Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Crafting in Clay

Our drive home from the orthodontist today turned into an impromptu art class.

For some inexplicable reason, Boy #3 brought along some modeling clay. He crafted a bullet out of his clay and showed it to his brothers, who promptly told him everything that was wrong with it ("it doesn't even have a primer pan"). They, of course, declared they could do better. Soon, all three of them were crafting projectiles out of clay.

Boy #2 made a shotgun shell. Boy #1 created a musket ball, which he deemed the most realistic, since musket balls WERE essentially round balls. Not to be outdone, I promised to blow them away by crafting a .22 when we arrived home. (Yes, I simply made a "22" out of clay. They did not appreciate my humor.)

The whole incident got me thinking about boys and the many ways our society restricts boy behavior. Would my boys have been allowed to create clay bullets at school? I doubt it. For understandable reasons, schools no longer allow weapons of any kind -- even in play. Boys who write stories with violent themes are referred for psychological counseling. Games such as King of the Mountain are disallowed.

Boys, though, are drawn to these things. Most boys have an innate fascination with weaponry and most boys have a desire to test their strength and courage against other boys. Boys have a natural tendency toward competition. Boys think, wonder and fantasize about war.

That doesn't mean that the boys in question actually want to blow each other's heads off; it just means that they're learning how to make sense of those impulses. It means they're exploring ideas. It means they're growing.

What do our boys lose when we forbid them from all expressions of violence? When we tell them what their stories can and cannot be about? Do they not learn that there's something wrong with them, at the core?

Today, I was glad my boys were home, free to craft in clay.


  1. I was going to send this link along to you anyway, but it seems appropriate for your post:

    My son took an art class this past summer and drew a really detailed, beautiful gun. The teacher met me at the door at the end of the class and told me he had had a talk with my son and concluded that he was not violent. He wasn't too concerned about the gun drawing. It took me a minute to realize that the teacher is a public school teacher during the year and that this would have been a real issue in PS. I have the picture proudly displayed in my kitchen! It does get some comments from PS parents:)

  2. I just found your blog, and I loved reading it! My boys are older than yours (I have four), but this really took me back. Great days -- crazy, but great!

    I have a book coming out this year, and come visit my blog -- there's a Boy Mom Life page just for you!

  3. What serendipitous timing. I'm just stopping by via the Boy Crazy button at Clarity-Chaos and am in the middle of crafting a post on a similar topic. I really appreciate your perspective on this and will be sure to link to you. Thanks for some additional food for thought this morning.

  4. If that had happened in an art class at my school, a visit to the guidance counselor would have sadly been the result. But, at the same time, as a teacher, seeing students create drawings that show guns or knives has to make me stop and consider what is going on in the child's life that pushes them to express themselves in such a way. Most of the time, it is just boys being boys. But sometimes, it is something much more serious, and it is in those instances that our cautiousness is valuable if it means that we are able to get the child the help he needs. Unfortunately, public education has lost the ability to differentiate and account for normal "boy" behavior versus troubled behavior and the rules are set so rigidly that they punish boys for simply being boys. I worry about my son going to kindergarten next year and having to submit to the rules of such a system.

  5. I wish I could home school my son. I think his life would be very different now if i could have.

  6. Natalie (and others who have made similar comments on other posts) -- What our sons need most of all is our support and love. Whether they go to school or learn at home, we are the most important influences in their lives. Love your son, listen to him, ask questions and become part of his life. THAT is what makes the difference -- not where he goes to school.

  7. There is so much out there celebrating being a girl and encouraging girls to do what at one time at least was considered to be "boy" stuff. I don't mind that so much...it was easy to find books for my eldest, but once I had a son, it was hard to find things he'd really get excited about.

    But we're hoping to build a trebuchet together this year. :)

  8. Dana,
    I'd love to hear more about your trebuchet project! My boys wanted to build a catapult earlier this year, but we haven't tackled that project yet. Maybe this spring...