Welcome To The Jungle

Also known as the Otto backyard.  Privacy fences exist for a reason.  The neighbors would be shocked.  Appalled.  “Those children…they’re…savages.”  Although I’m sure they’ve gathered that already.  You know, on account of the screaming.


Earlier this year I took away all of the children’s toys.  The first thing I noticed was that this didn’t keep them from making messes.  They just started to make messes out of different things.  Inside we had definite issues with the receiving blankets and cutlery.  Outside it was the scrap.  Every stick in the back yard became a treasure.  And don’t even think about trying to throw away the old crib spring or dismantling last years manger.  Don’t.


Here is Jael with her “food” sticks.  Later I caught her brushing Rahab’s teeth with a “toothbrush” stick.  And to think, most suburban backyards are stick free.  Our yard is not.  We wax fat when it comes to sticks.  It’s glorious.


Notice Habbers in the background kickin’ it.


That’s the life.  Jael setting up house.  And while normally I would surmise that to be pee, in this case I can safely vouch for it being a squirt gun.



I don’t have any problem getting my kids to play outside and stay outside.  I think the trick to that is homeschooling.  When I let them out for recess they bolt out of their seats like they’re on fire.  And if I want them back I have to go get them.  They’re smart enough to stay out of range.  If I do see one, I give it a job.


This is what I found the other day.  What do you call that anyways?  Did someone tell you you could dig a giant hole in the middle of the only lawn I have?  No.  I told them to pack it in.  However Daddy came home that night and got out his shovel too.  Boys, they’re all the same.


Jehu came home from soccer practice the other week and asked, “Do you know what I just realized?”  “What?”  I returned.  “You’re not as safe as other mothers,” he said.  It’s true.  And it might also be why I let them play with pick axes.  Not to mention knives, bows and arrows, sledge hammers, hand saws, loppers, kendo swords, drill guns, shepherd’s slings, handcuffs, shurakins, as well as their own personal grappling hook.  I’m that kind of parent.


And really, I’m not reckless.  I just realize that my kids are white.  They’re almost perfectly incapable of hurting themselves or getting into trouble.  In which case, it’s my personal duty to make both of these outcomes more likely.  For the sake of mankind.  I do what I can.


The boys are not currently in the possession of a single toy.  They do have lots of sticks and sharp metal things, but no toys.  So far, this has not phased them.  Here they are sicking their brain-washing robot on the baby.  Made out of a paint can, bow tie, shin guard, night light, and pink duck tape.


Complete with handcuff tail and silverware arms.  Sometimes you have to wonder.


Here they are a few days later back to work on the hole.  I keep reminding my husband that it has to go.  Since, basically, when they come back inside they all require complete wardrobe changes.  When it rains, we’re done.  That’s it.


Your summer holiday in the trenches is over.


Provided you can even get out.



Also, don’t underestimate the lure of a good quantity of bailing twine.


Gideon at some point began regret his initial compliance with this plan.


But I don’t know who actually volunteers to be burnt at the stake anyways.  Seems like a lapse in judgement to me.  Please note the red soccer cone “flames.”


I have always been a staunch supporter of rampant violence.  But not as much as I have been a patron of camaraderie.  I want my boys to be able to take a beating in good fun.  As far as I can see, fighting is natural.  Boys can’t help but want to wrestle and run each other through with sticks.  So I figure the least you can do is teach them to do it with a smile.  The same goes for name-calling.  Who can resist a good insult?  On my errand list tomorrow is a pocket thesaurus.  The boys want more synonyms for “stinky.”  In the great tradition of Captain Haddock, you can often hear them chasing each other, hollering, “Polynesian sheepherder, fuzzy wuzzy, communist, rat trapper!  You will pay for this outrage!  The public will hear of it!  The WORLD!”


During the daily furor I expect small tragedies to happen.  Only I refuse to entertain complaints of injury.  Getting hurt is good for you.  But I do discipline for meanness, resentment, or acts of rage.  Luckily these don’t occur that often.  I think it’s easy as mothers to teach boys that all fighting is mean and all name-calling is dirty.  But if we give that impression, how can they help but begin to fight spitefully or harbor dirty and small vocabularies?  Or even worse, grow up into terrible prudes.  Stupid, poop-head, and bully are words that are fortunately not heard around here.  At soccer practice Jehu is exposed to boys whose potty mouths have graduated into actual swearing.  Jehu remains unimpressed.  “Yeah, he uses bad words.  But they’re not cool ones like Gideon and I use.”  Gideon and Jehu swear like 18th century pirates.  You can’t touch them.  The boys still get in trouble, they still hurt each other’s feelings, and sometimes the claws come out.  But what I’ve noticed is that the smiles come out faster too.  If you can take the wounds of a friend, it’s easier to shake off the sucker punch of an enemy.

6 thoughts on “Welcome To The Jungle

  1. Went to visit a friend yesterday… “Um, I think the baby’s going for the chainsaw.”
    “No, looks like she’s got the helmet. Good baby, wear your helmet when you play with the chainsaw”
    “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before” 🙂
    Huzzah for children that aren’t afraid of the world!

    • Ha. That reminds me of this weekend. The boys have this little homemade knife with an antler handle that Grandad got them. I saw Habbers breeze by with it and start sawing on the arm of the couch. (Fortunately it’s remarkably dull.) I asked, “Who gave Habbers the knife?” Which prompted Gideon to come by all indignant, “Hey, I just gave that knife to the baby!” So he commandeered it and went back to console the recently shafted infant. What a nice, slightly misguided brother. 😉

  2. About name-calling…

    My husband is the oldest of 7 boys, and I’m the oldest of 5 girls. Name-calling was a way of showing affection in his childhood home and it was non-existent in mine. Since, after all, I did take on his name, we’ve adopted the sarcasm and name-calling and labeled it family tradition and brotherly love.

    The only time this has been an issue was recently, when we were visiting at my parents’ home. They had invited us and an elderly southern couple to Sunday lunch. The couple had just moved to the northwest and had also visited our church for the first time, and they certainly came off as the prim and proper, non-name-calling types. The visit seemed to go well, until it was time to say goodbye. As they were leaving and everyone was very properly shaking hands and saying nice-to-have-met-you, my 2-year-old burst out with, “BYE STINKER-FACES!”

    I tried to explain that this really was a display of affection, but somehow they didn’t seem convinced. 😀

    • It is a hard call. Because we don’t want to be offensive. Though perhaps it is easier to be offensive when we stick up our noses and land like a wet blanket on the people around us. And then again, people who want to take up offense, generally do so anyways. I want my kids, and me, to be the opposite of that. I want to take things lightly and roll with the punches. When we come down on our kids like a ton of bricks because they called someone a name, they know exactly how to respond when someone does the same to them. More often, I just try to gauge where that name came from. Were they being mean, or were they being kids? I don’t like meanness or disrespect. I also don’t like gutter ball. There are certain words we just don’t allow in the house. Not because they’re “bad,” but because they’re pedestrian. There are also words I won’t let them use because they are the language of the enemy. Like “no fair” or “bully.” And then I tell them why.

      I think everyone has to decide for themselves where they are going to draw the line. But personally, I think one thing Christendom is in sore need of is a better sense of humor. I often remark to people that I feel free to judge Christian figures by how they do in a fight. Do they get offended and upset, retreat in effusive apologies, or gut roll and land one of their own? Because that’s the style I’m after. 😉

      • I think I’m going to steal that last paragraph and use it somewhere in the future. Because you’re SO right. Christians don’t know how to let go of the little stuff, and we end up making such a deal out of so much that doesn’t matter that we miss the big, truly important stuff. Have I mentioned that I would love to meet you in person? 🙂

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