality

give a boy an ipod and they will sulk in their room; give a boy a kindling axe and he will feel like a man

There was a pick axe moment last weekend: either they came outside to help with the wood, or the ipods would be for the chop. There were complaints, excuses, delaying tactics, but once outside and put to task they were soon pink-cheeked and back to the violently physical, deliriously happy boys I thought I knew.

There is nothing like a hot ipod to tell you that your son is lying. Somehow the electronic devices that Boys 1 (10) and 2 (8) have patiently (and admirably) saved for have become the source of almost every argument (bar the one about flushing the loo). They say they are brushing their teeth when in fact they are playing Minecraft. They spot my laptop and beg for apps, seeking boyish fulfillment in Heligunners and Ishotgun Pro.

These shiny, long-coveted devices have become portals to an alternative reality, one which can make real life boring, and engaging seem far too much like hard work.

We now work on a rota of confiscation. Boy 1 lost his within days of buying it, got it back and then swiftly lost it for an entire week. For lying. About his Ipod. Boy 2 is fairing slightly better, if only for tempering his stories.

Boys need exercise. They need danger. They need to be challenged physically and mentally. You need to be brave to give a child an axe. You need to be clear with them about how to swing it, how not to hit their brothers, how not to take off their own fingers. But give them some real responsibility, in this case in the shape of a kindling axe, rather than fobbing them off in front of a screen, and they will shine. Mine did, and my log pile is now wonderfully large.

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