One of the joyful things about this summer has been that Iris is now a part of our block's kid social life.
Last year she was too little, barely emerging from babyhood, and the bigger kids had no interest in her. But this year, they stop by, and Iris runs to join them as their play roams up and down the sidewalk, in and out of front yards and porches. These are not playdates. They are the spontaneous games of neighborhood kids of different ages, who go to different schools, but who gather in the long evenings to play outside with sidewalk chalk, bubbles, bikes and trikes. Iris even got initiated into hide-and-seek and red light, green light. She is the youngest, and she's thrilled to be a part of the big kids' games.
Of course, there are always less-than-idyllic moments, squabbles over sharing and turn-taking. This is expected. What I didn't expect was for Lucas, who's four, to show up at our house yesterday with a toy sword and a toy gun.
I was not sure what to do, so I cobbled together a quick policy: I would not ban his gun, obviously a cherished toy which he wanted to (alternately) share with and show off to Iris, from our house, but neither would I condone it. Way to take a stand, right?
When he started chasing Iris with it, pointing it at her and pulling the plastic trigger to set off a snapping sound, J told him not to point guns at other people. "But it's not a real gun," Lucas protested.
True, and I'm sure he sees no difference between his gun and his sword: both are swashbuckling props, plastic and basically harmless. He doesn't know that swords are of movies and museums, while guns are Americans' murder weapon of choice. I found myself wondering about his mother, who just the other day was telling me she doesn't let Lucas say "fart" because she finds it vulgar. I'm not saying that a family's linguistic rules should determine its boundaries for creative play, or that she's a bad parent for letting Lucas have a toy gun. I'm just saying – what am I saying?
I'd like to say I'd never buy one for Iris, but what if she begged and begged and begged? Is there such a thing as handling a toy gun responsibly? I actually don't want my child playing with guns at all, even toy ones, but I also don't want to be judgmental of others, especially in front of her. And it was a lot easier to play down the gun as just another toy than to go into a potentially disturbing explanation of Why I Don't Like Guns to a two-year old, or a four-year-old who's not my own, for that matter.
As Iris becomes more and more engaged with the world around her, this parenting thing is just going to get more and more complicated, isn't it? What would you have done?