Monday, February 16, 2009

Boy Toys

Question: What do a croissant, a LEGO brick and a piece of rope all have in common? Answer: They can be turned into simulated guns. Whether this is a phenomenon that occurs only in my house or is a representation of the single-minded imaginations of all boys, I don't know. But between the four or five Nerf dart guns floating around here and seemingly every other item my children pick up these days, I've heard myself utter the words "put the gun down, it's time for dinner" just a bit too much lately.

What is it about guns that so fascinates boys? While girls tend to act out every social scenario from tea parties to entire cotillions with their dolls, stuffed animals and pets, boys seem to make everything about conflict. Don't get me wrong: I'm not anti-guns. I have friends who are hunters, and I used to own a handgun myself, going to the shooting range every couple of weeks for target practice. But that was just a small part of who I was, one aspect of my interests. And it became a part of history even before my sons were born.

I admit I shy away from conflict. This is a carryover from my childhood, I realize, but thankfully, there is not yet much cause for it in my life. When I have teenagers, I'm sure I'll get plenty of practice, but until then I'm enjoying my peaceful bubble. At the same time, I realize conflict is a part of life, as are guns. Strangely, I'm in the middle of reading a novel (which I don't usually read) and it's the second novel in a row I've picked up that deals with school shootings (this was unintentional. The first book, The Hour I First Believed, was by Wally Lamb, an author I enjoy. The second, 19 Minutes, is by Jodi Picoult, a favorite author of a friend. I thought I'd give it a try). What gives?

There is plenty of ugliness in the world that my kids don't know about yet. The other day, my 9-year-old was reading over my shoulder and saw an advertisement on Facebook suggesting I "pimp my page" and asked me what the heck it meant. I told him it meant to make the page look fancy, but good grief, who coined that term from such an ugly origin? At least I didn't have to go into detail about pimps.

But for some reason, guns seem to show up so early in their lives. They're in movies, video games even cartoons. After much thought, I realized that guns are useful for helping kids play out good and evil, right and wrong, good guys and bad guys in their play, and I'm all for that. We teach them, they practice what we preach, it becomes ingrained. Isn't that what parenting is all about?

So I'll keep my mouth shut while they chase and "shoot" at each other with whatever is handy to them. But the next time someone points a loaded croissant at me, I'm going to have to host an emergency tea party, whether they like it or not.

1 comment:

Snowbrush said...

"What is it about guns that so fascinates boys?"

I loved mine. They were probably my favorite toy, although cars and trucks came close. Comparing them to real guns (which I also had by age eight) I liked the smell, the noise, the streak of fire coming from the barrel... I didn't associate them with violence though so much as with the triumph of good over evil, but maybe that's because I grew up in the '50s and early '60s.