Boys like guns, they just do. You can explain to them that they’re dangerous or that they hurt people, but they still love them. You can keep toy guns out of the house if you want, but boys will make guns out of anything…sticks, Legos, icicles, hockey sticks, their fingers you name it. I watched a small group of boys at the playground the other day who had created a huge arsenal of stick guns and were laying out elaborate battle plans. All in good fun right?
Our first son had no weapons of any kind in the house until he was about 4 and even then he only had a plastic sword. Sure enough before that he was making Lego guns. I can’t even really blame it on TV because he wasn’t really watching anything violent; early on he was all about trains and firetrucks. But there’s just something in boy DNA that’s predisposed to click with weapons and guns.
I know that growing up I loved my army men and my guns. My Dad had been in the army and had a gun displayed on the wall and several stashed away in a closet. I was fascinated with them. Today it’s a different World and I understand that we need to monitor these things more carefully, but how do we eradicate something so… primal from our kids?
These days you can get suspended from school for bringing any kind of weapon to school, zero tolerance they call it. We’ve all heard the stories of kids being sent home for carrying a 2 inch long action figure gun in their backpack. What does this do besides confuse kids? If you want to confiscate it because it’s a toy fine, but to call the police and have them dragged off in handcuffs (as has happened) seems more than a little extreme. Of course the flip side to all of this is the boy obsessed with guns who snaps when he’s a little older and brings a real gun to school. There’s no way to foresee this…but hindsight is 20/20 as they say and someone will have to be blamed for ‘missing the signs.’
Girls love babies and dolls and now we have teenagers who are getting pregnant together in groups. Should we be alarmed when our young daughters push their babies around in strollers because they might be pregnant at 12 or 13? I think if anyone were to suggest that they’d be laughed out-of-town.
Last week I received a call from the school psychologist concerning my seven-year old son. I could tell something was wrong and listened to him beat around the proverbial bush for a while telling me what a great kid he was blah blah blah. The whole time I was thinking, ‘that’s great…what did he DO?’ Sure enough he wanted to read a poem my son had written that day in class. It was all about guns and went something like this: There Are Pistol Guns, There Are Rifle Guns, There Are Even Flame Thrower Guns. To be totally honest my initial reaction was that the list sounded a LOT like the research project he was doing on Sharks that his teacher had showed me a couple of weeks ago. I was sort of impressed that he put that much thought into it to be honest.
Of course I know that’s not why he called and listened to his concerns with an open mind. The main reason he wanted to let me know was because our young son has been having anger issues at home. I can see the connection of course, but when I started thinking about it I realized that he NEVER connects guns with anger. Sure he’ll hit and yell a lot when he’s angry, but never once has he picked up a toy gun and used it to express anger. i didn’t believe it myself at first and when I mentioned it to my wife she paused and agreed that she hadn’t seen it either. I assured the psychologist that we’d have a talk with our son at home to see if there was anything more to be concerned about.
That afternoon I asked him about the poem and eventually he admitted that it had been about guns. We talked about the fact that guns was probably not the best topic for a school related assignment and he didn’t argue. We talked about other things to write about like cars, dogs, cats and other non threatening subjects. We also went over the fact that guns can kill people and that while they may seem cool they could also be dangerous. He has an uncle and cousin who are both active in the military and spent time recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, he agreed that he would never want them to be killed or hurt by guns.
We also spoke to his teacher who reiterated that while we were having some issues at home she had never seen any evidence of his anger at school. Not once.
A few days after this incident he got out of bed around midnight and came into the living room where we were still up and complained about having a nightmare and being scared. He was still half asleep and upset, but after a while we hit upon something interesting. He was concerned about ‘bad guys’ and especially about them being in his town and potentially coming in our house. My wife being the astute early childhood expert asked what would make him feel safe. His reply, ‘guns.’
So while playing with guns is fun and cool for him he also sees it as a way to be safe. A way to protect himself against any ‘bad guys’ who might come into his house. This is something that we’ll discuss with the school the next time we talk. I can’t blame them for being concerned and I appreciate their attentiveness to our children. I hope this closes the issue for the time being and that our son finds more appropriate topics to write about in school. At home we will do everything we can to make him feel safe and secure. His bed has been fortified with an ‘army’ of stuffed animals to watch over him by night. But if thinking that guns will make him safe allows him to sleep peacefully at night, who can blame him?