2 things happened last week. Super Preschooler asked me if guns were real, and Super Toddler asked me if guns were real. I answered that yes, guns are real. Super Preschooler burst into tears and said that was really scary and wrong, and Super Toddler broke out his winningest smile and immediately asked if he could have one.
Important studies, that I am way too lazy to cite or look up but I swear are true, say that little boys, when denied toy guns, will make them out of anything. Legos, tinker toys, dolls, empty wrapping paper tubes. Some draw them out on paper, and some draw them in the dirt with sticks. Some just use the sticks, full stop. Showing great geographical vision, Awesome Mom's brother made his gun out of a state of Oklahoma puzzle piece. Awkward Uncle was also denied toy guns, and, being the rule follower that he is, contented himself with an army of He-men and Transformers because there is nothing violent about sword-wielding Tarzans or car-morphing robots that look like this. Does it even count as a gun if it is your arm? I mean, it isn't like Megatron can help that. Oops, sorry, Awkward Dad has just informed me that it isn't a gun, it is a fusion cannon. Yeah, massive difference there.
Speaking of Awkward Dad, if there was ever a household that wasn't denied guns, it was his. Awkward Dad's Dad actually gave him a Red Ryder BB Gun, but, to my knowledge, he never actually shot his eye out. Furthermore, Awkward Dad went trick or treating around age 10 as Indiana Jones, complete with fedora, bull whip, and a toy pistol that his father painted black and made so realistic looking that Awkward Dad was stopped by some passing police. Now, in the Awkward childhood home, we were not even allowed water guns. We had these animals that would spit water at you when you pulled their tails. Might have been more realistic if they bit you when you pulled their tails, that is what I would do. Water spitting isn't really a deterrent, now, is it? (I was also denied Barbies, but that is a whole other post that I am gearing up for, now that I, too, have a daughter. Stay tuned!)
What's my point here, Readers? I don't really know that I have one. My brothers and I don't desire guns unduly because we were denied them. Awkward Dad isn't housing an arsenal because he had them. Awkward Dad and I are still figuring out what to do with our kids. A little late, I grant you. You see, this decision got delayed because of Super Preschooler. All he is packing is a wand. He just never found guns that interesting or useful in his particular play, so we didn't think to make a rule about it. Then, comes Super Toddler. He seems cool with pirate swords and light sabers for awhile, but soon enough, he starts shoving Super P.'s wands in his pockets and whipping them out at lightening speed. He would aim them, and jerk them up while pow-powing gun noises, dropping more imaginary cartridges than The Boondock Saints, the first or the second one. (Why did they make that sequel? Didn't they kill everyone in the first one? It seems like they even got the camera man at one point....)
Around this time, we all watch Star Wars as a family. While Super Preschooler is designing what he would do with Leia's hair and Super Baby is delighting that we are allowing her popcorn, Super Toddler is embracing the dark side of the force. This is how Awkward Dad loses his mind, and Super Toddler gets a blaster. Star Wars love blinds you, Readers. We can't help ourselves but go insane when our children express interest in our childhood loves. We are children of the 80s, after all. But don't think that this is new, Readers. There was a reason that Awkward Dad was gifted a Red Ryder BB gun. Parents want to recreate the joys of their childhood with their children; it is totally somewhere in the top 10 reasons why having kids is awesome. But I am not kidding; Super Toddler merely mentioned Star Wars, and Awkward Dad fits him out like he is bullseying womp rats on Tatooine. For some reason, we convince ourselves that a "blaster" isn't really a gun. And anyway, I mean, he might need it. After all, didn't Greedo shoot first? Super Toddler might need to protect himself.
Anywho, Super Toddler gets this "blaster" and then all hell breaks loose. All of a sudden, all play is gun play. All games involve "shooting" and "killing" and big elaborate deaths that make me think I am raising tiny Quentin Tarantinos. Super Preschooler, the mystic, is so thrilled to have a fighter on his team that he embraces guns wholeheartedly. (Yes, I just made a Dungeons and Dragons reference. Let's just move on, shall we?) And you would think that they would be content to do this gun stuff in the house and get it out of their system and then be adorable, politically correct, Ann-Arbor-angel babies out in public, right? If you answered yes, please retain that naivety, it is charming. Nope. If anything, it is worse. Here we are, at my church small group:
Super Toddler: I bad guy! I kill you.
Super Preschooler: Die, bad guy!
Child they roped into this: So, I point this tinker toy gun at his face?
Super Preschooler: Sure, or his chest. Either will kill him just as easily.
Child they roped into this: Pow! Pow! You dead!
Super Toddler: Oh, they got me! Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Rico?
Might be paraphrasing a wee bit, but that is how is sounded in the CHURCH NURSERY with a picture of Jesus on one side and a benevolent St. Francis frolicking with lions and lambs on the other side and the judgment of all 12 years of Catholic school raining down on me like a flood.
And most of my half-hearted attempts to intervene do not go well:
Super Toddler: Pow! Pow! I shoot you!
Me: Hey, no guns.
Super Preschooler: Why not?
Me: Well, um, because they are bad.
Super Toddler: Cops guns. No bad.
Me: Right, well, yes, police have guns to keep the peace. That is OK.
Super Preschooler: Well, I am pretending to be the police with a gun.
Super Toddler: I want gun too! I police.
Super Preschooler: No, we need a bad guy. You be the bad guy!
Super Toddler: I want gun too! No fair!
Super Preschooler: He is right. It isn't fair. He needs a gun too. You always say to play fair.
Me: But, no, that isn't what I mean. Oh, just don't shoot your eyes out. Where is the chocolate?
I don't know what to do. My children aren't bad. My children aren't trying to really kill each other. In fact, this is what they think of that:
Super Toddler: I kill you!
Me: What does that mean?
Super Toddler: It mean; you bad guy. I kill you.
Me: But what does kill mean?
Super Toddler: But, you mommy, you don't know?
Super Preschooler: Wow, Mommy, I thought you knew everything.
Me: Just tell me what you think it means to kill.
Super Toddler: Put in jail.
Super Preschooler: Stop the bad guy and put in jail.
Me: Couldn't you just say put in jail then?
Super Toddler: Too long! Kill better.
Sigh. I feel like I am going in circles here. Play is how children work things out, play is how children learn about each other and the world. Play is how I have a couple minutes to sit here and write to you guys. I don't want to control their play. I don't want to control them. I do NOT want to give up the couple minutes that I have to write to you. But they are my responsibility and it is my job to guide them to adulthood with skills and confidence and respect for all life. Guns are real. Kill doesn't mean put in jail. But watching my sons play together isn't all horrifying and confusing. They are teaming up, they are squaring off. They are making rules and structure and, though is sounds crazy, they respect each other during their gun play games. They have to agree on when a hit is a hit, and they tend to fight less when they are fighting, if that makes any sense at all. They match the great rules of action films without even trying. The bystanders are totally off limits, even if their baby sister crawls into the line of fire. The good guy always wins. The bad guy always loses; has the best death scene (that goes without saying), but always loses. But no one is really facing death here. In fact, death means less to a couple of coppers and robbers playing children than it does to the writers of the X-men. No deep truths are happening here, they are just playing. But isn't playing how they learn?
Oh, I don't know what this says and I don't know if it is right. But know this, no one is getting a Red Ryder BB gun around here anytime soon. I am working it out in real time, and I am sharing it with you because I know that you are too. We are figuring it out as we go, which I suppose describes most of the parenting decisions around here. It has worked out so far. That it has been awkward is not news, and I assume this will be no different. I'll take awkward, I know awkward. I can do awkward. All I ask is that I figure this one out before Super Baby want to play with Barbies.
We would never presume to tell the government how to do its job, but while you are convening committees to figure stuff out, could you maybe create one to monitor out-of-control nerd fathers who want to share Spiderman comics with their children (whether or not their children want this) way too early? And while you are at it, please make it a law that these fathers are not allowed to refer to their impressionable daughters with healthy eating habits as the "Kingpin." It is not an endearing term, even though he means it well. Please do something about this. Thanks!
Don't be fooled, that kazoo is deadly in the right hands, I mean, mouth.