Sometimes I look at my son in all his cherubic, ten-month-old innocence, and feel a vague sense of panic at the realisation that he is not going to be this cute little baby forever. You’d think I’d be less surprised, what with him being our third child, but there’s something about him being the last-born – and the only boy – that makes me wish he would delay the whole growing-up thing. He’s at the age where he’s starting to fight going to sleep (which makes bedtime so much more fun) and where he’s discovering boundaries (the bottom row of the bookshelf and the cat’s food bowls are, in his eyes, playthings). This is part of the reason I jumped at the chance to read Heather Haupt’s Knights In Training.
I received an electronic version of Knights In Training in exchange for an honest review as part of the book launch team. This post contains affiliate links.
Adopting the Knight’s Code
I have come to realise that raising a son comes with its own unique challenges compared to raising daughters. In some ways the challenges are the same, of course, but there are things about sons that I didn’t have to think about when it was just the girls. We’ve always referred to our girls as our princesses, but referring to Rafe as my little prince never sat so comfortably with me. Perhaps it was just my own reaction to all the comments of “Oh, you’ve finally got your boy!” throughout the pregnancy and the course of this year, or the hints that we were expected to spoil him rotten as the only son. But I am totally on board with the idea of a knight, a slayer of dragons and defender of the kingdom.
Heather Haupt, mom to three boys and one girl, was inspired to write Knights In Training by what she saw in her own family when they adopted the Knight’s Code and began training their sons to live a lifestyle of chivalry. Knights In Training is based on the Knight’s Code of Chivalry from the epic Song of Roland. Haupt outlines ten codes for modern-day knights to follow.
The first code, of course, is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. This is what we desire above all for our children. I’m thrilled that this is at the top of the list of the Knight’s Code, and that it is a recurring theme throughout the book.
The other codes include obedience to those in authority, standing against injustice, defending the weak, respecting the honour of women, refraining from wanonly giving offense, speaking the truth, being generous, perseverance, and the pursuit of excellence. These are all biblical ideas. Haupt is clear that faith is crucial to the Code:
“Our knights in training flourish when this foundation is in place because it motivates them to live consistent, compassionate lives of service to both God and the people they encounter each day. Belief in God gives one a reason to live outside of oneself, a reason to live with virtue, and a reason to live with purpose because they recognise that there is an authority outside of themselves or whomever happens to be in charge at that moment.”
The World Needs More Knights
I will confess to ignorance regarding the current pop culture idols. We don’t watch TV, we listen to CDs in the car instead of the radio, and we don’t often buy magazines. Part of it is just the reality of parenting three young children – because who has the time to relax in front of the TV? Who can even stay awake to watch anything?- but it is also a conscious choice. We want to protect our children’s innocence for as long as we can, and there is too much rubbish on TV – even on so-called kids’ channels – and we don’t want out children picking up a catchy tune with dodgy lyrics, thank you very much.
Still, as out of touch as I am, I know that there is a serious lack on the role model front. It’s not such an issue for us now, because the girls are currently emulating the animated Moana, and Rafe is only ten months old and adores his parents, his sisters, and the cat. But before we’re ready for it, they are going to be hero worshipping real people, and I shudder to think of who is out there.
We don’t need more pop stars or reality TV celebrities. We need more knights. We need young men (and yes, women too) to unashamedly say, “Hang on, there’s more to life than this. There’s more to life than me, me, me.” We need people, visibly living in a way that points others to God, being examples of how to love others, modelling selfless generosity and patient perseverance.
In Knights In Training, Haupt talks about the need for good masculine role models for our sons. (Spoiler alert: Disney gets it wrong most of the time.) She stresses the importance of giving them real heroes, like the historical knights, and of teaching them skills and teaching them to work.
Haupt also talks about the importance of discouraging potty humour, which I am all for. (Potty humour is not just a boy thing, alas. We’ve had several conversations with the girls about whether certain jokes or topics are appropriate for little princesses.)
We want Rafe to grow up to respect women, and while I’m pretty sure his two big sisters will help keep him line, it is ultimately our parental responsibility to model this. Little boys have an innate desire to protect their sisters (even when giving in to the urge to torment them!). I have very clear childhood memories of my brother, Eric, stepping in to knight-mode to defend me, his big sister. Once, he headbutted a playmate who refused to give me the doll she was holding. (I don’t know whose doll it was.) Another time, he decapitated a snake that wandered into our camping area where we were playing. I’m pretty sure the snake was harmless, but he was so proud that he’d saved us.
I’m going to stop here, because I don’t want to give away everything in the book. If you have sons, then you need to read Knights In Training.