BB's and Nunchucks

I try to pick a few days a month to spend in one of the most delightful ways: visiting. Typically, I begin these days with Mass and praying for those who I am setting out to visit to share tea and conversation with.

One of my tea times was full of catching up with a dear friend and sharing stories about our children.  She, like me, has lots of boys complete with their youthful mirth and mischievous vigor. Our conversation threads would go something like this:

Me looking over at her beautiful fireplace, "That is so pretty, do you ever make a fire for the evenings?"

"No, not really.  It's pretty old and (her husband) says it sucks all the heat out of the room when we light it ... and the fans are kinda loud and annoying.  Sometimes, though, it's nice to have it."

"Yeah, Bob would say the same thing, I bet.  I just love to look at them!  But really, I know they can be a pain. Nice for when the power goes out, though"

"Yes, but then we're all in the dark and don't know where the matches are"

"Us too!  Actually, I have to hide them from Joe.  It's like a game of 'where can I hide the new matches I bought without forgetting where I hid them when I need them'."


"Have you ever walked in a room, sniffed the air and gave the boys a death stare while saying 'Who's been LIGHTING MATCHES??"

Both of us burst into laughter

We went on to discuss boys, fires, explosions, skeet shooting, guns, and various other items of interest that mom's of boys have in common.  We both agree that letting boys be boys is vital to their countenance and existence.  It's always a relief to share such a common bond with another mother - those that have girls in the mix truly don't get the strong flavor of what life in a household of guys means.

I have no qualms about letting my boys figure out the mechanics of fire in the relatively safe environs surrounding our home, as long as it is done "Within Reason".  A fire pit, a handmade sand bunker, a venture into the woods with a few quarts of water are all Within Reason in my book.  After all, isn't the whole idea of 'reasoning' to wage risk factors, pair it with knowledge of past experience, and put a thesis into practice?

I'm letting them do Science, you guys!

Surely, though, like every single thing, there are many layers to letting boys figure some things out on their own touched with an element of danger.  Boys are natural risk takers and it is important to foster that - within reason.

Fire is dangerous.  Absolute fact.  But isn't is also comforting? Warming?  Soothing? Invites Contemplation? There is Truth in all thing of Nature for we see the Creator in all He touches; Grace builds upon Nature and I believe in fostering experiments of a child's creation.   There is only one way one can find balance - to pair moments of fervent physical exertion with relaxing rest by the hearth; To take solitary walks after a deep devotional; To cautiously prepare the pit for a fire so it can rage and awe the spectators.  How good is it to do so in youth rather than adulthood!

God spoke to Moses in a burning bush.  Fire is the first time we hear of God leading His chosen people after the great Fall.  I'm guessing that fire is important to God and therefore should be important to humans; in fact, it is.  Never am I reminded of that more than when I drive around on a bitterly cold morning to see wood smoke hovering over dwellings where people live, keeping them cozy and safe. 

Every campsite in a campground has a firepit and people flock to gather in Nature.  Head out in the morning and you see some cooking the morning grub cheerily over a small fire while the night sky is lit in numerous little trails as droves of campers surround their circles in the dark.

Fire invites conversation; it invites contemplation and growth of Wisdom.  I allow my kid to 'steal' matches (I often wonder how he thinks they continue to get replenished as I secret more boxes in the hiding places). Yes, we've definitely had our fair share of pitfalls - and a particular scarred Juniper tree to stand as witness to careless inquisition.  Yet we still send the boys out to do the burn (which always includes more burn than chore) light brush piles, start a bonfire, and cook up smoke bombs.  In that regular contact, they learn to work with fire, study the science of fire's properties, but most importantly, ponder God in all His glorious nature.


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