For the past two posts (first, second), I have been writing about little boys, weapons, and growing boys with a purpose. I have shared my journey from being staunchly against any weapons, even toy weapons, to understanding how little boys are made. I have done something difficult for anyone. I said, “I was wrong.” Today, I conclude my series with moving beyond toys.
Eventually, I got him a Red Ryder BB Gun. You know, the cheap one? The one that couldn’t kill a squirrel at point blank range? He was nine. although the age at which each child moves to this stage is entirely dependent on the maturity of the child. I got it for him that Christmas. He was supposed to wear his safety goggles and shoot targets (since we had already laid down the groundwork about not shooting anything you don’t plan to clean and eat). Christmas evening, he took a can from the garbage (he IS a boy) and headed out back to practice. He hollered to me as I was doing dishes that he was going to go try out his gun. Guess what he forgot? His safety glasses. The very first shot bounced back and hit him in the cheekbone… *sigh* I refused to become the mom from “A Christmas Story” and tell him that he was going to shoot his eye out (but don’t think for a moment that it didn’t cross my mind)! We did learn/reinforce gun safety. It was a must. I do not believe in irresponsible weapons ownership.
Something I learned when we were going through the stages and learning about weapons was that rules and people must grow and change. Everything in life grows and changes. Without it, we would stagnate. I learned that rules must often change in light of new circumstances or upon learning new information. For instance, while lying on the ground, shooting at the fluffy top of a dandelion, my son failed to look beyond his target and see what else might get hit. One little BB took out not only the fluffy dandelion, but also the reinforced glass storm door of our rental house. That was a $200 lesson. Our new rule was to always look beyond the dandelion, both in the practical and in the theoretical. Occasionally, even now, when I feel he isn’t looking beyond his immediate actions, I will tell him to “look beyond the dandelion.” It has become code for imagining the possible consequences of his immediate actions. It is choosing responsibility. It is learning from our mistakes. I had told him not to shoot living things. I had never told him not to shoot towards the house. We both had lessons to learn.
He is now 14 and has a .22 and a pretty strong bow (and arrows), both acquired around age 11. They stay at his grandparent’s rural farm. Where we live now is far too uptight to understand weapons, even on our own property. My son has never killed an animal (or person!). He likes the act of shooting, but at this point in time, his heart is too tender for killing. I know if the time came and it was “kill or be killed” or if he had to shoot an animal for food, he would, but I know it would break his heart. If a friend or family member was going hunting and he desired to try his hand at getting dinner, I would let him go.
As time marches on, we must learn to give our little boys age appropriate freedoms. We must learn to let go. We must learn to guide them towards adulthood and how to be a man. A man needs to know his role and his responsibility to protect and to defend. He was made for it. Whether or not he uses weapons as an adult, he needs to understand how he was created. The protection of his family might not look the same in this day and age as it did 150 years ago, when all little boys had weapons and were taught to hunt at a very young age, but he is still hard-wired to protect and defend. It is our job to train him up and let him see who he was created to be and to encourage him in that light. Letting my little boy have a Nerf sword was the first step.
I would love to hear your experiences on the subject. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below. I do read them!