How Do You Tame a Son?

Lyrics by Marian Partee

Music by Christina Whitten Thomas

Mother’s Word is a song cycle exploring transformative moments in the lives of mothers in the bible. In “How Do You Tame a Son,” Elizabeth vents to her husband, Zechariah, about their son, John.


Oh, Zechariah, what do we do? The boy has run off again!

One of these days, he’ll fall off a cliff or run in a lion’s den!

He’s always climbing the tallest of trees

Or taking a swim in the roughest of seas.

I’ve never seen someone so eager to roam.

I never know when he’s going to be home.

He never bathes. He burns in the sun.

We tamed a wild donkey once, but how do we tame a son?

Oh, Zechariah, what do we do? The boy is so very odd.

He doesn’t have friends. He talks to himself… or maybe, I guess, to God.

And yesterday, you know what he did? 

He got in a fight with a Pharisee’s kid!

We wiggles away when I give him a hug.

He turns down my cooking and then eats a bug!

He just wears fur! I’m completely undone!

He will not let me tame his hair, so how can I tame our son?

Why can’t John do one thing to appease us? 

Why can’t he be more like his nice cousin, Jesus?

How will he become the great prophet the angel said he’d be?

He won’t even speak to me!

If you can think of some way to help him, go to it!

But we’ll have another angel visit us to say, 

“Sorry, folks. You blew it!”

Oh Zechariah, what have we done? We’ve ruined the boy for life!

He’ll never be fit to hold down a job or marry a decent wife!

I thought that having a baby was bliss, but now I know I’m too old for this!

I’ve finally come to the end of my rope. 

There’s only one thing that can offer me hope.

We’ve got to pray. Oh, Holy One!

You tamed some beasts for Daniel once, so now will you tame our son?

John the Baptist by Caravaggio, 1602