Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Boys and War

What is it with boys and war?
Are they truly born with an inner desire to blow things up?
Is it a protection thing? Like maybe God placed in them the drive to protect the weak...to protect those that they love...to protect those that can't protect themselves...maybe even to protect each other?
I don't know, but I do know that from nerf bullets to air soft rifles, my boys love playing war.

Rocking my sleepy-eyed little guy to sleep, I softly sung some of his favorite songs.
Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Deep and wide. Deep and wide. There's a fountain flowing deep and wide. The B-I-B-L-E. Yes that's the book for me.
It's all in the tone of voice. I've always heard that any song, gently sung, can be used as a lullaby.
Not true.

His eyes drooped closed. One more song and the never-ending bedtime routine would be over.
I picked a curious choice for a song, but again, I believed in the lie that it's all in the tone of voice.
Softly, sweetly I begin to sing.
I may never march in the infantry. Ride in the cavalry. Shoot the artillery. I may never fly over the enemy, but I'm in the Lord's army. Yes, Sir.
I'm caught up in the fact that my voice sounds pretty good singing in a whisper. There's no pitch to keep. It's impossible to tell when I'm singing so quietly that I'm tone deaf.
I begin the song again when I notice that the dozing baby has grown rigid.

I may never march in the infantry. His lower leg swings to the beat of the song.
Ride in the cavalry. His body tenses with excitement.
Shoot the artillery. Closed eyes spring open and he shoots something across the room.
I may never fly over the enemy. He sits straight up in my lap and his little arms soar back and forth with energy.
I'm in the Lord's army. Loudly he proclaims, YES, SIR!

We sing together. Not softly.
I'm in the Lord's army. YES, SIR. I'm in the Lord's army. YES, SIR. I may never march in the infantry. Ride in the cavalry. Shoot the artillery. I may never fly over the enemy, but I'm in the Lord's army. YES, SIR.

Wide awake. Shame on you who told me it's all in the tone of voice.

Now we proceed to shoot things around the room.
How can he be so ridiculously cute so late at night?
"I shoot my elephants."
"I shoot that book."
"I shoot YOUR LEG, Mommy." (I wanted to shoot his leg too.)
"My daddy shoots things, Mommy."
"Mommy, my daddy shoots things."

Already? So young and he's already playing this game?

It's not because we're a military family that my boys shoot things.
Doesn't every boy shoot imaginary things and blow things up?
It's truly not the shooting that bothers me.
It's not even the playing war that bugs me.
It's the moment my children use the word "Daddy" and "shoots thing" in the same sentence.
That always takes my breath away. I don't ever really know how to answer.
At two, they say "Daddy shoots things" with a smile. It's so fun to play daddy and shoot your stuffed animals. Totally innocent.
At four, they say "Daddy shoots things" and there's a hint of curiosity behind the statement.
The question I've seen in all their eyes at different moments in their life, "Is it okay?"
"Is it okay that Daddy's job is to blow things up?"
I don't know. After all these years, I still don't know what to say. Maybe I need to find an answer to that question so I'm not always so speechless at that moment.

There was a very real moment for each of my children when they realized that war isn't always a game. It's not pretty. It's not for fun. It's not without cost. You can't just turn it off on the XBox 360 when someone gets tired.
I know exactly where I was the first time I heard the statements and the questions asked from the mouths of my own children.
Tucson, Arizona. September, 2003.
I wasn't prepared. (I'm still not prepared.)
My older boys were two and four at the time. Our squadron had just left for a 5+ month deployment to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Our life in Tucson had fallen into a routine without daddy. We were all adjusting fine.
Life was almost normal.

Picking up my two-year-old from the nursery after Bible study, one of workers leaned in and whispered,
"It's no big deal, but I want you to know that Josh was flying around the room dropping bombs on his friends."
Mortified, I apologized and fumbled around for an explanation. I hadn't been a mom long enough to handle anything well so I took full blame.
"I'm sooo sorry. See his daddy's deployed. And...And..."
She interrupted me.
"I know. All the boys were shooting things. Josh just kept saying, 'My daddy drops bombs. My daddy drops bombs.' I guess he adores your husband, huh?"
I guess so.
Sweet little Josh. Just playing he was like Daddy for a while.
He had no idea that sometimes it's real.
I saved the tears for the car.
I wanted to scream...WE DON'T DROP BOMBS ON PEOPLE, JOSH.
But how could I say that?

Only a week or so after Josh bombed his nursery school, my four-year-old was playing with a toy sword from Sea World. He was stabbing everything. The couch. His brother. My legs. The palm tree. Nothing was safe from Zach and his sword. He was protecting our home from the imaginary "bad" guys.
I couldn't take it any longer.
"ZACH, stoooop stabbing everything. Swords can hurt people."

He stopped for a second. Studying the sword, he turned it over and over in his hands. A miracle...he might actually obey me this time. I went back to cutting carrots.
"Mom, do swords kill people?"
"Yes, Baby, swords kill people."
"Mom, do guns kill people?"
"Yes, Baby, guns kill people."
More silence.
I was still only half paying attention.
I should have known where this conversation was going. In my defense, he was my oldest. My first time through the questions. I didn't anticipate the connection would be made by a four-year-old.
"Yes, Baby, what?"
"Mom, do bombs kill people?"
Oh my. Oh my.
"Yes, Baby, bombs kill people."
He tilted his head and looked me in the eye, "Daddy drops bombs, Mom. Daddy drops bombs."
His shoulders drooped. He looked sort of sad. I think he got it--like a part of him understood that somehow Daddy dropping bombs wasn't really all that fun.
All I could do was hug him.
"Daddy drops bombs to protect the good guys, Honey. He doesn't want to drop bombs, but as long as our guys are on the ground, Daddy's job is to keep them safe."
I don't know what else to tell you, Little Guy.

And I still don't know what to tell my little guy.

I know my boys love playing war.
The biggest boy in my house actually goes to war.
They are two very different things.
Although, maybe they are both motivated by the inner nudging that some things are worth fighting for...
Maybe some things are worth protecting...

I still have no idea what to do about the questions.

I suppose I'll just love on my boys, hug their little necks, and let them practice protecting each other with nerf bullets and air soft rifles.
And tonight, I'll Skype with my husband in Afghanistan, love him, and pray for him as he protects our guys that are serving in more dangerous situations than he.
Somewhere in this country, there's a wife...there's a mom...there's children...praying for their soldier on the ground. They are thankful my husband is strapped in his plane, flying above on alert...just in case...just in case they need protected. It's not for fun. It's always to protect something.
I want my husband to protect that father...
I want him to ensure the safety of someone else's son...
Maybe some things are worth fighting for...

Maybe that's how I need to answer my children next time they ask.
If Daddy would have to do what he's trained to do, it's so another daddy has the chance to come home.
It sure will be nice when Jesus comes back and we don't have to answer any of these questions.

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