I spotted my four year-old crouching behind a Dogwood tree. Stick in hand, eyes squinting; Josh was pretending to shoot at a bluebird in the distance. My heart sunk a little. Because the day I saw the neighbor teen shoot a bird from the sky, I vowed a mommy-vow, “My son will never do that!!”
Hence—God laughed, and Josh became infatuated with every stick that could shoot straight. His Papa Kline fashioning him a gun out of wood, he would pocket his wooden bullets “just because.” Holding Josh’s passion back was like trying to plug a large hole with a tiny marshmallow. My husband, with more wisdom and testosterone, had a better idea. “Let’s teach him to love and respect nature…let’s work with him.”
And so my two young men went on an adventure together. They went to the library and checked out books about animals. Bought books about hunting. Learned safety techniques related to hunting. Took safety courses. Took long walks in the woods to observe and marvel at God’s creation. Talked about God’s creation. Went camping. Years of boy to man boot-camp.
As his passion grew, so did our engagement. We could either shred Field and Stream, and clear the yard of sticks, or embrace a side of our child that was surely God-given. So for his birthday we purchased a bow, in hopes he would learn to use it skillfully and mercifully. Year after year we trained him in regards to God’s word and the respect we must have when balancing the life of God’s creatures in human hands. A precious gift—not a right.
Josh practiced—Jerry marveled. And while watching the two shadows, uneven and ambling through the fog to the back field, quietly I marveled too. My husband would claim, “Sure twist my arm.” While gathering equipment as they headed out the door. “Make me go spend hours of uninterrupted time with my son, why don’t ya.” They would return with stories of pursuit, adventure, and conquest. Or sometimes no conquest at all. Just stories.
It took me a few years to figure out that boys need to get dirty once in a while. That they need to break sticks, build things with their curious hands, and skip a rock or two. Maybe even spit a few times. You see, I’ve gathered some wisdom, while watching shadows shrink outside my kitchen window.
I’ve learned that dirt comes out—while hurtful words spewed in the heat of anger sometimes doesn’t. That my obsessions about little things, made me miss the big things. That I let my fear overshadow my faith. I wish I could take that back. But I can’t. I’ve learned some lessons the harder way.
I’ve come to understand that I’m not the best cook in the world, but a hunter wants to use what he’s hunted. And onion and seasoning can go a long way. Martha Stewart may not know that, but I do.
Because if not eaten—the animal’s life wasted—in a sense. And any good hunter doesn’t waste. They utilize, they improvise. They don’t waste a tree they’ve climbed to reach the highest of heights. They don’t waste the journey or the view once they get there either. They don’t waste their time, because spending time doing something you love is never wasted. They don’t waste an inhale or an exhale—they know a deep breath at the wrong time can change everything. They don’t waste time being angry, or staying angry because there’s better things to do. They don’t waste an arrow, or a bullet, and they sure don’t waste a life.
Yes, I’ve learned a few things as a mom to a hunter. As a mom to a son. Well…as a mom.
I’ve learned that my son is sensitive to causing harm to others. I’ve learned that he’s not perfect, and neither am I. I’ve learned that being a good mom means letting go of fear and trusting God with every fiber of my fearful self. I’ve learned that the woods, the trees, and the smell of moss after a rain, is a scent that fills the soul of a boy and makes a man want for more of what God has to offer. Any mom can tell you that.
I’ve also seen that a man needs to love what he does like a boy loves leaves that crunch loud under his feet. And that when we pray for God to lead our children to His dreams, and we tell them to dream big and worry small. We shouldn’t waste our breath or wonder where their going. When we watch their shadow shrinking little, waving tall at a distance—we just know.
And we’ll carry memories in our pocket “just because.” That we pass faith like a legacy, and if God allows, they’ll return. Return with stories of pursuit, adventure, and conquest. Or sometimes no conquest at all. Just stories. Because I’ve learned a few things…