Whole Parenting Family

On Knights & Pirates

Children are surprising. I have said a million times that I never thought I’d be a mom whose son wore athletic gear, and lo and behold.

all twins all the time

My brother’s shirt from 30 years ago, but still.

I’m surprised at my son’s love of both knights AND pirates. Two seemingly completely different sorts of fantasy.

He fell in love with knights last summer. In part due to my lego set from childhood, and in part due to these two books: Look inside Castles & Built to Last.

Then we found this at a second-hand sale, missing the sword and shield. But that’s okay because my mom gifted him with this handmade set for his birthday, Christmas, and every event from here on out.

And presto. Add a few hand-dyed silks as cloaks from my sister and BOOM: the love of a knight was born. Sprinkle in Jim Weiss’ King Arthur CD on repeat and you have Sir Gwaliwad, feared by dragons and loved by small children. (that’s his self appointed title.)

I’ve promoted knight imaginative play for a number of reasons. Chivalry. Manners. Courage. Hard work. Skills. Endurance. Including your sister as Maid Marion who is an expert equestrian and skilled swordswoman. Help the poor. Charging around with your lance a lot. so punny, Nell.

Then at his nature school, his buddies started in on their newest passion: pirates.


I have to say, pirates have not captured my fancy like knights did. He insists that they’re all bad guys. I guess there’s merit to empathic understanding of bad guys from the inside out? It’s been a first-time-mom struggle. I don’t really want him playing bad guy pirate who ties up stuffed animals and drags them around. I don’t really want him robbing ships.

But his passion persists. And my staunch resistance to him playing bad guy has abated. Somewhat. The world needs pirates too? I do encourage a blend of Robin Hood & pirate. So they can rob the badder bad guys?

My sister gifted him with this for Christmas and it has taken pirate love & lore to a whole new level. The fantastic world of sailing the high seas and rum (thanks, years of reading Tintin) is enticing. I don’t blame him.

The other night AA built an entire castle out of cardboard for the kids in their new laundry-basement-exercise equipment from the 90’s-play-hideout. I watched exhausted as he + heavy duty shipping tape + an exacto blade hewn forth the castle of their dreams. Now we’re back into knights again. Kinda a knight-pirate hybrid. Totally the best part of childhood.


I’m learning to watch their imaginative play and give it nudges in this direction (no one is slaughtered and bad guys are taken to the police) or that (SHARE WITH YOUR SISTER). Helicopter mothering is a hard thing not to do.

Pirate or knight at your house?


amazon links mean I get 0.02 if you purchase on your click through and usborne link is my friend Lydia’s so go buy from her!


  1. Katheryn on January 28, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    We aren’t to this stage yet, but oh boy does this remind me of growing up with a little brother! My poor mom was faced with Cowboys, and whether to let said brother have a black ten gallon hat. White hats were not to be found, who knew??

    He got the bad guy hat, spent three years running around with his teeth bared and toting an imaginary (but really loud!) machine gun.

    He’s one of the good guys these days! Just in case you need anedotal reassurance.

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 28, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      I’m DYING

  2. Anna on January 28, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    Pirare play invites awesome treasure hunts. Treasure maps, scavenger hunts, x marks the spot, etc. I love treasure hunts :). Lucas just started getting into pirates (as a welcome distraction from his first love, dinosaurs – I hate dinos lol). And he loves mazes and maps, so I am looking forward to all of the fun treasure hunts in our future. All for the pirate phase 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 28, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Brilliant. I’ve been stuck on the slaughter versus protect differential. Treasure Island is one of our fav stories so I need to hype up the map part!! Thanks, girl.

  3. Michele on January 28, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    We’re big into Star Wars. My husband’s boss (who is a priest/rector of the seminary where my husband teaches) dressed as Darth Vader for Halloween. Ever since then, my two year old has loved Darth Vader (and this priest, who are interchangeable in her mind). Of course, she claims Darth Vader isn’t the bad guy, so…

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 28, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Love that!!!

  4. AnneMarie on January 29, 2016 at 8:37 am

    It makes me so happy that you reference “Tintin”-I love those books! (the movie was a pretty fun hearkening back to the books, too) I think this is a very timely post, because I just started reading “The Only Pirate at the Party,” which is the memoir of musician Lindsey Stirling.

  5. Kristen on January 30, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    I have 6 (very soon to be 7!) boys and the “bad guys” and shooting/slaying things were definitely hardest to take for me. I started saying, “CAPTURE the bad guys and TEACH them how to be good!” So, they captured the bad guys and declared that they couldn’t be taught to be good and slayed them anyway . . . boys will be boys. My oldest is now 15 and he doesn’t have any violent tendencies, so I’m pretty confident it’s just all that testosterone aka “y” chromosome.

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 31, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Ha! ha. Thank you so much for your insights!