Thursday, November 30, 2006

We're back, and thoughts on toy guns.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

We're back, and thoughts on toy guns.
Current mood: annoyed

Well well, we are back from our whirlwind tri-part trip. Part one: overnight trip to my Grandmother's for Thanksgiving. Part two: our very first overnight backpacking trip with the kids (Billy and I used to do quite a bit of backpacking together, but have not been at all since before we had Littleman. And of course, backpacking with young kids is another ballgame entirely). Part three: two nights in Gatlinburg TN for some fun with the boys. Whew!!

It was a lot, but we did have fun and I'm glad we went. Now I have all sorts of material to mull over, write about and enjoy. Right now however, the experience at the forefront of my thoughts is one I had this morning, while picking Littleman up from Montessori.

While we were in Gatlinburg, we bought Littleman a classic toy pop gun. Made of wood and pvc, it's an itty-bitty rifle complete with cork, string and sliding barrel- slide the tube toward you, and it pulls the cork snugly into the tip. Quickly push the tube away from you, and the compressed air shoots the cork out of the gun with a satisfying "pop"! The string keeps the cork from going very far. Littleman loves it, and had a grand time marching through Gatlinburg with his rifle on his shoulder, or popping the cork again and again.

Now, I am very aware that many people do not approve of toy guns. I have heard the arguments, and there is much there to think about. For awhile I was unsure whether or not I wanted to have any toy guns in our house, not because I am concerned that they promote violence (though many people feel this is the central problem), but because I do not want my children to learn that guns are toys. In our family backgrounds, there are many military personnel and many avid hunters, so guns are definitely a part of life for people in our lives. I don't personally believe that guns themselves are evil, nor do I think that a child who learns how to handle a gun is more violent than a child who never encounters a gun in his life (not that any parent can totally eliminate guns from the conciousness of their children). I intend my children to learn gun safety, and probably at some point to learn how to shoot. I think that the best way to protect my children from accidents involving guns will be to demystify the guns themselves, and to teach safe and proper behavior whenever guns are around. Of course, hopefully they will NEVER encounter a gun without proper adult supervision! But you never know, so I want them to understand what not to do.

Anyway, all that is still in the future for us, and back to the point- all I want to be doing now is to lay a foundation of some very basic concepts involving guns. I think gun play is a logical starting place. Gun play seems to be instinctual- Littleman hardly ever watches TV (only at relatives' houses from time to time), but somehow just that little bit, and his interaction with his cousins and friends, has taught him how to hold and point a gun (more or less) and that guns "kill". (Not that he has any understanding of what "kill" really means). Is it healthy then, to ignore this behavior, or to actively try and squelch it? I think actively discouraging it would actually encourage him, and ignoring it could lead to dangerous ignorance later on. So, I figure the best thing is to treat it like any other play-acting, and sometimes casually explain how one would handle this thing if it were real and he were grown up. I'll also start enforcing rules- for instance you only shoot guns outside, and you do not point guns in people's faces. Otherwise, let him have fun. Think how many loving, non-violent men (and women!) played with toy guns as kids. I don't think the gun play itself is a problem.

Anyhow (I had more to write about this than I realized!) the pop gun was in the car behind Littleman's carseat. I was in the drive-through at his Montessori school, and one of the school's officials was helping him into the car. He spotted the gun and excitedly tried to get it out, but I told him he couldn't play with it in the car. He didn't argue, and forgot about it promptly. The woman could not shut that car door fast enough, so she could turn away from me and hide her expression. She radiated waves of disgust and dismay, that I would allow this darling child to have and play with a toy gun. I understand that toy weapons are taboo at school, and that's totally acceptable (and logical!) I also understand that many people feel strongly against toy guns, and that's fine. But it's still irritating to have somebody so disgusted with me, and my parenting. It's so very condescending for her to think she knows what's best for my child, and I do not.

I am not terribly concerned with what she thinks of me, and I don't think this will affect how she interacts with Littleman. But it does leave a bad taste in my mouth, and makes me disinclined to be very involved with her. How irritating.

It's odd how, now that I have kids, I find I am judged all the time by all sorts of random people on how I interact with and raise my children. People that would never presume to tell an adult how to run his or her life are perfectly willing to tell a parent what is best for their children. Sometimes they are just trying to be helpful, but often the underlying current is much more negative. The vast majority of the time I hardly even notice, but it can be very irritating when someone I must deal with seems to think that my choices are "bad" for my children, and that their methods are so much superior to mine. (I swear this lady probably feels toy guns are tantamount to abuse! You should have been there. . .) The tension is totally unnecessary, and makes civil, comfortable exchange difficult.

Oh, well! In the meantime I rather like the classic, loud "pop"! We all do what we think is best. :)

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