Boys ... ARGHHH!

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Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

While driving around town in my minivan I stop at many lights, park in lots of parking lots, spend hours waiting for children to finish school or other activities. I have a great deal of time to notice the cars around me and read bumper stickers.

I have noticed, just as matter of interest, that you never see a pro-choice sticker on a minivan. I have also noticed a rather popular bumper sticker that reads “Who would Jesus bomb?”

All in all I find the “Who would Jesus bomb?” bumper sticker to be rather ambiguous, and that intrigues me. Is it referring to Jesus before or after the resurrection? Or is the query more implicit: “Would Jesus bomb anybody?”

If so, perhaps the understood answer is that Jesus was a pacifist, which I suspect, in all my learnedness on the topic, that he probably was. Until I run into a rather large roadblock on the path of Christian pacifism, Saint Michael, the archangel. Who, it has to be said, in most of the stills I have seen of him on various medals and church altars, carries a very nice sword.

So what exactly is that bumper sticker trying to say? In my conversations I’ve learned that folks who put a “Who would Jesus bomb?” bumper sticker on the back of their Prius or other small fuel-efficient car assume that Jesus, whether man or Risen Lord, would not bomb anybody. Still, Jesus was also once a 3-year-old boy.

In my opinion, all men have aggressive tendencies. I say this not because, as some studies have indicated, we are some scary number of years behind from an environment vs. evolution perspective, and the male of the species is considered by most scientists to still be wired up to kill woolly mammoths. I say this because I am the mother of a 3-year old boy. A normal, well-adjusted 3-year-old boy.

Being a mother of a young boy gives you an entirely new perception of male aggression. I once watched two 3-year-old boys screaming and yelling and stomping feet and ultimately physically attacking each other over a blade, yes, a single blade, of grass. In a field of grass, these two young men were fighting over a single blade.

“My grass!”

“No, my grass!!”

“Gimme that grass!”

“No, you gimme, you gimme.”

And at this point the two young men fell into the field of grass attacking one another until their mothers pulled them apart.

I now understand why we invaded Iraq. We invaded Iraq for the same reasons my son can beat up on his friend over a blade of grass. This same tendency led him one lovely summer evening to massacre his dogs with the cardboard sword from his Halloween costume after I served him chocolate chip ice cream instead of vanilla.

“I want vanilla.”

“You can’t have vanilla.”

“But I want vanilla.”

“I don’t have vanilla, I have chocolate chip.”

“I don’t want chocolate chip.”

“You can have chocolate chip, or you can have nothing.”

“I want vanilla!!!”

“No.”

“ARGHHH!!!”

Then our three dogs were stealthily attacked while they slept peacefully in the front room, all because there were chocolate chips in the ice cream. If you apply the ice-cream theory to some of the world’s more infamous warmongers, you will begin to see that it actually works.

“I want more land. I want France.”

“You can’t have France; the French already live there.”

“But I want France.”

“No, you can’t have France.”

“I want France!!!”

“No.”

ARGHHH!!”

Given this innate aggression in our sons, some of the mothers in my set have no-gun policies in their homes. For my part, I have never seen the need to buy a gun for my child. I figure anyone who can kill me with a paper dinner napkin doesn’t need a gun. Most young boys, I find, are quite creative with weaponry.

This evening, for example, while waiting at the Chinese take-out, my son was able to smother the laughing Buddha with a plastic grocery store bag he found under a table. My son to 3-foot laughing Buddha statue: “Arghhh. You’re a bad guy. You go to jail. Arghh. I kill you. I kill you. Arghh.” And thus he smothered the laughing Buddha with the bag. I was rather impressed with this creativity. All this, I thought, and the child is only 3. Clearly, no-gun policies are rather impotent.

I am not the first person to observe aggression in young boys. There is actually a large body of research on the aggressive play of young boys and the distress this can cause parents and caregivers, especially female parents and caregivers. Given that most parents and caregivers of young boys are women, typically they are not comfortable with slaughtering family pets and smothering Buddha statues.

Still, it all comes down to acting out power. Young girls pretend to be fairy princesses with wands that turn little brothers into toads. And, when playing house, who could possibly be more powerful than mother? But as women, we are more comfortable with our daughters caring for doll babies than we are with our sons slaughtering the family pets.

Given our discomfort with naked acts of aggression by young boys, it came as no surprise to me when the invitation to the after-school Halloween party contained, in bold print, an explicit NO WEAPONS OF ANY KIND policy. Of course this policy only lasted until the entertainment showed up — a clown who, among his multiple clown talents, could make anything you wanted out of a balloon. In a classic comedic moment, 35 preschool boys requested the clown make them a balloon sword. The NO WEAPONS OF ANY KIND policy was shattered.

This ultimately resulted in an absolute murderfest going on in the middle of the party. The young boys were enthusiastically swinging balloon swords with glee. Dueling pirates chased policemen while Spider-Man battled Yoda’s lightsaber and cowboys cut off the heads of vampires. Classic.

When the school tried to enforce the policy again this year, I sent William to school as a pirate sans sword and hoped the clown would show up again.

“I’m pirate William, awrrr!!” he said, over and over.

All that was missing was the swinging of the sword. To be honest, William in a pirate costume without a weapon is like a princess without a crown. A little girl came in with a magic wand to go with her fairy princess costume, and I thought, well, that’s not fair. She can bring in a magic weapon as long as all you do is turn someone into a toad with it. But my son can’t bring in a sword because, gasp, swords kill people.

It’s that boy vs. girl fantasy-play debate. It’s okay to be a princess with a powerful wand, but you can’t be a pirate with a powerful sword. Not that I advocate giving William a sword in his preschool classroom. He and his buddy Javier once turned shopping carts into weapons, trying to kill each other with those. That episode resulted in a rather comical parent-teacher conference. So I am quite confident that William will find a weapon to suit him by day’s end.

Because the thing is, once the boy discovers he has a sword, he wants to use it.

So, who would Jesus bomb?


Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children and three dogs. She can be reached at maraya@steadmans.org.


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