I live in Seattle. Which, as you may or may not know, is one of the most liberal cities in the country. People here (statistically speaking) are well-educated, well-off financially, and highly opinionated. I love our city. I love the people who live here. Only sometimes, they scare me just a little.
Take the “Gun issue,” for instance.
I am definitely opposed to guns. I do NOT believe that every home needs one, and I’m not such a fan of hunting either (Why do you have to KILL the cute little deer to make it fun? Can’t you just dress up in all the cool camo, rub yourself with deer urine, and then LOOK at it?).
The truth is, guns scare me. I've never held one, let alone shot one (ack!) and I'm secretly afraid that if I did (hold one) it would go off in my hands and shoot my ear off. That's just the kind of luck I have.
But the thing about little boys is that they like guns. They really, really like guns.
It was with horror that I first watched my darling three year old CJ pick up a toy gun at the toy store and hold it out to me with glowing eyes. He wanted it. Oh, how he wanted it.
But I hate guns. I abhor violence. So I drew a hard line. NO TOY GUNS! EVER!! became the rule in our house.
My in-laws made fun of me. “Oh just you wait.” they said, “you can’t keep little boys from playing guns. If you don’t give them a toy gun, they’ll use a stick.”
“I DON’T CARE!” I responded, “there will be NO TOY GUNS in my house!” And, bless my little heart, I really meant it.
It’s true that little boys love to play guns and shooting. It’s also true that you can keep toy guns out of your house if you feel strongly enough.
For me, though, I went through a change of heart upon getting some actual information on the issue (information- it’s an amazing thing!). The information came in the form of this article
in Mothering magazine. 8 pages long and filled with footnotes and references to research and studies, the article was the best source of information that I’d seen. And the conclusion was surprising- according to the author, toy guns are NOT the root of all evil. I won’t bore you with the details. If you’re interested, I recommend looking up the article.
So, after much painstaking deliberation, I decided that toy guns in moderation were ok… and not something to completely freak out about.
I still don't like them. I cringe when I ask CJ what he loves and he responds with "GUNS!"
To make myself feel better I implement strict rules about how to play-- and how NOT to play-- with the toy guns. You never, ever point it at a person. Pretend bad-guy? Ok. Mommy? Gun goes in a time-out.
I hope beyond hope that guns are something that CJ will grow out of. I worry because he's almost six and his affection for the vile weapons only seems to grow. Where can it end, I wonder. It can't end well.
We spend a weekend at a YMCA family camp on Orcas Island, which in addition to hiking, swimming and canoing, offers an archery and shooting range with real-live bb guns. When he learns about the bb guns, CJ is ecstatic. There is just one thing that he really wants to do, and that is SHOOT THE GUNS.
We enter the range, the pop pop! of shooting echoing around us. I feel nervous, but resolved. I've decided that if the YMCA thinks shooting is a family activity, I'm going to try it.
Jay takes CJ to a booth and gets him situated and I clear my throat, pick up my own rifle and put on a pair of safety glasses. Nervously, I prop the butt of the gun against my shoulder and point the end at the target.
I hope I don't shoot my ear off.
I squeeeeze the trigger and POP! hit the target!
A wave of adrenalin surges through me and I think, I could get into this.
Maybe there's more to guns than death and mayhem. Maybe there's a place for them in a peaceable society.
Which brings us to today.
We are a household that bears arms. Toy arms. In Seattle. And 99% of the parents in this city do NOT (fanatically). Or if they do, they definitely don’t admit it.
My approach thus far has been to hide the guns when other kids come over for play dates. But they inevitably find them. BANG! BANG! The uninitiated child points the gun at his mother (he doesn’t know the rules) and her eyes widen in horror.
ACK! I shout, I PUT THOSE AWAY FOR A REASON!! I grab the toy guns and stow them away, mumbling something about people who give toy guns as presents. But it’s too late… in 95.2% of instances I have already been judged and found wanting.
This frustrates me because I do believe I’m a good parent. I have made this decision based on reasoning and information. I don’t wildly throw about rules or rash judgments. I respect other parents’ right to their opinions, even when they’re different from mine. Don’t believe in letting your kid play with toy guns? I can respect that. I can understand why. But why is it ok for you to judge ME?
Where do you stand on the toy gun issue? Do you let your children play with toy guns? If so, what rules do you have? And how do you explain it to your anti-gun friends?
1st photo by woodleywonderworks. 2nd photo by Joe Shlabotnik.
Jen lives in Seattle with her son CJ, her husband Jay, and their dog Bella. Read more of their wacky adventures at Absolutely Bananas