My son proudly told me what is in his bio, which I will officially read when I attend the school play of Jane Eyre next week. (He plays schoolmaster Mr. Brocklehurst.) Specifically, he told what I wouldn’t have guessed, namely that his hobbies include mud riding and target shooting, which elicited the question: “When did you become a redneck?”
And then I thought, “Tommy!”
My children’s Uncle Tommy, my brother-in-love (long story, see my post titled “Return to the River” for enlightenment), is a lovable, likeable, respectable, responsible family man and police officer–who has never outgrown his childlike (maybe teen-like or early-20s-like?) love for mud riding. In fact, when we arrived at the river for our spring break adventures, we found his newest toy, an elderly Toyota Forerunner dressed in camouflage with a PVC snorkel accessory.
Frankly, it didn’t seem to have much purpose (other than to annoy the neighbors with its abandoned appearance) until Tommy arrived with his family on Easter Sunday. He brought with him a battery charger and quickly got to work on the vehicle, revving the engine and otherwise polluting our air with carbon monoxide while he fixed whatever ailed the camo-mobile. A proper scolding by his wife made short work of that adventure (thank you, Jane), but Tommy suddenly put the machine in gear and roared over the telephone poles marking the driveway and drove down to the river banks.
We–including my apparently impressionable 16-year-old son–got a complete demonstration of the thrills of mud-riding.
Add to that the invitation to drive the vehicle, and my teen was forever enamored with the sport, even though he only drove on dry land.
Of course, all of my boys have always been all about All Things Tommy–because their uncle is young and fun, of course, but also because he invests in them. When he worked the St. Pete beaches renting jet skis and such, the boys landed a few free rides. An avid fisherman, stone-crab trapper, and boater, Tommy looks for chances to include the boys and my husband when we are in the vicinity. He and Jane have invited us to dinners and traveled hours to applaud at my children’s graduations. He yearly plans a hiking/camping trip and invites my sons along. It really is no wonder that my sons idolize their uncle.
It is a good thing to have positive role models–even when those role models have a serious mud-riding flaw.
When I was an impressionable teen, I had a role model–although she wasn’t into mud-riding. Becky was one of the youth leaders in my church, and she chose to invest herself in me and my best friend. For her, that meant picking us both up every Wednesday evening about 5, buying us McDonald’s for dinner, and getting us to our youth service. It meant hours of talking, bunking with us at camp, giving us advice and the occasional scolding. I suspect her guidance, her faithfulness to God, her willingness to invest all that time, gas, and cash spent at McDonald’s has played dividends in my own life–and in the lives of teens I subsequently have invested in.
Last night, my husband and I were alone in our house–quite a novelty when you’ve had five kids. Our final teen had gone to a college baseball game with his friends and was spending the night elsewhere. While our son isn’t driving alone yet, his friends are, and he is becoming increasingly independent.
I thought to myself, “You raise them till they’re 16, and then their friends take over.”
The hope, of course, is that the friends are worthy influences, because a type of hero worship does occur. For example, my son went through the “scream-o band” stage a couple years ago, then the rap song stage, thanks to the influences of my sister’s sons (when “T.T.S.P: This Too Shall Pass” became my motto).
I’ve heard this quotation, attributed to but not a verbatim rendition of Proverbs 27:19, which says “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.” It gives me hope, because I like my son’s friends.
In addition to his Uncle Tommy and his peers, he has his amazing brother-in-law and older brothers, his school teachers, his youth pastor and youth workers, his baseball coaches and even the parents of his friends–all good candidates for a little hero worship.
And if my greatest fear for him is a hobby of mud ridin’ and target shootin’, well, shoot, he’ll be jest fine.