|[Scene:||as we do at least once a week, I'm making homemade pizzas for dinner. I am standing at the counter preparing ingredients, and Beth, age 5, is sitting across from me, when I realize she's quietly talking...]|
|Beth:||"It's okay, Lenny. It's okay, Bob. And Loodie too. It's okay. I won't let anything happen to you."|
|Me:||"Who are you talking to?"|
|Beth:||"Lenny and Bob and Loodie."|
|Me:||"Loodie? Lenny? Bob? Who are they?"|
|Beth:||[points to the pile of pepperoni slices] "It's those three pieces of pepperoni. They're special."|
|Me:||"You named the pepperoni?!"|
|Beth:||"Not all the pepperoni. Just the special ones. And we can't eat them."|
|Me:||"Um... it's pepperoni, sweetheart. It's supposed to get eaten. I am not going to save three pieces of pepperoni just because you gave them names."|
|Beth:||"But you have to! It's not their time to die."|
|Me:||"Pepperoni has a time to die? What? How long do you think they should 'live'?"|
|Beth:||"Five days, maybe seven."|
|Me:||"Sorry, dear. I'm not saving pepperoni slices for a week. But we can give them a special place on the pizza if you like."|
|Beth:||[whispering to the pepperoni] "New plan, guys. We'll put you on my piece of pizza. That way you'll be safe."|
|Me:||"Why will they be safe on your piece?"|
|Beth:||"Because I'll take them off and set them on my plate and keep them safe."|
|Me:||"But I'll eat them off your plate if you don't. Like this..." [grabs a slice of pepperoni from the pile and eats it]|
|Beth:||"Oh please, Daddy."|
|Me:||"Did I just eat Lenny or Bob or Loodie?"|
|Beth:||"No. That was Katie. She was really annoying anyway."|
I realize the author intends to start a discussion on gun control from a specific point of view, but if nothing else, it raises a question for parents: when and how do you teach your children about guns? And it is not a matter of “if” but “when.” (It always has been, to be honest.)
For our first child, Luke, we decided we wouldn’t have any guns in the house, not even toys. We wouldn’t play games that included guns. We asked family members to respect this decision. Yeah, we were THOSE kind of parents. I’m so sorry.
None of it mattered. The moment he went to daycare, and went on playdates, and visited relatives and watched TV… he saw guns. And emulated them. Heros use guns. Villians use guns. The cat was out of the bag, as they say. Or maybe the gun was out of the holster. And once one child starts with the guns, the next child will be already exposed. No point in even trying to hide it.
In fairness, there are a number of positive role-model gun lovers in our family: several hunters who shoot deer for meat, and a couple of people who collect guns as a hobby. So we’ve seen everything from antique black powder rifles to modern military-grade automatics collected by servicemen. These people know how to handle a gun. And, although we don’t own any guns, both my wife and I have been to shooting ranges and are pretty good shots. (My wife is better than me, to be honest.)
Today we have an arsenal of Nerf guns, squirt guns, cap guns, laser tag guns, wooden guns (handmade by a family woodworker), and so on. Some are meant to look like actual pistols, though most of them look futuristic. A relative has a simple air rifle that Luke sometimes uses for target practice, under close adult supervision. (He also has a real bow and arrow set that he uses under similar restrictions.)
So what do we teach kids about guns? We have some rules, even for toys. You don’t point them at people. You can only aim toy guns at other people if they are also armed with a toy gun and you’re in some kind of pretend combat. And you simply DO NOT pick up a real gun, ever, EVER, without the permission and presence of an adult.
Is this enough to stop our kids from joining the list in this article? I hope so. Certainly, they won’t learn this stuff from television. We don’t have guns in the house, so things like gun safety are not a constant concern, but still…
What do you think?
I want my son to be able to make these decisions for himself when he gets older, to know how to handle the various big and small problems that come his way. And I want him to have learned that sometimes we need to take bad behavior to an authority figure or make it public in order to make it stop.
I want him to know that there’s nothing wrong with standing up to bullies if you can or appealing to others for help if you’re not strong enough. I never want him to join in with the big kids to pick on the little kids and I never want him to think that keeping quiet in the face of nasty behavior is acceptable.
Kids will be running the future. Until they grow up, we are giving them input and guidance into how the world will work in 20, 30, 40 years. What will that look like?
|Me:||"What's wrong? You just looked really alarmed."|
|Luke:||[age 8] "I don't know why, but I was suddenly imagining a mermaid Wookie. It was scary, let me tell you!"|
|[Scene:||Beth, age 5, has set up a dollhouse with two parents in bed upstairs and a child downstairs sitting on a toilet. She roleplays the following conversation...]|
|Boy:||"Oh no." [stomps up the stairs, boom boom boom] "Dad!"|
|Dad:||[laying in bed] "What do you want? It's 2 in the morning!"|
|Boy:||"I have to use the toilet."|
|Dad:||"Well go use the toilet. There's one next to your bedroom."|
|Boy:||"The toilet is broken."|
|Dad:||"What do you mean the toilet is broken?"|
|Boy:||"I used it before and then it all stopped up."|
|Dad:||"You plugged the toilet at 2 in the morning?"|
|Boy:||"Yeah. Fix it."|
|Dad:||"Oh for crying out loud."|
|[the dad and boy stomp down the stairs and stand next to the toilet]|
|Boy:||"See? It's broken."|
|Dad:||"It looks fine."|
|Boy:||[kicks over the toilet onto its side] "NOW it's broken."|
|Dad:||"Oh great. Look at the mess you made. Who's going to clean this up?"|
|Dad:||"Your sister would never do anything like this."|
|Beth:||[age 4] "When I grow up, I'm going to live on a farm. I'm going to have two brown horses. And I'll live in a little cottage, even though it reminds me of cottage cheese."|
|Luke:||[age 8] "Do you know how hard it is to run a farm? You have to take care of the animals and stuff."|
|Beth:||"That's why I'm going to hire people to do all the work. Then I'm going to just sit around and enjoy the view."|