Back in the ’70s, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson warned moms not to let their boys grow up to be cowboys. Today, I think the bigger challenge is not letting our kids grow up to be rude and arrogant a**holes. I’ll take a cowboy any day.
Raising kids is tough. They say parenting boys gets easier as they get older. I don’t know who “they” are, and my oldest is only 11, but I think I need to call bullsh*t on that. It seems to get harder.
I’m a worrier. It’s not my finest trait, but it’s who I am. When my kids were younger, I used to fret about them getting hurt on the playground or being kidnapped by some crazy lunatic. Now as my boys get older, my worries are less about their safety and more about their character. My biggest fear is that they’ll grow up to be bastards. Not mass murderers or bank robbers (I’m pretty confident that the “no killing and no stealing” lessons sank in), just jerks. Nobody likes a jerk.
This past weekend, while at a lacrosse tournament, my 8-year-old son learned two valuable life lessons after a boy his age stole a ball from him and then lied about it:
- Write your name on anything you don’t want to lose if you take it out of the house
- Some people are just jerk
Yes, I know it’s wrong to call a kid a jerk, but let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? We all know the kind of kid I’m talking about: the bossy one who argues every point because he has to be right all the time; the cocky one who thinks he’s better than everyone else so he talks trash on and off the field; the rude one who uses fresh language to both kids and adults alike; the brazen one who steals and then lies about it all too easily … Sadly, today’s stinkers are often tomorrow’s rotten eggs. I desperately don’t want my kids to be that way.
Above all else, I want my boys to become gentlemen, so my standards for proper behavior are high:
- Be polite (say please, thank you and excuse me; use “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” in responses; etc.)
- Display good table manners (swallow before speaking; ask to be excused from table; etc.)
- Be compassionate (say you’re sorry, lend a hand, etc.)
- Be respectful (use kind language; take turns speaking, not over each other; etc.)
- Act responsibly (think before acting; make mature decisions; etc.)
- Be honest (own all mistakes; don’t lie, cheat or steal; etc.)
To me, these six behaviors are the mark of good character. The character of a gentleman … like one of our kidsitters, C. He’s a high school senior and member of the varsity football team. He could be a cocky, trash-talking teenager, but he’s the complete opposite: he’s friendly, kind, polite (very polite!) and respectful … and my boys think he’s super cool, fun and easy-going. Win, win.
So strict as it may seem, I will continue to enforce my rules in the hopes of raising two wonderful, young gentlemen … and if they want to be cowboys, too, then so be it — no matter what Waylon and Willie say.