My younger son is a war fanatic. For the past two and a half years, not so coincidentally starting when we began our study of history, he’s obsessed over the wars throughout recorded time. His first true passion was the ancient Romans, specifically in the Punic Wars. I knew nothing of the Punic Wars before our year of ancient history, on of many blanks in my shoddy history education, while he was well versed in the years of that conflict at age 5. I can see the appeal of Hannibal crossing the Alps with a herd of elephants, but this wasn’t but a small part of the interest to him.
So why does he love to read about, talk about, act out, and discuss war? I believe the answer is three-fold: weapons,conflict, and power. Those parts of history enrapt him, and war embodies all three.
Weapons. While I’m a pacifist by nurture and nature, I can see why a small child would delight in weapons. The catapult and trebuchet are pretty fascinating machines, but even the spear in all its simplicity captivates my son. Longbows, crossbows, swords, maces, cannons, guns, and bombs hold endless delight to him, in structure and use. All allow one to reach beyond the self with greater force than can be created by a small human body alone.
Conflict. My younger lives in conflict with his world. He’s still quite convinced that he is indeed the center of the universe (aren’t well all, really?) and dares anyone to oppose. He creates conflict with his brother when bored, hungry, or fatigued; holds firmly to his view of the world in spite of evidence that contradicts his view; and can’t stand his own human imperfections, preferring to blame personal shortfalls on the wrongs of others. He’s been at conflict with the world and himself since soon after birth.
Power. Nothing like being the youngest in the family with a streak of perfection to create a quest for power. Feeling powerless clashes with each person’s ego, and while some of us either gain perspective then peace regarding our place in the universe or learn to struggle less overtly, meeting this powerless feeling head-on suits my younger’s mindset right now. Warring with the world and his own fallible human nature, he searches out weapons with which to settle the conflicts resulting from his feelings of powerlessness.
Weapons, conflict, and power. Whether our weapons be words or wealth, our conflict internal or external, or our power quest overt or subtle, we all share the elements of war. As I watch my younger reach for his duct tape sword or home-made armor, I know I’m seeing him play with struggles we all face and know he’s relating to history and the world as works best for him now. I also have faith he’ll move beyond this obsession and can see progress in this area as he notices patterns through our studies that brought nations to war and the patterns of his own behavior that bring him into conflict with others. I have faith that we all can grow right along with him.