Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bad Guys, Good Guys

Hot, humid days in Tennessee lend themselves well to shaded playgrounds. The afternoon pattern of school buses, discarded backpacks, and visiting mothers on benches was an established routine. Although none of my kids were school-age yet, we still joined and my little ones clambered about, mimicking older kids and scaring me periodically with high-up antics.

Boys were swinging on things never intended to be swung on, climbing, scampering. One shouted, "You're the bad guy!" The race was on, and I watched closely as always, taking notes on this foreign gender called boys.

Next to me, a neighbor sat, discussing mothering things like how to keep pacifiers out of the dirt, and who to use for termite inspections. Then, she stopped the flow of adult words, and changed to her mother-tone without skipping a beat:

"Boys, my boys, we do not play bad guy, good guy. You can all be good guys if you want, but no bad guys."

I tried to follow her redirected conversation, something about banana bread with chocolate chips, but all I could see were the deflated boys - some hanging, some standing, some mid-sword-strike - lost suddenly in an imaginary world that has no bad guys.

Fast forward to today, when my own son put on his Superman costume for the fifth time this week. Somehow, I snuck in a speed wash-and-dry cycle and got it back into his room before he requested it again. It's old, there's a hole in the crotch, and the red cape is frayed on the edges. But when the S is firmly in place on his chest, he grabs a piece of discarded plastic he calls Sword, and goes off to fight the bad guys. Sometimes, when there are sisters playing too, he becomes the bad guy, or the "nice guy who is bad," he clarifies to me.

And I remember that mama on the bench at the playground. What would she think of my son? What would she think of my mothering?

I don't know. But I know my son, I know this boy. What is the fun in playing "good guy" if there isn't a bad guy?

And I know this world - a world full of epic tales of good and bad, right and wrong... Someday soon, I'll have to introduce shades of gray, where moral goodness is not always so clearly distinguished, where there are many sides to a story. Though I don't ascribe to moral relativism, I have broken up enough tiffs in my mothering days to understand that there is more than one variable to the good versus bad equation.And there is grace, always grace, that reaches out to all of us, both good and evil, blurring the lines even more.

But for now, I am watching delightfully as he slays dragons with plastic, fends off arrows with my pot lid, and swoops down to rescue hapless, helpless victims of evil.

Resting in His Goodness,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really like your take on bad guys. Our only rule about them is that our son not say that we are going to kill them, but rather we are going to take care of them...and leave it at that for now. Maybe when he's older (three right now) and he understands what kill means we'll talk about it again, but for now we'll just stick with "taking care of them".
'Cause we all need a superhero in our lives!