You know like the stabbing each other with swords and shooting each other with guns type of play.
The response I hear from a lot of parents is simple, "Boys will be boys."
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what that even means. But one thing I am sure of is that while I know they are just pretending, I don't love hearing the words, "I'm going to shoot and kill you" come out of my little boys' mouths. It's pretty disturbing actually.
Our family was taking a walk this past summer and we had a little boy come up to us with a pretend gun that didn't look so pretend. He stuck the gun against Cole's forehead and yelled, "Bang! Bang!"
I kindly asked the boy not to stick his gun in my kids face. Ever since I've become so much more aware of all the violent play children are playing.
I'd rather not get into a discussion about WHY boys play like this. I'm sure there are many innate factors at play along with a plethora of environmental ones. I'm not interested in debating video game playing nor discussing whether or not the 2nd amendment is to blame. I'd just like to share my own humble thoughts and then discuss how we can pray for our kids in this area.
Just the other day as I was working on lunch, Grayden & Cole stomped through the kitchen on a mission to kill some invisible bad man. I asked them why they needed to kill the man, couldn't they just put him in jail.
"But mom," Grayden explains, "he is really bad."
"Okay. But I just don't like hearing you talk about killing a man," I said (well aware I was ruining their fun).
"But mom, he isn't real," he says exasperatingly. "He's invisible."
Well that's a relief.
"Listen. I don't like you pretending to kill a person. Either put him in jail or pretend it's an animal you're hunting to eat."
Even as I'm typing out my handling of the situation I'm well aware that I could have handled it so much more intelligently. But at the time it was the best I had in me. Because like I said earlier, I never really know how to handle the violent play. Should I forbid it? Should I allow it? Where should I draw clear black lines? Where can the lines remain gray? Am I making something out of nothing?
I've talked with lots of people about this, many of them men. And, as you can imagine, I've gotten a wide range of responses and advice...leaving me even more uncertain as to how to handle it.
So recently I've asked the Lord for wisdom and, most importantly, for natural opportunities to impress on my boys the value of life.
God is so good about granting me my requests for opportunities with my kids. And with this request, there was no exception.
For the past few weeks I've been reading a fictional book set during the time of the sinking of the Titanic. One Saturday at lunch, I just happened to mention to Keith how much I was enjoying the book. Interested, the boys asked me what it was about. So I began to tell them the story of the Titanic. Surprisingly, they found it fascinating.
The following week I grabbed a few kid-friendly books at the library about the Titanic. We spent time that afternoon curled up on Cole's bed reading and talking all about the Titanic. At one point while reading one of the books, I looked over at Grayden and he had tears in his eyes. I stopped reading and asked him what was wrong.
"It's just so sad mom. All those people died."
I was totally shocked at his reaction. It isn't as though he is super deep and emotional like this very often. Yet here he was, completely disheartened by the tragedy of the Titanic.
Cue that opportunity I had asked for.
We spent the next several minutes talking about life and death.
We considered the types of people who died on that ship, people very similar and people very different from us.
We talked a little bit about the hurt and pain those people likely felt on that fateful night (both physically and emotionally).
We discussed the greedy and selfish choices made by many in power that led to why so many people ended up dying.
We even talked about the survivors and how they might have felt watching so many people die.
It was heavy. There were a few moments I wondered if it was too heavy for my little guys' hearts and minds. But as the conversation ended I knew they had grown because of it. The truth I hope they took from it is that life has great value.
Did this conversation end all the violent play? Of course not. I'm still trying to figure out if and where lines need to be drawn. But one thing is for sure, God gave me a unique opportunity to talk to my boys about life and death in a very sincere way. Now I have something to draw from and use when I am talking to them about why I don't love hearing and watching them pretend to shoot and kill people. I can remind them that death is real and it can be very sad, so it isn't something to be flippant and careless about.
As I've thought about what I'd specifically like to pray about concerning violent play, I cannot help but to fix my eyes on how God values life.
His compassionate aim is to care for, restore, redeem, renew, and breathe life into all people. What greater proof of how deeply He values us than His act of coming to this earth and laying down His life (a life of unequaled value) for us (1 John 3:16). His desire is that "none would perish" but that "everyone would come to repentance" (1 Peter 3:9). We, His people, are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are His handiwork and can be a beautiful reflection of His glory. Our children must learn to view all people as He does: with great value. Our children must learn to play with this view in mind; and our children must learn to live with this view in mind.
Will you join me in prayer?
I need You in parenting. I need Your wisdom and discernment. Would you help me sift through the parenting options I have and choose the wisest option when it comes to handling my children's violent play. Would you grant me peace and freedom from making this parenting choice out of fear. I also pray and ask that You would instill in my children Your view of people--a view that maintains that all people are greatly valued; a view that compassionately aims to care for, restore, redeem, renew, and breathe life into each and every one of Your children, even the "bad" ones. May they respect human life and, like You, desire that none would perish but that all would come to repentance, finding salvation and restoration in You.