I am raising three men.
Caleb, Nathaniel, and Andrew are five, eight, and nine respectively.
"But," you might say, "They are only boys." You're right and wrong.
They are boys. At some future point they will become men. They are men-in-training, a fact I must never forget. The eighteenth birthday does not a man make. Nor does sixteen or twenty-one. Boys become men like a pile of steel becomes a soaring skyscraper. They are constructed from the ground up. External constraints form the foundation. The externals become internalized over time through ongoing reinforcement. In other words, I repeat myself a lot. As values harden they become load-bearing. Trials test character. Unrefined ore becomes steel. Weakness becomes strength. My role is that of architect, engineer, and foreman all in one. Therefore, I am building men.
Today's lesson: On Hitting.
Andrew: "He was hitting me."
Me: "Yes, I know. Did you need to hit back?"
Note: Andrew is a nine, almost ten-year-old junior black belt in Taekwondo. Andrew knows how to hit, hard. For the record, he chose not to hit back and instead came and told me about it. Did he want to hit back? Absolutely, and I don't blame him for feeling that way. Part of being male involves managing hardwired aggression. Men are naturally aggressive. We're designed that way for a reason. We don't need to apologize for it. But, we do need to own it and use our strength for good.
Back to Andrew...
Andrew: "I have the right to defend myself."
Me: "Yes, you do. But, you have to learn when to hit back and when not to. Were you really in danger? Was he really trying to hurt you?"
Me: "That's right. He wasn't. If your life is ever in danger you have my permission to use your skills. Daddy will back you to the hilt. But, I pray that day never comes. Don't hit back unless you absolutely have to. I'm proud of you for not striking back."
And the moral of today's lesson?
Me: “We use this first.” (finger taps the brow) Andrew, looking grave, nods. "Yes, daddy."
Me: “We us this last.” (fist comes to eye level, ready and hopefully always waiting) I smile big. Then Andrew smiles. I smile bigger and open my arms. We hug and the balance returns to the force and all is well.