I’m a bit miffed, I’m not gonna lie. Not for myself mind you, but for a little four-year-old boy who has the distinct misfortune of residing with a mom who fears guns. Allow me to explain; in this morning’s Washington Post “On Parenting” there’s a piece by Zsofia McMullen. The title of the piece is: “My four year old loves toy guns and I don’t know how to parent that.”
In it, she describes in great detail, her son’s infatuation with gun play and pretend violence. The piece starts out innocuously enough, with a detailed description of the little boy’s imaginative play centered on action figures most of whom are the archetypal hero, policemen, soldiers and the like. They vanquish dragons, dispatch pirates and rescue the princess all while brandishing swords and guns, sometimes on horseback, other times driving motorized vehicles with zeal.
Sounds like fun right? Any mother of boys and sometimes a tomboyish girl can recall the sounds of explosions voiced in the tiny inimitable tones of a child’s voice. I enjoyed hearing my son set up battlefields of Legos and watching the good guys victor over the bad. But clearly, I don’t have a strong enough fear of violence or guns!
Pretty early on in Zsofia’s musings she delineates her separation from anything having to do with guns. She’s only ever heard of one person actually owning a gun while she was growing up. She never actually saw it. And other such nonsense. Then she married into a gun owning family and was exposed to the horror of seeing firearms casually placed out in the open and no one passed out or spontaneously combusted.
"In fact, I never saw a gun until I met my father-in-law a few years ago. He lives on a farm in central Pennsylvania, and the cabinet next to his bed is filled with shotguns. He uses them to hunt and to shoot sick animals or unwelcome groundhogs. One time when we were visiting, he left his shotgun casually leaning against a car we wanted to drive. Seeing my husband pick up and move the gun made me queasy and uncomfortable. What if it goes off? Do guns do that, just by accident?"
Wow. Do guns just go off? Did she really just ask that? She then admits she’s totally inexperienced and untrained, which is a travesty on her part for remaining so for at least four years in light of her extended family’s interest in and use of guns! Why not take a firearms safety class and eliminate any of those awful feelings she’s experiencing? Why does Zsofia waste time wondering how her son “found out” about guns? Why not begin to teach him that they are tools, to be used for sport, hunting, and to defend oneself and the lives of innocents. Clearly her son has a healthy interest in saving others and a desire to enjoy doing so in pretend play using weapons. The writer describes intentionally not buying him toy guns only to see him create them out of other found objects as well as shaping them from his food. Good for the little fellow, he’s got a tough road to hoe in teaching his mom a thing or two about childhood ingenuity, but he’s well on his little way.
At this point, I just want to take Zsofia out for coffee to a place with wifi and use the Google to show her statistics on what most impacts the likelihood of a childhood ending in criminality. Societal and familial ills are the culprits in criminality; not having a father present and engaged, growing up poor, unhealthy obsessions with violent video gaming coupled with mental illness. Yup. So far her son seems pretty safe from becoming a murderous thug!
She closes out by stating her resignation to his desire to play this way and talks of sharing facts with little Sam, like “sometimes it’s the unarmed hero that wins the battle”. That’s a load of bollocks. If it’s a battle, it means at least one side is armed. If one side isn’t – that side usually goes down smoking, hard. The sentiment is cute and trite and not worthy of her son. Why not teach him the canard of peace through strength? It’s much healthier, more interesting and factually based.
The chances of my having a cuppa with the writer are pretty slim, so I ask you – please disabuse young mothers in your sphere of their need to eliminate natural reality based play from the lives of their testosterone laden boys. It’s a slap in the face to those that protect us and serve in our armed forces. It’s an insult to those that regularly use weapons for sport, hunting, and implies innate wrongdoing in owning guns. We don’t need anymore of that. Zsofia, learn how to parent that. Oh and Sam? Battle on buddy, battle on.