Manvotional: What Is a Boy?

by Brett & Kate McKay on December 19, 2009 · 25 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals


The holiday season can make any man feel like a boy again. So this week we thought we’d share a stupendous definition of boyhood that was penned in 1949. It’s a good for refresher for men who want to retain some of their boyish spirit and an excellent reminder for the fathers of sons to cherish their time with their little rascals.

What Is a Boy?

By Alan Beck

Between the innocence of babyhood and the dignity of manhood, we find a delightful creature called a boy. Boys come in assorted sizes, weights and colors, but all boys have the same creed: to enjoy every second of every minute of every hour of every day and to protest with noise (their only weapon) when their last minute is finished and the adult males pack them off to bed at night.

Boys are found everywhere—on top of, underneath, inside of, climbing on, swinging from, running around or jumping to. Mothers love them, little girls hate them, older sisters and brothers tolerate them, adults ignore them and Heaven protects them. A boy is Truth with dirt on its face, Beauty with a cut on its finger, Wisdom with bubble gum in its hair and the Hope of the future with a frog in its pocket.

When you are busy a boy is an inconsiderate, bothersome, intruding jangle of noise. When you want him to make a good impression, his brain turns to jelly or else he becomes a savage, sadistic, jungle creature bent on destroying the world and himself with it.

A boy is a composite—he has the appetite of a horse, the digestion of a sword swallower, the energy of a pocket-size atomic bomb, the curiosity of a cat, the lungs of a dictator, the imagination of a Paul Bunyan, the shyness of a violet, the audacity of a steel trap, the enthusiasm of a fire cracker, and when he makes something he has five thumbs on each hand.

He likes ice cream, knives, saws, Christmas, comic books, the boy across the street, woods, water (in its natural habitat), large animals, Dad, trains, Saturday mornings and fire engines.

He is not much for Sunday school, company, schools, books without pictures, music lessons, neckties, barbers, girls, overcoats, adults, or bedtime.

Nobody else is so early to rise or so late to supper. Nobody else gets so much fun out of trees, dogs and breezes. Nobody else can cram into one pocket-a rusty knife, a half eaten apple, three feet of string, an empty Bull Durham sack, two gum drops, six cents, a sling shot, a chunk of unknown substance and a genuine supersonic code ring with a secret compartment.

A boy is a magical creature—you can lock him out of your workshop, but you can’t lock him out of your heart. You can get him out of your study, but you can’t get him out of your mind.

Might as well give up—he is your captor, your jailer, your boss and your master–a freckled-faced, pint-sized, cat-chasing, bundle of noise.

But when you come home at night with only the shattered pieces of your hopes and dreams—he can mend them like new with the two magic words—”Hi Dad!

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan December 20, 2009 at 1:17 am

Oh, this is my son! It is him perfectly! Such a great post!

2 Katrina in Wa December 20, 2009 at 1:54 am

I am the extremely lucky mother of four boys. I have always loved this poem. Being the mother of boys has given me the blessed experience of a second childhood far removed from my own “girly girl” one!

3 Richard Shelmerdine December 20, 2009 at 5:01 am

Wow, what a nice article. Really fits into the Christmassy spirit. Reminds me of my little brother (8 years old)

4 Nicolas Alessandro December 20, 2009 at 7:07 am

In one word: “Extreme!”.

5 Bruce Wise December 20, 2009 at 7:18 am

What a wonderful thing to read, here at the holiday season. I came from a family of three boys, and now I’m the proud father of three of my own. I’ve pretty much been around boys all my life. The article really nailed it for me. It was written sixty years ago (the year I was born) but every word of it still rings true today. Thank you!

6 NOEL December 20, 2009 at 8:21 am

My son is my most valuable asset

7 Patrick H. Ouzts December 20, 2009 at 10:54 am

Sadly, I don’t remeber much of my boyhood. I remember getting hit with a mudball in the mouth. I remember an uncle making a suit of trashbags as protection for destroying a hornet nest. I remeber waiting at McDonalds for my dad to pick me up for the weekend. That last one is where, I think, I lost my boyhood memories. I don’t know if something with my parent’s divorce broke my rememberer. I remeber my adolescence pretty well but I hope my boyhood was like this post.

8 Cory December 20, 2009 at 10:57 am

This is definately how my boys will be raised when I have some! Fantastic article!

9 Joe DeGiorgio December 20, 2009 at 3:33 pm

The final part of this Manvotional is perfect—no matter the result of any day spent at work, walking through the door to the greeting of your son (or daughter) gives it the ending that makes everything right. Another great AoM post!

10 Adam Garratt December 20, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Really cool post, a nice thing to read this time of year, you know when I was a boy I used to love hanging out with my grampy, we used to make stuff in his shed, and go fishing, sadly he passed away a few years ago now of lung cancer, and I miss him dearly, he was a proper man, hew knew loads of stuff, was alway covered in oil and engine grease, knew how to light a barbeque, and could fix anything, and I mean anything!, god bless him, this post reminds me of all those times I spent with him. Thank you Grampy. :-)

11 Alejandro December 20, 2009 at 11:46 pm

Although written in 1949, it’s one of the best editorials on childhood – especially boyhood – I’ve ever read. I’m forwarding this to everyone on my email list. Thanks for posting it!

12 Marius December 21, 2009 at 12:08 am

Ah, so many things to look forward to as our little baby boy is growing up! Great post!!

13 Erin Garlock December 21, 2009 at 10:18 am

As I once read, “Boy = noise with dirt on it”

14 Charlie December 21, 2009 at 10:40 am

Holy shit, this is amazing.

15 bbaird3 December 21, 2009 at 11:55 am

Boys…..the best thing for making men.

16 JoelMBenge December 22, 2009 at 11:32 am

We’re expecting our first boy any day now. (New Year’s Eve is the “official” due date)

This came as a great morining read. Thank you!

17 Aaron December 22, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Wow! There are days when I can’t wait to hear those words, “Daddy’s Home!!!” Makes life all better!

18 Michelle December 22, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Love this article. I have 5 boys and young men. What an excellent look back in time when those boys were the sweetest little froggies! Thanks so much!!

19 dustin December 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm

i have almost the same sled the kids in the picture have, i found it in the rafters of my garage, it was my dad’s sled when he was a kid, “the old flexible flyer”

20 Sang Ahn December 30, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Boys are indestructible human beings.

I still remember trying to do a jump off a huge grass hill and crashing so bad the bicycle frame bent in half. All i did was brush off the grass and worry about how mad my parents would be that i broke my bike.

21 Melana January 6, 2010 at 2:48 am

I was born in 1949 and I thought I was a boy! I played with my big brother and all his friends and since my mom was a Cub Scout leader, I thought I was a Cub Scout too! Then I grew up and had 2 boys of my own. . . hundreds of bumps, stitches, sprains, fat lips, a few broken bones and concussions later, I have 2 wonderful Men that call me mom, and an old Flexi-Flyer sits by our front door every Christmas.

22 Brad August 5, 2010 at 8:06 am

Awesome!! Try having twin sons! Twice the boy and twice the noise!!!

23 Mike August 12, 2013 at 2:11 am

It was written by Aurthur Godfrey. He also wrote what is a girl. he nailed it.

24 john livingston November 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Bravo! I was a director of a national concert touring boys choir for a number of years. And all I can say is yes – they are all those listings above and one more to boot. They are a sheer joy and delight to work with. They bathe ones soul with joy and gladness. Thank the Lord for boys.

25 John November 4, 2013 at 5:27 am

This article describes my boy, he drives me mad but i love him more everyday

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