Sunday, May 9, 2010

Two-O'Clock-in-the-Morning Courage

My kids have been at it again: stalking the neighborhood. Taking no prisoners.

They can't get enough of it, really. The battles. Fighting the good fight. The supposed glories of war. They devour books on the American Civil War, the World Wars, other people's wars. They try to understand what our military is fighting now: the where and the who and the why.

When they're not Nerf war-ing it, they're setting up divisions of plastic soldiers in complicated formations and spending hours maneuvering them from the hallway to the bedroom to the kitchen floor, where the dog or a misfiring broom strikes with the speed of a missle, wiping out full infantries.

They strategize. They draw maps and attempt to deploy neighbor friends, rallying the masses (but not at school!). They pit brother against brother. And always, always they engage the enemy with courage unsurpassed.

Goggles in place. Vests strapped on with velcro.

But inevitably, things go array. In the ugly chaos of war, the anticipated battle is not the reality, the strategies sketched on notebook paper failing to execute as planned. And then there's tears. And tattling. There are surprise attacks. Kids turn traitor, shooting an ally in the back, or worse yet, one goes AWOL, slamming the front door behind him, declaring he's "not playing anymore!"

And the game starts to drag. Shoulders sag. Sensing a moment of volnerability (and perhaps a mom or two about to call it a day), an ambush, lying in wait, decides the time is right to strike.

And that's when the two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage* either kicks in or it doesn't. The courage for the unexpected moments. The courage that comes from somewhere inate, something primal and true. The courage that stops you from turning tail, crying foul, running, if you will, to your mommy.

It's unprepared courage.

It's unarmed courage.

It's fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants courage, and we all need a healthy reserve of it stored somewhere safe and dry.

For all the times when it isn't.

*Two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage is a term coined by Napoleon Bonaparte. I know this thanks to Nate's Big Book of Military Strategy.

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