I just experienced a reminder of why I don’t allow Simeon (or any of the boys in my home) to play fight.
I met a friend at the pool. She has two boys, they sandwich Simeon in age. While they were there all three boys played pretend guns, sword fights, jumped on each other, splashed and roared with ferocity. I tried to manage the “pretend” violence, as much as possible, but with the other two not even acknowledging my presence, my admonishments were as short lived as my ability to stand between them. Simeon was clearly torn between obeying me and playing with his friends. He tried his best to stay out of the frey, but he didn’t want to be left out of what looked like fun. And I can’t really hold that against him. He is four, afterall.
Things went along well enough. That is until what I’ve observed happens most every time boys play fight, someone got hurt. Then the fun ended for all of them. The offending party (the older friend) clobbered his younger brother in the head. Hard. What was pretend violence turned brutal. And the two brothers were dragged home (kicking and screaming all the way).
As soon as the boys left, everyone at the pool relaxed. I was no longer needing to be hypervigilant. The other mother at the pool allowed her child to swim freer. The teenagers began to move closer into the area with the kids. And they played with them. And Simeon, ever the follower, began to play with the other little boy at the pool. They played boats. And Simeon dove in after a ball they threw. They jumped in together and shared snacks.
And it confirmed to me what I have believed all along. It’s not necessarily a genetic absolute that boys fight. And that it’s not necessarily better for them to do so. I do not believe that Simeon will grow up weaker, or less constant than my friend’s boys.
What I want my son to grow up understanding is that violence isn’t make-believe (something I’m sure we’re all aware of after the observances of yesterday). And that he doesn’t have to swing a big stick to show how strong and brave he is. I want him to understand that great strength comes from restraint and self-control. That he’ll be a bigger, stronger man for having stooped to help someone smaller, weaker. I want him to know that kindness and wit are often the greatest weapons he’ll possess.
I understand this may mean that he’ll get picked on. And yeah, he may get clobbered a time or two. And he’s certainly going to be swept up in the excitement and thrill of arm to arm combat with other boys, but I’m not going to let up. He is, after all, a four year old boy. And I’m not going to submit to the adage that boys will be boys. I don’t want my boy to be a boy. I want my boy to be a man. And I firmly believe that there’s no day to early too start raising him that way.
So I suppose we’ll settle our pansy selves home and read books about science and build make-believe rockets.