Little boys are know-it-alls.
At first I loved that about them.
Tell a little boy he is handsome or strong or smart and, likely, he’ll say, “I know.” And when he stands with his buddies on the doorstep of his prom date’s house, they will say something like, “All the girls want me,” while the girls are inside saying, “I wish my hair looked like yours,” to each other or, sadly, “I look fat in this dress.” And then you realize that knowing it all, for a boy, hides insecurities and doubt.
But a boy’s know-it-allness isn’t always so transparent or endearing. It can wear you down, commencing as it does on the heels of the “why?” stage (that one doesn’t last all that long, so don’t let it bother you) and sometimes lasting until a few years after he has left your house for good.
Once, standing in the middle of our kitchen, I stomped my foot when two of our sons calmly asserted that they knew the answer to some cosmic question we’d been discussing. (Mystery? Boys do not accept that they exist.) I stomped my foot and said, “I had a higher SAT score than either of you!”
They arched their eyebrows at me, and I blushed. Know-it-alls make me so mad. I’d forgotten—again—that I was the adult in the room.
Tell a little boy he is handsome or strong or smart and, likely, he’ll say, “I know.”
And I’d forgotten the tool Mary Poppins taught me.
I remember it now so clearly. The boys and I were piled on our scratchy, blue plaid couch watching Mary Poppins. This had to have been early in my boy-mothering years, according to the couch. Besides, later on our boys would have nixed Mary Poppins in favor of a movie about dinosaurs or vigilante puppets, anything but singing and umbrellas and chalk art. Mary and the two Banks children are walking in the park and Michael says something ridiculous. Something only a know-it-all little boy would say. And Mary says, in that chirpy, no-nonsense way of hers:
“You know best.”
End of discussion.
I remember thinking, “I can say that?”
I don’t have to argue or correct? I don’t have to quote “Let someone else praise you and not your own mouth” to them from Proverbs? I don’t have to entertain my niggling little fear that they will be know-it-alls forever? I don’t have to freak out?
Of course Michael Banks did not know best. And neither did our boys … not for a long time. But, more often than I’d like to admit, neither did I. Then or now.
I guess what Mary Poppins taught me is to not let the know-it-alls (we did have four of them, after all) ruffle my feathers. To bide my time.
Because life and peers and God Himself have a way of bringing the know-it-all down to earth. Because there will come a day when one of your sons will sit across from you, yes, you, in a restaurant and ask all the right questions about his life and his future.
And another, who is by now a husband and a father, will call his dad and say, “Dad, my word for this year is humility. And I realized I don’t know anything about being humble , so would you have breakfast with me every other week and teach me? You’re the most humble man I know.”
And one will flop on your bed late at night and say, “My girlfriend and I want to know what you and Dad think of our relationship.”
And yet another, when you tell him what a beautiful woman, inside and out, he has married and how lovely his new daughter is, will say, “I know, I know. And I don’t deserve any of it … it’s all pure grace.”
And, when these miracles happen, you’ll look up and say, “You know best,” because the only cure for your own know-it-all heart is to say those words to God over and over and over.