When I recently noticed a small hole shot through the middle of my brand new (but thankfully-very-cheap) bird-feeder, I just shook my head. After all, with three sons, I have learned to expect this kind of thing once in awhile. My husband and I had just bought our oldest son an air-soft gun for his birthday. About a week later, my husband and the boys did some target shooting in the backyard and someone had obviously missed the target - or so I thought. It wasn't until a few days later, when my middle son almost revealed "the secret", that I realized the birdfeeder WAS the target and that my sons were only accomplices to this crime.
After child #2 caught himself revealing the secret, he stopped mid-sentence and privately consulted with his older brother. The oldest responded to him with "you're not allowed to tell unless she asks". So the boys turned and looked at me nervously, wondering what my next move would be. Now knowing the rules of this "game", I asked the boys if they had shot the hole in my bird-feeder. After a few more questions, I was able to find out that it was their dad who had shot the hole in the bird-feeder. He had decided the bird-feeder would be a fun target and that these "soft" BBs would bounce right off, leaving no damage. When he was proved wrong and the damage was done, he told the boys "Don't tell mom unless she asks".
That hurt. As the only female in our family of five, I often feel vulnerable. I have read books such as Dobson's "Bringing Up Boys" and John Eldredge's "Wild At Heart" and know all too well -from the insights in these books as well as my own observations at home - how much influence a father has over his sons. How my husband treats me is how they, too, will someday treat me. If he avoids me, someday our boys will too. Currently, I have a good relationship with my three sons. But I felt like my husband had just unknowingly driven a wedge between us. In addition to that, I was deeply concerned that my sons were learning that integrity isn't important.
Two days later as my husband was sitting in his recliner after work, I casually told him that I had heard that he was the one who shot a hole in my bird-feeder. "Oh, you heard about that, huh?" he replied with a nervous grin. I gently hinted at my disapproval and he defended himself by stating that he had not lied or told the boys to lie. After all, they would need to tell all, IF I asked. Finally, my feelings came out. Although I don't remember my exact words, the message I gave was: "basically, our boys just learned that you need to tell the truth - IF it's convenient. You just taught them that it's not important to do the right thing. Just do what will keep the peace as long as possible. You taught them that women are annoying to deal with, so go the passive route and avoid dealing with them as much as you can, as long as you can."
My 6 foot, 220 lb bald with-a-goatee husband is the strong and silent type. He's a man of few words - except when he disagrees with me on something. Then he can be quite articulate and amazingly assertive when he's defending himself. But after I shared my feelings that day, he was quiet. The silence was his way of admitting that I was right. That was enough for me at that moment. The fact that he didn't become more defensive and try to argue with me on those points helped ease the anger and frustration. While I was sad that the damage had been done, I was thankful in knowing that it wouldn't happen again and that he was on the same page as me. It was over - or so I thought.
The next day my husband came home with a darling, new bird-feeder. That was thoughtful enough, although the damage I was concerned about had nothing to do with the birdfeeder. Then I realized he wasn't finished repairing the damage. He called our boys over. When he had their full attention, he turned to me and said, "I'm sorry. I was wrong to shoot at your bird-feeder and then not tell you about it. And I shouldn't have told the boys not to tell you." Then turning to the boys he added, "boys: what I did was wrong." At that moment, I knew it was my turn to be the example to our children. I told him I forgave him and reached over and hugged him. Then, our boys, excited to be apart of this reconciliation, threw their arms around their dad as well and said, "We forgive you too dad!".
Our conflicts don't always end up packaged this nicely with a bow on top. We sometimes end our battles by agreeing to disagree and I expected that to be the outcome of this confrontation with him. But my husband was more concerned with the character of our children than his pride. Once he realized his mistake, he stepped out of the shadows to show our sons what true,manly courage looks like. Was it too late to repair the damage already done? I don't believe so. Integrity isn't about perfection. It's about how we handle those imperfections. I was excited to receive a new birdfeeder. But my greatest joy was in seeing my sons learning how to be men - men of integrity that is, from the man they admire the most.
This is a great story and a wonderful lesson. one of my husband's favorite sayings is "Don't do what I do, do what I say." We get in a lively discussion whenever I hear him say that. Your story reminded me of my husband.
Thanks Sis, for sharing this. Your husband is one of the very rare breed, even in Christiandom. You both have stepped up to raise, by example a chosen generation, a peculiar people and a royal priesthood.GOD BLESS YOU!