(Any mother's out there who don't have sons or whose sons have not yet reached the age of "true boyhood," you most likely will not relate, agree or understand what I am about to say)
So what has changed?
As I look back it wasn't one event but a process of experiences that over time have evolved into an entirely different philosophy. One of these experiences happened one morning while I was reading scriptures with the boys. We were reading about Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty from the Book of Mormon reader. At that time (a few years ago) it was routine for me to read the story and then take a few minutes to talk to them about what we had read. I had read that story many times before but for some reason on this morning it sunk in deeper than ever before. I found myself tearfully bearing testimony to my young sons that one day they may have to fight in a war and that the Lord expects them to fight to protect their families and to defend our freedoms. I felt the spirit so strongly that morning and the reality of what I was saying really hit me hard.......there is nothing wrong with fighting-as long as it is for a righteous cause ("In memory of our God, our religion, our freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children" (Alma 46:12).
Another experience that followed shortly after this happened at church during Stake Conference. Jacob was about 4 and Joseph was 3. They were both standing in the breezeway between the double doors at the entrance to the building running around with half a dozen other kids who were also being rowdy while their parents kept them corralled in this "viewing" room. I observed Jacob trying to be friendly with a boy about his same age who didn't seem like a very nice little boy at all. He would scowl at Jacobs attempts and started trying to pin Jacob between the door and the wall. I don't know what was wrong with me that day but I remember thinking I was going to hold back and let this play out. I wanted to see what Jacob would do. Well, the boy continued to be a little stinker and kept harassing him until I saw that Jacob was about to lose it and start crying. As he again pushed the door into Jacob (now trapped in the door jam) I started heading to the scene to intervene but was stopped by what I saw happen next. My 3 year old JoJo, boldly ran up to this older boy and began kicking him repeatedly in the leg saying, "You leave him alone, Jacob's a good guy!!!" And guess what, I let him keep kicking the boy until he let my son go!
There have been other experiences that have happened along the way but what I have learned through it all has taught me so much about men and boys. My boys will be men in less than 20 years. I hope that they will never have to be in a fight or fight in a war or pull the trigger of a real gun. But if they do I want them to be ready and I want them to win. My days of stifling their inborn heroic nature and telling them that "we never fight, or hit" are over. I now teach my sons that they do not start fights or hit people or pretend that they are shooting or killing people. But I do teach them that if they see someone picking on someone or hurting another kid, I WANT them to get in there and stop them. And if it means that they get sent home with a suspension for fighting I will be so proud of them for it.
Playing with guns, fighting with swords and boxing gloves is only the beginning. One day it may be that all those years of "play" will have prepared them to be a good fighter, a straight shooter and an aggressive warrior to fight in defense of their God, their religion, their freedom, their peace, their wife and their children.