I recently joined a great online homeschooling community, Our Lifestyle of Learning, in which I’ve found an interesting discussion going on among some of the mommies in the “Dirty Stinky Boys” group concerning boys and “Weapons!”, prompted by this great article Molly Evert wrote called “Boys and Weapons”. I could totally relate to Molly’s post, in a few ways! So take a minute, click over to this Counter Cultural Mom’s blog to read it, and then come on back over here to finish reading what I have to say! Go ahead…
Great thoughts, huh? I had to laugh from the start, since our experience with our oldest, who is our only son and now 13.5 years old, started out very similar when he was a mere toddler and we were also young, new parents. I too had declared that our son wouldn’t play with toy guns, nor any other violent-type toys or games, thinking that they should be more respected than that. Chris is a hunter, and we strongly believe in the importance of supporting our second amendment right to own and bear arms. However, I had decided that until he was old enough to learn how to mindfully use and respect a real gun, our little boy didn’t need to be pretending about it… My intentions were noble and my heart was in the right place… right? Yup.
N has always been a very gentle-spirited boy, but he is still a boy, none the less. When he was two years old he asked for a baby doll when he saw them in the store, and so we bought him one, with blue clothing! Interestingly, he was all about nurturing that little baby for quite some time, same as our two little girls have done at that age. However, he outgrew it much quicker than they ever did (though he still affectionately keeps his beloved stuffed animal doggie, “David”, that his Grandmother gave him when he was three).
Over the years we have had numerous comments from other adults about how considerate, kind, and thoughtful he is. However, there is still that wild and daring boy in him too, which is always craving adventure and dangerous foes to conquer! From the time he was just a tot, he loved his toy trucks, playing in the dirt and… guns! I remember wondering where he’d even gotten the idea? Was it from Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, catching sight of one of his little bud’s plastic arsenals, or had he seen his Daddy cleaning one of his own guns? Even so, how did he know what they were at this tender, young age?! I will never forget the moment when I realized I had chosen a losing stance in a battle that maybe wasn’t worth fighting after all.
He was no more than three years old when I walked into his bedroom one day and found him squatted over some brightly colored creation that he was intently working on assembling with his duplo blocks. He quickly held it up proudly for me to see, and it was then that I realized that this innocent little guy of mine, my baby, since he had no toy guns or weapons of any sort in our home, had just fashioned a nice little “gun that goes pow” for himself to play with! What to do, what to do?!
I vividly remember standing there a bit perplexed, yet smiling in amusement at both myself – for my own naivity in thinking that I would actually keep him from this – something that was apparently such an innate part of him, and at him for his ingenuity! Something within me clicked, released the anxiety I’d had, and began to understand my boy a little bit better that day.
I thoughtfully sat down with him to admire his creation and to have a talk about what we can shoot with our guns (“only an animal that we intend to eat, because guns are tools with a purpose and must be respected, as must the animals, whose lives should not be wasted”), versus what we cannot shoot at (“we do not aim at, nor shoot at people or animals- just for fun”). He seemed to understand and nodding his agreement, tromped off to go a-hunting! It had begun… Here he was only three years old, and already answering this primal desire to hunt, fight and triumph in his manhood!
There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.
~ Mark Twain
Over the next few years, his play arsenal grew, as he acquired toy swords, rubber knives and an assortment of toy pistols, rifles and little army and pirate men. He and his friends found that their favorite games included either wrestling and grappling each other to the ground or taking turns burying each other in the sandy dirt behind our house. Yes, the army men eventually led to more talks as we discussed war, and how sometimes men do shoot at other men and I found myself silently praying for guidance even as I navigated through challenging topics of discussion with my five year old boy… “Yes, there is a time for war, self-defense and so on.”
Once again, I found myself in strange, new territory as little N re-enacted battles we read of in history and literature together, as he happily became the heroe of fairy tales and collected GI Joes, setting up epic battle sequences among his Bionicles. I’ll always fondly remember the comical positions I’d find his little GI Joe men in- all over the house- roped up and hanging by strings from lamps, chairs and buried up to their necks in the back yard.
Chris and I have often prayed for wisdom and discernment as we lead and teach our children, and you can be assured this area has been one in which we’ve gone to the Lord and sought His guidance in regards to what boundaries we should set many times. I know that I’ve had a lot more qualms about guns and war-play than Chris ever has, but Chris has always been so considerate and respectful so as to defer to my misgivings and patiently supported my decisions to not allow (or delaying access to, as it turned out) various things over the years.
It has been interesting to me to see how it’s all played out over the years really, and how my own convictions have gradually changed as N has gotten older, which I think has been appropriate timing-wise. I’ve come to a place now where I really do believe that there’s a balance to be had, somewhere between totally forbidding any toy weapons or play-fighting, war-pretending, etc. whatsoever versus allowing boys to have all the toy weapons that they want without their receiving any thoughtful parental guidance or overseeing of general attitudes and paying attention to the type of pretending going on. Even once we began allowing toy weapons, we were very careful to tune into what the games with friends were about, that violence wasn’t being had for its own sake, and that life was being respected in thoughts and even (pretend) actions. I do remember stepping in and gently redirecting the bent of a game or two when friends were over, or reminding them that the gun was “pointed in the wrong direction- Ooops?!”
I now realize that it was his innocence that I so wanted to protect, and still do. Yet, it has been a journey in listening to both my own instincts, Chris’s thoughts and the Holy Spirit as I’ve been learning how to do that while at the same time letting go enough that he may grow into a strong, vigilant young man, at the pace his Creator intended him to. I do believe that the Lord created boys to be protectors of life and liberty, providers for home and family and ultimately yes – even warriors for Him. Thus, the urge to fight comes naturally to them, yet what they need to be taught is that it comes with a great responsibility to prefer others to themselves, and that true strength is tempered by restraint and mercy.
Over the years, we have changed some of our parameters and restrictions regarding this type of play. At times, it’s been very challenging, in my own mind, to find where to draw the lines. I’ve come to recognize our son’s need to express himself through playing at fighting, and thus conquering evil through *valiant* violence as a valid part of who God has created him to be. Rather than fearing this trait, as I once did, I have determined to be the Lord’s ally in directing it, as his boyish ways are honed towards manhood.
Now that N is 13 going on 14, his thinking is turning towards more abstract ideas and his understanding deepening as he’s becoming interested in the truths of God’s Word on a whole new level, asking questions and sharing insights that astound me, sending me to our heavenly Father in prayer more every day as I further realize the awesomeness of our responsibility as parents to disciple these children entrusted to us for but a short time.
It’s been an exciting and rewarding new adventure in our learning together, as N is readily tuning into the realities of both spiritual warfare, recognizing that the greatest battles are being waged within our own minds, and the complexities of our world’s geopolitical wars being waged among the peoples and principalities of various cultures and religions with all of their differing worldviews vying for the hearts and souls of mankind. Oh, the discussions we have as he eagerly reads everything over our shoulders and gobbles up real books from our home and library’s bookshelves.
For a long time war games such as lazer tag, paintball guns, and air-soft were out of the question for him to play. However, as I saw him maturing and respectfully honoring my wishes, my own convictions as to what would be best for him also began to gradually change. I no longer fret over whether or not he’s wanting to play a game of lazer tag with his friends, or disappearing into the woods for hours of dualing, snipering and air-soft gun battles with his sister (Um yeah, she too loves to don the cammo and join in on the battles with her brother and their friends!). This was quite a hurdle for me to adjust to- them play-shooting at eachother… but to them it’s an innocent sport. While I totally understand and respect those who feel otherwise, I have let go of worrying about it. It honestly no longer concerns me, as I know where his heart is at, and I see that he’s guarding it, seeking Wisdom and choosing Life.
We still will never allow him to play video games with graphic violence or blood spewing (and we’ve never owned an x-box, etc.), though as of this last year, he has been allowed to play an online virtual war game that one of his friends introduced him to and he really enjoys (though I’m still not too terribly fond of it!). We choose our battles, right? What a joy it has been to see this little boy grow and mature over the years.
His interest in weapons and warfare have given way to a genuine intrigue with history and survival skills as well, and in turn a deepening love of honor, a welcome penchant for theology and a healthy disdain for tyranny. His books of choice for his own personal reading time just these last couple of weeks have been his History of US volumes (which he’s been reading through of his own volition this whole last year), Blood and Honor (This is an amazing autobiography that I happened across as I was packing up our bookcases, casually tossed to him yesterday, and now he’s half-way through it, reading me excerpts and commenting passionately!), Gettysburg and Outcast of Redwall. He plans to tackle The Last of the Mohicans next, and these are all titles that he’s choosing to read on his own time! The spontaneous, inspired narrations that Chris and I are getting from his readings are phenomenal and quite informative as to where his head is at!
I am continually, prayerfully reminding our kids that their strongest weapon, to be wielded against our truest enemy, is the Word of Adonai. When they whine over having to write or apply themselves to grammar and miscellaneous other studies they find inconvenient, I duly remind them that they are merely learning how to handle the tools of their future. They get to hear one of my favorite speeches to give about how, “One day they will thank me for teaching them to use one of the greatest weapons and most useful tools that they’ll ever find; the ability to express their thoughts and convictions through the well written and spoken word.”
… many wearing rapiers are afraid of
goose-quills and dare scarce come thither.
~ In Hamlet, 1600, Shakespeare gave Rosencrantz the line.
In a letter that Thomas Jefferson sent to Thomas Paine in 1796, he wrote:
Go on doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword.
I remind our son of this truism often. We are teaching our children that guns do not necessarily equal violence or war. They actually serve as a preventative, and a deterrent to war and crime where the common, law-abiding people/citizens have the right to keep and bear arms. I am thankful that my son has a Father who is teaching him to not only respect weapons, but how to handle, care for and fire guns safely. Yes, sometimes my own fears do come flooding back over me when we’re target shooting, and I am reminded of the sheer power of guns. But then I remind myself that our childrens’ best defense against them, and their freedom, is knowledge, respect and ownership of them. Therefore, I do not mind that N is diligently saving his money to purchase a .22, nor that he has amassed quite a collection of real knives in the last couple of years.
Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
As a mother, I certainly wouldn’t want to stunt my son’s growth towards manhood, and as he’s getting older, I’m carefully trying to be balanced and discerning of my own misgivings, as to whether they are legitimate and founded. I do hope that I won’t ever be guilty of contributing to an effeminate disposition, something that I’m afraid too many mothers are guilty of from their over coddling and protectiveness.
Here’s a picture of N (the red head in the middle) that I took two years ago, of him and two of his buddies preparing for an afternoon of playing air-soft in the fields and woods behind our house. No, those are not gas masks (though they are eerily reminiscent of them, no?), but protective head gear! T, who normally would have been in the mix here, happened to have been playing “Breyer horses” at a friend’s house instead on this particular day.
Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence… From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to ensure peace, security, and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable…The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference–they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.
~ George Washington
Number of physicians in the U.S. : 700,000
Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year : 120,000
Accidental deaths per physician : 0.171
Number of gun owners in the U.S. : 80,000,000
Number of accidental gun deaths per year
(all age groups) : 1,500
Accidental deaths per gun owner : 0.0000188
Therefore, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous
than gun owners. Hmmmm…
excerpted from: The Right to Bear Arms
Embracing the adventure,