We all both enjoy and take seriously our efforts in improving our abilities. We endeavor to build ourselves into as capable and lethal an individual as we can become. There are training plans consisting of dry-fire schedules and range days, strength and conditioning, grappling and striking, camping trips, books to read, the list is near endless. And with all this time devoted to these activities, improving ourselves in as many aspects as we can, we are still only one person; one lone individual. There is an unfortunate truth that men typically are not comfortable acknowledging: we are easy to kill. All the training in the world cannot save you from this baseline reality. So, in addition to bettering ourselves, how else can we combat this? To really get to the beginnings of an answer to this question, we need to ask ourselves another: why would it matter?
The answer to this question certainly varies in specifics with each man. There are a few answers that apply to most men: Family, God, Country. These tend to become inter-dependent on one another. Where a man lacks in one, he makes up for in the others. The order of priority also differs from man to man, dependent on the phase of his life and the particular path he has in part chosen and in part found himself traveling. There is a limit to the ability to observe and describe the experiences of other men, however, therefore I can only speak surely of my own answers to the question of “why does it matter.”
Family. Starting at the smallest unit and working upward, family is my number one priority, as it is for most men who are fortunate enough to have a close family of blood relatives, a wife, and children. They are the first, and most powerful, source of strength
and determination. A man’s primary mission in life is to protect and defend his wife, children, and family. The next, to raise his children properly, preparing them for the life and the world that simultaneously lies in wait and pursues them. These are the foundational roles and purpose of “man.” The supreme importance of these tasks is both self-evident and incomprehensible. It is also impossible, if the endeavor is undertaken alone. To even hope of success, I look to my wife. I look to the children. They are all my responsibility, and, to a certain degree, I theirs. We are just that, “we”, “us”, “ours”. No matter how strong I am ever to become, I cannot carry them all. This leads to a logical and necessary conclusion: the family must grow strong and capable. Together.
So, with our mission statement formulated, how do we go about accomplishing this? Between my work schedule, my wife’s work schedule, the kids schooling, sports, and activities, and all the other obligations and commitments of life, where do we find the time? And if we have the time, how exactly do we work on the “strength” and “capability” of the family? The simple answer is, make training a family affair. Turn a range day into a husband-and-wife event. Plan a camping “trip” in the backyard with the kids. When heading to the gym on a Saturday, ask the wife if she would like to join you. The next time you find yourself cleaning your rifle, talk the kids through the process and then have them “walk” through it with your guidance.
All of these examples accomplish multiple positives at once: husband/wife time; bonding with the kids; time spent together as a family. And, if approached with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn and spend time together, coupled with the proper framing of just what is going on with all of this, well, you are accomplishing all of the tasks a man is burdened and blessed with at once. In order for such events to occur, however, there typically needs to be some groundwork laid and work to be done prior to asking the wife to join you at the range or Brazilian jiu-jitsu class.
Upon first meeting my wife, she had a very clear idea of what she was getting into. So much so that during one of our very first conversations, an admittedly alcohol infused discussion around a bonfire, I proceeded to discuss with her how the principles of warfare have not changed over the centuries as the weaponry and tools used to wage it have. Fortunately, for whatever reason, she continued to talk with me. Point being, she knew what she was getting into by continuing our relationship. That does not mean she was fully on board with actively participating in the training I did, however.
Over the years, she went from being afraid of guns when she met me to not only having her own AR and Glock but, dare I say, being able to employ them more effectively than the majority of people wearing a uniform. We have attended together multiple training courses covering both rifle/pistol use and tactical emergency medicine. It is important to note that this switch of opinion on firearms did not occur overnight, but over many months. And it did not happen just by her watching me handle and train with them. It was through deliberate, thoughtful conversations between the two of us in which I outlined the importance of not only others having rifles and pistols, but she herself being able to handle and use them without my guidance and assistance. Moderation is and was key. In the beginning, I did not one day show up at the house with 4 ARs, a bullpup, a couple shotguns, and a variety of pistols and expect her to accept it all smiling and encouraging. That came later. I am still working towards the smiling and encouragement though.
Once a spouse understands the intent behind the act, the motivation underlying the training, it is difficult to not accept. For it is a shared interest; the safety, security, and independence of our family. Admittedly, my situation is extremely fortunate, for my wife is a strong woman; physically, mentally, and emotionally. She sees the inherent value in not depending on others for her and her children’s physical safety and security. In addition to this, she enjoys the process of learning new things and improving in a skill. The abilities we brought to the table complement each other nicely; she is a practicing physician; I am an infantryman and a firearms/fieldcraft instructor. She is far more intelligent than I could ever hope to be; I can make fire and shoot far away things. We are not the same… but we make each other stronger.
Yes, I got wildly lucky in crossing paths with her, this is obviously true. But luck only plays a part to a degree. The reasons why I chose her, and her I, are in part explained above. Being married to someone who I respect, is independent and capable of supporting themselves, and brings valuable skills to the table were all prerequisites of ours in determining who we would be sharing the rest of our lives with. My wife and I have been able to grow and train together, me introducing her to new activities, she teaching me more about myself and the world.
Throughout our relationship, we have been having fun and enjoying ourselves while getting quality work in. There is so much more to this than just firearms. Something that she enjoyed doing before she met me was physical training; strength and conditioning work, lifting weights, exercising in general. She did this, again, because she enjoys the process of training, growing stronger and because the real-world benefits are important to her. Being able to pickup her children, run around and keep up with them, and, arguably most importantly, set the standard and provide an example for them, are necessities for her. These are all reasons that run FAR deeper than exercising because she “enjoys working out.” Through her training in the garage, the kids see her sweating, struggling, and working through the challenges that are voluntary. This has resulted in the boy now joining her in the garage for workouts. For a thirteen-year-old boy, exercising is of the utmost importance. Once again, not just to grow strong and healthy, but to build the habit of exercising when young, making it so when he is grown and living on his own, he continues to train. The biweekly habit of mother and son working out in the garage, partaking in the self-imposed, shared suffering of kettlebell swings, box jumps, and pull-ups is a time that builds them as individuals and develops their relationship together.
Garage workouts aren’t solely for the boy however. When the wife is lifting without the boy, there is habit that has developed between mother and daughter. The nine-year-old girl also gets out there. While kettlebells and barbells are not her style, the pull up bar, rings, and bodyweight movements certainly are. An arrangement is reached between generations; a workout developed that accommodates the girls ring work, bar spinning, and calisthenics. Typically, from what I have been able to gather, for these sessions tend to be guarded as a “girls only” affair, there is not the structure of a “workout” for the girl as there is the boy. Instead, the girl enjoys going with the flow, completing what movements strike her in that particular moment.
My wife, on the other hand, is burpee-ing over the barbell she just finished cleaning. The girl watches this, processes the work, sweat, and discipline that is being displayed. The feeling of accomplishment once the buzzer goes off, signaling the end of that particular struggle, wiping off the sweat, re-composing oneself. We all inherently understand what moments such as this are like. But, for a boy and girl to see their own forty-something mother achieve such a state, and participate in some form, that can be a powerful experience.
Not once, not twice, but many times, week after week, even when they do not want to. This expression and observation of, and participation in, discipline is one of the most important experiences for children to have. Obviously, this lesson does not have to be conveyed through physical training or shooting or camping. These are just some of the mediums that my family goes about using to impart this lesson. Find your passion, your hobby, and share it with your spouse and children. Work at it, little by little, week by week, then day by day, bring them into the fold of these important aspects of our lives.
When our past-times and leisure activities become not just our own, but our family’s, then so much can be accomplished. When we can grow as individuals while growing as a family, one enhancing the other, this would seem to be the pinnacle of the human experience. And we all know this, consciously or unconsciously. It is why it can be so difficult and so rewarding to make these times happen. So many independent yet interconnected factors need to be put in order to even consider the possibility of success. So, we best get to work. For, as the saying goes, the juice is worth the squeeze.