Note: I wrote this a couple days ago and thought about not posting it. Judging by my Twitter and Facebook feeds, it seems like most people have put the Newtown tragedy behind them and are getting back to normal life again. I don’t blame them.
But then there was an incident at my son’s school today when a kid brought in a too-realistic toy gun. My son was home sick, but my heart still stopped when we got the call from the principal describing the incident. So I guess the time has not passed for this post.
If you are looking for more light-hearted fare – and again, I don’t blame you – please check out my tongue-in-cheek gift guide at TheBump.com. As always, thanks for reading.
I like to tell this story mostly because it’s cute and funny, but also — if I’m being really honest with myself — because it makes me feel like a better parent. MY son doesn’t play with guns; he doesn’t even recognize a gun when he sees it, I may have thought smugly.
Well. Fast-forward a few years and I now have 2 little boys who run around the house pointing blocks, cardboard tubes, even pieces of toast at each other, shouting, “I got you with my gun! I shot you in the face!” It’s jarring every time.
“Do not point that at people,” I say, pushing the paper-towel tube down at the floor. “Guns are dangerous, you know.” But they are oblivious, and I’m conflicted.
I remember before I had kids I was visiting a friend of mine, a mom of 3 boys. We share similar values and politics, so I was a little surprised to see that she let her kids play with toy guns. In my circles, that’s on par with drinking while pregnant and not recycling. Hesitantly, trying not to be openly judge-y, I basically asked her what the hell was up with that. She smiled ruefully and said, “Just wait. If you ever have a boy you’ll see. They will make a gun out of anything, even a stick in the backyard.” And she was right.
I still have never bought my boys toy guns. They have been given squirt guns and other weaponry – swords, light sabers – as gifts, and we have allowed them to keep these toys. I remain uneasy about guns, though. Just writing about it is hard, because I don’t want to stir up the bitter gun debates that are raging elsewhere on the Internet. And also, I am imagining the judgments and scorn of people who see the issue as black and white, like I did before kids. I can’t BELIEVE she lets her kids play with guns. We would NEVER allow guns in our house.
But I don’t want to take the hardline stance that guns are bad. We have friends who are police officers and military personnel. So what, then? Guns are bad unless you need one for your job? Unless you use them on bad guys? Whatever I say leads to more troubling questions.
And what about hunting enthusiasts? My son and a friend were talking one day and my son said, “I can’t wait till I’m old enough for my dad to take me skiing.” And his friend replied, “I can’t wait till I’m old enough for my dad to take me hunting and teach me how to shoot a gun.”
My son is far too big of an animal lover to ever take up hunting, but he does love his video games. We don’t allow him to play violent ones, but even the most innocuous games seem to involve blowing things up. So what, it’s OK to shoot Spongebob but not people, even virtual ones?
So I remain conflicted. In the aftermath of Newtown, everyone’s talking about guns. I wish we didn’t have to. I wish I could go back to the time when my son thought the yellow plastic pistol floating in the kiddie pool was a hairdryer.
READ O’ THE DAY: An interesting perspective on guns and change from author and speaker Brene Brown.
PIC O’ THE DAY: This photo is chilling, but also hopeful. These are 461 of the guns that were turned in over the weekend at Baltimore’s “Guns for Goods” event, where people can exchange firearms for grocery store gift cards.