Tuesday, September 05, 2006


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?


Blogger shizzknits said...

Ah, you must only have a girl-babe. :) With two boys in our house (the older is 4yrs), this has already been a topic of discussion.

I think the whole gun/sword thing is a Y-chormosome attachment. We never let DS#1 watch any tv with guns/swords/etc. When we do watch TV, it's 90% Noggin and 10% DVDs that I screen. Yet, I remember quite vividly how he came up to me when he was 2ish, pointed a finger at me and said "pop, pop, pop".

Two years later, the rules at our house are: no plastic or lookalike guns allowed. We do have a couple of inflatable plastic swords, which the boys play with (no hitting each other). When the boys play 'guns' with something, they are not allowed to point their weapons at anything human or animal. We treat even play 'guns' as though they are the real thing.

I think it's more important to teach them a healthy respect for guns, than to ban them completely...since it's likely they will play with lookalikes at some point. That's how we handle it and so far it's working....ask me again in 3 or 4 yrs! :)

1:09 AM  
Blogger pixiegenne said...

we have a "no gun" rule. i just tell them that they scare me and i feel really strongly about it. they aren't allowed to "pretend gun" either although charlie tries ("it's not a gun, it's a shooter!"). i haven't gone into scary specifics, but that is where i stand now w/my 5-year-old son (and 8-year-old daughter, not that it is an issue w/her). i feel comfortable saying the same to playdate friends in my house. of course, i have a school background and have little qualms about parenting other kids :).

3:32 AM  
Anonymous michele james-parham said...

You know, we have a no gun policy, but we also have a boy. I agree that it is attached to the y-chrom. We absolutely do not allow toy (or real!) guns in the house or to be bought for our son. He does however manage to use his hands, pieces of paper and anything else that triggers (no pun intended) him to make a gun. But he can not under any circumstances point them at people or animals, but monsters in the corner are OK. We've explained that guns hurt and kill people and that it's not nice to pretend to do these things. We feel it's a fairly good decision, rather than making the whole idea of guns taboo -- taboo things usually get exploited behind parents' backs.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Tracy said...

oh as the village grows bigger so we encounter more and more that is outside of our comfort zone. we luckily have not had this as an issue. yet. i am not sure what i would do. probably much the same as you...

2:28 PM  
Blogger angelique said...

Thanks all for your thoughts. If I could, I'd have you as my parenting counsel.

3:34 PM  

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