Monday, November 22, 2010

the smoking gun

Boy-o pokes his head in from outside.  "I've got a gun," he says, brandishing his green plastic rake.  "But it's not a dangerous gun.  It's not to hurt people.  I won't hurt people.  I'm looking for elephants and rhinos... or maybe hippos."  And then, later on, trying to appease me, he announces: "I've turned my gun into a guitar, Mama."

Up until heading off to school, we've mostly avoided the issue of guns in our house.  We don't use them, we don't watch anything with guns in it, and we've laid down a pretty hard and fast 'please don't give our kid toy guns for a gift' rule to all who know us.   Wifey and I feel pretty strongly that guns are not toys. Because shooting at people isn't funny, isn't fun, and certainly isn't a game, especially in our increasingly desensitized to violence (and the impact of violence) world.

But since the start of school - guns have increasingly become a part of Boy-o's lexicon and play.   We've told him what guns are.  We've told him that some people believe that toy guns are fun to play with, but that our family's values say that even pretending to hurt people is wrong.  But they still show up from time to time in play, as with his garden rake above.   We try not to dwell too much on the issue when it crops up, other than to gently repeat (once only) our feelings about hurting others, even in pretend.  This part, he obviously gets, if the conversation that started this blog is any indication.  But the lure of the forbidden is always strong, so we try very hard not to overload our little dude with our gun-hating feelings. 

We were at a birthday party on the weekend for one of  Boy-o's classmates, and he received a toy gun for his birthday.  (I have to sneak in a little WTF?! here, because I personally think that's a hella innappropriate gift for a schoolchum of your kid.  Some of the parents didn't seem to mind, some, like me were clearly uncomfortable with the idea.)  

And it got me to thinking:  what would I do if Boy-o received a birthday party gun-gift (after throwing up a little bit in my mouth, naturally).  While I'm a gun-hater and make no bones about it - I also don't think taking a birthday gift away from a child makes sense either.  While talking to one of the other similarly philosophied parents there, she mentioned that her son had been given a birthday gun against her families' wishes and values. She chose to let him keep it, and though he played with it non-stop for three days, it pretty much didn't get picked up again afterwards.

I honestly don't know what I/we would do if this situation arose.   But it obviously is something we need to consider further, given birthday season is just around the corner for us, and we are newly armed with the reminder that not all parents feel the same way about guns as we do. 


  1. When my brother and I were smalls, my brother had friends whose parents took a very strong anti- toy gun stance. My guess is that they may not have talked about why we don't like to play with guns. The boys built guns out of Lego, sticks, etc. Threw them at each other. Making a big deal out of it didn't appear to be a good strategy. I think you are on the right track with your explanations, limiting access, and not over-reacting if Boy-o (or Girlio) briefly experiments with toy guns. A couple of thoughts.

  2. We have also tried very hard to avoid pretend gun-play in our house but since Erik started school it has gotten harder and harder. He also likes to play "fight" which drives me insane because he says things like, "I'm going to punch you in the face." He's not even 4! I find it really upsetting and am really not sure what to do about it. Our approach is pretty much the same as yours but I feel like we're losing the battle. To me it's a constant tug-of-war between letting him be a kid and telling myself that superheroes and play fighting are normal kid things, and panicking because he plays violent games and that makes me feel like we're doing something wrong.

    He is also quick to point out that his guns are "pretend" and that he's not going to hurt anyone. Or sometimes he says he's only going to shoot the bad guys. We are always quick to tell him that he shouldn't pretend to shoot *anyone*.

  3. P.S. He turns straws, rolled-up placemats and brooms into guns. *sigh*

  4. One of my friends gave in on swords (with a no to guns) as long as all of the kids are on the same team (she has 4). They have to be fighting the "bad guys" together. There is also a sort of high sticking penalty for any swords raised above shoulder height.