Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

30 June 2010

Looking Through the Window at the Old People's Home


Just before I finished up teaching seven and a half years ago, my boss invited me into his office for a chat.  We often chatted about things deeper than classroom management and staffroom politics.  On this day he described a scene from his weekend to me.  He'd been to visit his dad.  On his arrival at the aged care facility where his dad lived, he stood a while in the doorway of the common room regarding his dad and the three friends he was sitting with, chatting while they were waiting for their visitors.  His dad had been a high ranking official with the police force.  With him was a man who finished his working life the CEO of a middle sized business, one who had been a gardener and one who had been a rubbish collector. 

An outsider looking in would never have guessed at the career disparity amongst that group of four - because there was no disparity.  They all belonged.  In their final years, how they spent their working lives mattered little.  What mattered, he observed, as he sat with his father that afternoon, was who received visitors that afternoon and furthermore, what the quality of those relationships was like - and how that played out depended upon how life had been lived alongside those careers.  It didn't pan out as you might expect at first glance either.

That conversation has never left me.


[Top photo from Microsoft Online Clip Art.  Bottom photo from my camera]

28 June 2010

Sitting at the Feet of the Wise

I've been reading through 1 and 2 Kings recently.  One chapter that always stands out for me is 1Kings 12.

King Solomon has just died and his son Rehoboam is set to take his place on the throne.  But there's someone else waiting in the wings - Jereboam son of Nebat.  Jereboam posed a real threat to King Solomon's reign.  Solomon tried to have him killed but Jereboam fled to Egypt.

So Rehoboam was about to take the crown when the Israelites, along with Jereboam who had heard that Solomon was dead and had returned to Israel, approached Rehoboam and said,

"Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you."

Rehoboam sent them away for three days while he considered his options.  Firstly he consulted the elders who had served his father during his lifetime.  They suggested,

"If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants."

Rehoboam didn't like the sound of that.  He was a young man hungry for power.  He was looking forward  to a lifetime of being served, not a life time of serving.  So he sought out the opinion of the young men with whom he had grown up and who were now serving him.  They suggested,

"Tell these people who have said to you, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'-tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.' "

Ah, that's better.  That's just what a young, new king wants to hear. 

When the crowds assembled again he gave them his answer - the advice given to him by his mates.  And, as you would imagine, Israel was not well pleased.  So much so that they picked up and left, went back to their homes and put themselves under the rule of Jereboam.  Rehoboam was left with one tribe to rule over, Judah, where he resided.  And just like that, the kingdom of Israel was split in two, as God had told Jereboam it would happen. 

This tragic story highlights the importance of seeking out wise counsel when we are faced with big and important decisions - and then listening to it!  And what constitutes wise counsel?  Rehoboam went to the right place first.

King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime.

There are two hallmarks of a wise one.  One is age.  It is a brave friend who will give wise, truthful advice.  Mostly we speak the words our friends want to hear.  We want to preserve our friendships.  And I guess Rehoboam's friends, who happened to be in his service, probably wanted to preserve their livelihoods...and their lives...in addition to his friendship.  Of course you would say what your friend wanted to hear if you were in their shoes.  Those older than us are more likely to tell it as it is.  We approach our elders for advice, not to be our best buddies.  And so they will give us their advice. 

The other hallmark is experience.  Someone older than us but with no experience of our circumstances may not be the best person from whom to receive advice.  Rehoboam went straight to the ones with the most experience in the land - to the elders who had served his father - elders who knew the kingdom and the ins and outs of ruling it inside out.  They knew what would work in this situation and they made their call.

So why does this chapter always stand out for me?  Well, it's not a hard and fast rule because there are some young people with extremely wise heads on their shoulders, but it is a good principle.  I appreciate being reminded that it is important to seek out the counsel of the wise, to be wise in choosing whose feet to sit at and then to have the humility to listen to their counsel.

25 June 2010

Bob Hostetler's 31 Ways to Pray for your Children


I love Bob Hostetler's Prayer Programme for Children so much that I emailed him and asked for permission to reproduce the programme here.  That permission was granted so here it is. If these prayers are new to you, print them out and have a go with them for a month, praying them for yourself or for someone you love.  It will be time well spent for the Kingdom.

1 SALVATION - "Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory" (Isaiah 45:8, 2 Timothy 2:10).

2 GROWTH IN GRACE - "I pray that they may 'grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'" (2 Peter 3:18).

3 LOVE - "Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to 'live a life of love,' through the Spirit who dwells in them" (Ephesians 5:2, Galatians 5:22).

4 HONESTY AND INTEGRITY - " May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection" (Psalm 25:21, NLT).

5 SELF CONTROL - " Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be 'alert and self-controlled' in all they do" (1 Thessalonians 5:6)

6 A LOVE FOR GOD'S WORD - " May my children grow to find your Word 'more precious than gold, than much pure gold; [and] sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb'" (Psalm 19:10).

7 JUSTICE - " God, help my children to love justice as you do and to 'act justly' in all they do" (Psalm 11:7, Micah 6:8).

8 MERCY - "May my children always, 'be merciful, as [their] Father is merciful.'" (Luke 6:36)



9 RESPECT (FOR SELF, OTHERS AND AUTHORITY) - " Father, grant that my children may 'show proper respect to everyone,' as your Word commands" (1 Peter 2:17a).

10 STRONG BIBLICAL SELF-ESTEEM - " Help my children develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are 'God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus'" (Ephesians 2:10).

11 FAITHFULNESS - "' Let love and faithfulness never leave [my children],' but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts" (Proverbs 3:3).

12 COURAGE - "May my children always 'Be strong and courageous' in their character and in their actions" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

13 PURITY - "'Create in [them] a pure heart, O God,' and let their purity of heart be shown in their actions" (Psalm 51:10).

14 KINDNESS - "Lord, may my children 'always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else'" (1 Thessalonians 5:15).


15 GENEROSITY - "Grant that my children may 'be generous and willing to share [and so] lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age'" (1 Timothy 6:18-19).

16 PEACE, PEACABILITLY - "Father, let my children 'make every effort to do what leads to peace'" (Romans 14:19).


17 JOY - " May my children be filled 'with the joy given by the Holy Spirit'" (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

18 PERSEVERANCE - " Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to 'run with perseverance the race marked out for [them]'" (Hebrews 12:1).


19 HUMILITY - " God, please cultivate in my children the ability to 'show true humility toward all'" (Titus 3:2).

20 COMPASSION - " Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion" (Colossians 3:12).

21 RESPONSIBILITY -  " Grant that my children may learn responsibility, 'for each one should carry his own load'" (Galatians 6:5).

22 CONTENTMENT - " Father, teach my children 'the secret of being content in any and every situation. . . . through him who gives [them] strength'" (Philippians 4:12-13).


23 FAITH - " I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children's hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them" (Luke 17:5-6, Hebrews 11:1-40).

24 A SERVANT HEART - " God, please help my children develop servant hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, 'as to the Lord, and not to men'" (Ephesians 6:7, KJV).



25 HOPE - " May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).

26 THE WILLINGNESS AND ABILITY TO WORK HARD - " Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work hard at everything they do, 'as working for the Lord, not for men'" (Colossians 3:23).

27 A PASSION FOR GOD - " Lord, please instill in my children a soul that "followeth hard after thee," a heart that clings passionately to you (Psalm 63:8, KJV).

28 SELF-DISCIPLINE - " Father, I pray that my children may develop self-discipline, that they may acquire 'a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair'" (Proverbs 1:3).

29 PRAYERFULNESS - " Grant, Lord, that my children's lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to 'pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests" (Ephesians 6:18).

30 GRATITUDE - " Help my children to live lives that are always 'overflowing with thankfulness,' 'always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ'" (Colossians 2:7, Ephesians 5:20).

31 A HEART FOR MISSIONS - " Lord, please help my children to develop a heart for missions, a desire to see your glory declared among the nations, your marvelous deeds among all peoples" (Psalm 96:3).


Copyright Bob Hostetler (http://www.bobhostetler.com/). Used with the permission of the author.  

24 June 2010

A Disturbing Trend - and a Tribute to my Dad

So, we have a new Prime Minister.  Last night at 10pm AEST Prime Minister Kevin Rudd emerged from crisis meetings to announce that Julia Gillard, his deputy, had challenged him to a ballot for the leadership.  It was to take place at 9am AEST this morning. 

This morning Julia Gillard emerged from that caucus meeting the new Prime Minister, elected unopposed, after Kevin Rudd decided not to contest the leadership ballot.  He is the first Prime Minister to be ousted before even completing his first term.

At this point I should say that
1. I have nothing against Kevin Rudd,
2. or Julia Gillard,
3. or Tony Abbott for that matter, and
4. I am politically naive.  Extremely so.

That said, today is an historic moment in Australian history.  We have our first woman Prime Minister. 

And I feel something between sad and outraged.

I caught wind of these events last night, slept poorly, woke up to the news and then, in a moment of unusual political outspokenness, changed my Facebook status to say,

Meredith disagrees with political parties, state and federal, spilling their leadership positions at the first sign of trouble. Where is the strength in that? I guess we live in a throw away society...

It's a disturbing trend.  When things get difficult, the party throws out the current leader, be they in government or opposition, in the hope that someone new at the top will turn the polls around.  A new leader means a policy gone wrong can be overturned.  But then we have a blurring of what the different parties stand for and an attempt at a quick fix to a complex problem.  It's all about the polls and has little to do with governing.

There is no strength in that.  There is no leadership in that.  There is little opportunity to govern in a climate like that.  And this trend has been on the rise in state and federal politics over last five or so years.

Mind you, it has happened once before.  Apparently when Malcolm Fraser tipped Gough Whitlam out of office during the 1970s my dad was outraged.  I was too young to be aware of what was going on, but those old enough to understand in our household were apparently tip-toeing about the place for quite a while because Dad was so upset.  I have often smiled at the thought of this...but never really understood it because I am rarely passionate about things political.  But today I think I understand.

20 June 2010

This Year's Bible Reading Plan - Mid Year Review

As I blogged here, I have been using this Bible reading plan this year.  It has involved reading a portion of the Old Testament, the New Testament and a Psalm each day.  It runs through the Old Testament and New Testament in order, front to back, and across the course of an entire calendar year you get to read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. 

I have really enjoyed reading the Bible in this way.  Initially I found it a little disjointed but that's because for the last ten or more years, as I have endeavoured to read through the Bible each year, each day's reading has been from only one section of the Bible at a time.  So it did take a while to settle into moving across three sections of the Bible each day.  But I am well into this routine now and am loving it.

This particular reading plan has been really thoughtfully constructed.  Each day there is anything from three to six chapters of the Bible to read, depending on the length of the chapters.  For example, if there is a particularly long Old Testament chapter, then they only list the one OT chapter for reading that day.  Other days there may be three shorter chapters to read.  It has been all worked out so that each day's reading is approximately the same length.  I can get through the set reading in about 15 to 20 minutes if I don't pause to meditate or pray.

Now in ten days time we will turn the calendar over to the new month of July.  And this reading plan reaches its half way point.  On 1st July the reading plan starts at 1Chronicles (and here is some help to navigate Chronicles) and it starts back at the beginning of the New Testament and Psalms.  So if you are floundering about and would like a good plan, I warmly recommend you have a tilt at this one.  You have ten days to have a think about this, pray about it, print the plan out and get yourself prepared for 1st July.  Go on.  You won't be sorry.

The Bible is God's Bible; and when I see it, I seem to hear a voice springing up from it, saying, "I am the book of God; man, read me. I am God's writing; open my leaf, for I was penned by God; read it, for he is my author, and you will see him visible and manifest everywhere. —Charles Spurgeon

(From Charles Spurgeon's sermon of 18th March 1855  HT: Desiring God)

18 June 2010

The Journey

The road is difficult, the desert is tedious- sometimes perilous from its smoothness, or painful from its roughness; its straitness now wearying, its intricacy now embarrassing. But who will complain of the path that conducts him to his home? Who would yield to the sensation of fatigue who is journeying to an eternal rest? Much of the disquietude and repining of spirit peculiar to the pilgrimage of the saints, arises from the faint conceptions which the mind forms of the coming glory.   We think too faintly and too seldom of heaven. The eye is bent downwards, and seldom do we ‘lift up our heads’ in prospect of the ‘redemption that draws near.’ And yet how much there is in the thought of glory, in the anticipation of heaven- its nature and associations calculated to stimulate, to cheer, and to allure us onwards! It is the place where we shall be sinless; it is the residence where we shall see God; it is the mansion where we shall be housed with Christ; it is the home where we shall dwell with all the saints; it is the home at which are collecting all the holy of earth, some of whom have left our embrace for its holier and happier regions, and whom we shall meet again.

From Grace and Truth by Octavius Winslow  HT: The Octavius Winslow blog

17 June 2010

Going out on a Limb with Biddulph's Stage Three

So, there has been a little conversation happening in the comments section here and more so here in response to the Raising Boys posts.  And over the course of these comments I have basically declared my hand.  My personal expertise, when it comes to raising boys (or girls for that matter but we don't have any of those around here), stops on their thirteenth birthday and just for now, having only just reconciled myself to the fact that Stage One is behind us and we have entered Stage Two, I am burying my head in the sand like any good ostrich would do with regards to the teenage years.  Apparently the ostrich believes that if it can't see its attacker, then the attacker can't see it.  I'm good with that!

But seriously, over the course of the above comments I have also come out saying that I am not convinced about all that Biddulph has to say about teenagers.   A brave call really, especially for one who has just made the claim to having no expertise with teenagers!!  (Brave...or inconsistent.  You choose!)  My issue is this...what Biddulph has to say about Stages One and Two is reasonably universal and it seems easy enough to run with his principles over a foundation of teaching children to love Jesus and to trust and honour God's Word.  But some of the material for Stage Three doesn't sit well with biblical principles.   

Biddulph's major emphasis for teenagers, as previously mentioned, is that they need a mentor and I heartily agree with that.  However his other dedicated chapter for raising teenagers is entitled "Developing a Healthy Sexuality" and I have to say that I felt pretty uncomfortable with some of what he had to say.  The bottom line (if I can seriously use the word "bottom" at this point) is that Raising Boys is a secular book written for secular times and there are parts of it that just don't support the Christian world view that the right and exclusive context for sex is in marriage.  Which is fine. It would be COMPLETELY wrong of me to apply my Christian principles to a secular text.

Biddulph addresses teenage sexuality in a balanced, open and honest way - just like the rest of the book.  He helpfully highlights all sorts of potential danger areas and his honourable aim, as it says on the back cover,  is to help boys learn a caring attitude towards sex.  To a point this is all well and good.    But along the way things are mentioned that just don't fit with my Christian view of the world.  Thinking about this part of the book raises a problem. 

And the problem is this...the physiological reality of hormones, growing bodies and growing sexual awareness during the teenage years are not going to go away just because we will tell our boys that we believe the right place for sex is in marriage.  So what do we do about it? Furthermore, our boys will be at school and out and about with others who won't share our views.  We won't be wanting to keep our heads in the sand (well, I won't be wanting to keep my head in the sand...I'll own it) for too long.

Obviously I have been thinking about this a bit lately, even though we have only just entered Stage Two.  Yesterday I have the joy of sharing an impromptu breakfast (after school drop off) with two friends from church - one a little under twenty years younger than me (single, no children) and the other a few years shy of twenty years older  than me (married with children all grown up) - and I introduced this topic of discussion. 

We were all agreed that some of preparing children for their teenage years and then guiding teenagers through those years comes about through talking to them.  Talking to them about the physiological reality of hormones, growing bodies and growing sexual awareness...and about self control, respect, honouring God and honouring and respecting one another.  We also agreed that talking to God with and for our children and teenagers about these issues is paramount.

And we decided that a lot of learning happens by observation and osmosis.  If children and teenagers see others relating to one another in honourable and respectful ways, this speaks volumes.  This starts with boys observing their father treating his wife with love, respect and kindness. And then how dad (and mum) treat others in their sphere - relatives, friends, people at church, people at work, tradesmen, people in service industries...  Boys will learn about self control, respect, honour and godliness through observation and this will help to inform their own views on many aspects of life, including sexuality.

Now when the time comes I may need some finer detail and support.  I do well with books but on this issue, Raising Boys is not going to be enough.  So I need to ask, does anyone out there have any suggestions about good reading material from a Christian perspective about raising teenage boys so that come the time I want to get my head out of the sand, I've got somewhere to go? 

10 June 2010

Highlights from Raising Boys

Here are a few of the highlights from my latest read through of Raising Boys, with particular reference to Stage Two boys.

Mums and dads remain important across all three stages.  Even though Stage One is primarily the mother's domain, Stage Two the father's domain and Stage Three the trusted mentor's domain, both parents, preferably happily married, are important right through.  This theme ran at the foundation of this book. 

And for mums it is important to keep both communication and physical affection up during all stages.  Biddulph rightly observes that some boys love hugs from their mums across all the stages but for others, hugs from mum become off limits.  In these situations it is important to find other ways to show affection like tousling hair or tickling, just to maintain that closeness, against the day when real comfort is needed.

Interesting information about testosterone.  At birth a baby boy has as much testosterone in his bloodstream as a twelve year old boy.  This settles down after a few months.  There is a surge at age four (oh yes!) but the levels drop again at five, just in time for school.  Between eleven and thirteen the levels surge again, reach their peak at fourteen and don't truly settle until the mid-twenties.  The surges result in rapid growth and at their peaks, the whole central nervous system has to rewire itself.  The peaks will bring times of irrationality, disorganisation and to quote Steve Biddulph himself, moments when "mother and father have to act as his substitute brain for a while!" (p. 37)  Forewarned is forearmed.  Moreover, this little amount of information may help to navigate these times with some understanding, patience and compassion.

Left brain-right brain stuff.  The left side of the brain is concerned with language and reasoning.  The right side of the brain is concerned with movement, emotion and the sense of space and position.  In girls the two sides of the brain are well connected but boys have less synapses connecting one side to the other.  So we need to develop the connections.  One way is to read to boys.  Biddulph recommends reading aloud to boys, even when they can read for themselves, up to eight years of age and older if possible and also telling them stories.

Explaining how things work - lots and lots of this - also helps.  Explaining how things work isn't just about the inner workings of cars, computers and the like.  It's about explaining how traffic rules work, money, rules of a game, how a meal is prepared, how a shopping list is prepared, the steps taken to make a decision - concrete things right through to abstract systems.

Boys also need to be taught order.  This will create a few more left and right brain connections!  They need to be taught systems for tidying their rooms, doing their homework, tackling a project in small sections, routines, time management, how to use a diary. 

I know some of this for a fact from teaching.  My last five years of teaching were spent teaching children in their final year of primary school.  If the boys mastered the use of a homework diary...which takes in all sorts of things including time management, breaking tasks down into smaller components and prioritising...and in some cases it took all year to master this skill...but if this skill was mastered, I felt confident to release them into the big wide world of high school and beyond.  This was my greatest goal for each child in their final year of primary school. 

And I know from life at home now that if I ask our sons to clean up their rooms then we generally don't have much success.  If I ask them to pick up all their clothes and then report back, and then pick up all the lego and then report back, and then pick up all the paper/books/craft activities and then report back...we have much more success.  (All the better if this is done in the context of a game or competition)!  It is all about teaching a system (favourite phrases include "Find a home for everything and then stick to it" and "Put away, not down") and teaching how to break a task down into small achievable units.

Boys need to be taught how to do housework and for a couple reasons, quite aside from the fact that their future wives will love you for it.
1.  It's another way of developing connections between the left and right sides of the brain.  The left side of the brain is used to work out systems of cleaning/doing and the right side is used with regard to space and position (and perhaps also the expression of emotion!!) so lots of synapses will connect when boys do housework!
2.  Boys, like men, don't like talking face to face.  They prefer to talk while doing something, preferably side by side.  So chatting over the dishes, while cooking at the kitchen bench, cleaning windows, doing the laundry, learning how to scrub out a shower recess...skills are being learned in the midst of an opportunity for conversation.

Biddulph particulary emphasised cooking as especially beneficial and on page 96 gave a delightful list of things boys like to cook...

Home made pizzas
Grills (fishfingers, chicken, sausages and chops) and barbecues.  (He also mentioned tofu in that list but I don't think so...)
Pancakes and ommelettes
Tossed salads
Hamburgers and steak sandwiches
Pasta and bottled sauce
Roast lamb and chicken (Really???  I can only just do this myself!!)
Stirfried vegetables and rice
Biscuits, cakes, muffins and festive (ie. Christmas) treats.

Finding those mentors.  When boys reach their teenage years it seems important to have a trusted third party - someone whose company a boy enjoys and whose opinion he respects.  The mentor then gets to be the boy's sounding board, if he can't approach his parents because of the natural separation taking place. 

I know when I taught year seven students I would always tell the parents at my information meeting at the start of the year that if they had any messages they wanted me to pass onto their children to let me know, because how often have we heard a child say, "My teacher said..." and it is exactly the point you have been trying to hammer home for the last six months!!  I also used to tell the parents to do their best to see homework done but not to ruin their relationships with their own children - and that I would do the "ranting and raving" because I wasn't there to be their best buddy.  Better to be on good terms but if I had to say the hard things then I would - it seemed to me that it was more important that parents and their children  preserved their relationships during that delicate last year of primary school.  It's not about parents abrogating their responsibilities.  These are examples of using a teacher as a mentor - part of the team of three in Stage Three.*

So the thing is to have mentors in place before they are needed.  Enter stage left godparents!  Or sympathetic teachers, a dearly loved uncle or older cousin, a sports coach, someone at church...  What is important is to spend the relative easier years of Stage Two fostering relationships with other families and interests in sports or the like so that these people will be around, connected and on board in a natural way when the era of the mentor is upon us.

Plenty to ponder there.  And plenty to put into action. 

*  I used to say to the children, nearly every day, "Rules for life - be nice to your teacher and be nice to your mummy and all will go well for you."

07 June 2010

Raising Boys

I have recently re-read Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph.  I first read this book a bit over seven years ago just after our first son was born and at the time it seemed very good.  It's not a new book now - first published in1997 - so I did wonder how it would stand the test of time.  Turns out though, in my view, that it's still a great book for parents of boys.

I did however get a couple of shocks.

Shock Number One.
Second page in. These words, with the title, "Boys at Risk"...

Today it's the girls who are more sure of themselves, motivated, hard working.  Boys are often adrift in life, failing at school, awkward in relationships, at risk for violence, alcohol and drugs, and so on.  The differences start early - visit any pre-school and see for yourself.  The girls work together happily; the boys 'hoon' around like Indians around a wagon train.  They annoy the girls and fight with each other.

In primary school the boys' work is often sloppy and inferior.  By the time they reach grade three, most boys don't read books any more.  They speak in one word sentences: 'Huh?', "Awwyeah!'  In  high school they don't join in with debating, concerts, councils or any non-sport activity.  They pretend not to care about anything, and that 'it's cool to be a fool.'

Teenage boys are quite unsure about relationships and how to get girls to like them.  Some become painfully shy, others are aggressive and unpleasant when girls are around.  They seem to lack even the most basic conversation skills.

And the bottom line, of course, is safety.  By fifteen years of age boys are three times more likely than girls to die from all causes combined - but especially from accidents, violence and suicide.

There's grim reading.  Enough to fill the heart of a mother of two boys with great fear.  So what's to be done?  Biddulph goes on to explain the three stages of boyhood.  Having some insight into the particular stages of boyhood will guide our approach to boys.

Stage One is from birth to age six, where boys, like girls, need lots of people to love them but need at least one person with which to form a special bond.  That person is usually their mum.

Stage Two is from age six to thirteen, where boys start learning to be male.  Mum is still important (and this gets plenty of emphasis) but this is the point where dad gets to step in and take an interest, be involved and model manhood in a positive way.

Stage Three is age fourteen and beyond, when boys are moving into the adult world.  Mum and dad are still important.  But this is the time when boys will start separating from their parents and at this stage it is good to have one or more great male role models to step in and act as mentor, and all the better if this is done in sympathy with the parents.

And there in lies Shock Number Two.
We are basically out of Stage One!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know.  I ought not to be surprised.  I have been quietly doing a happy dance on the inside, celebrating my emergence from the toddler years.  My epiphany centred around the fact that both our boys will be in full time school next year.  The act of deciding to re-read this book came about because I vaguely remembered the bit about boys just needing lots of love from Mummy for the first six years but then recalling that things would change.  This should not have been a surprise.

And yet, seeing it in print like that...well, I was shocked.  Maybe even a little aggrieved.  Not only are we into Stage Two but we also need to be busy about getting good mentors ready to enter at stage left as required when we find ourselves merging into Stage Three.

But it wasn't all gloomy.  Raising Boys is a great read for parents of boys (and, I might add, for teachers.)  However this post is already too long so I'll blog my Raising Boys highlights next post.