This morning after my shower I found my three guys hanging out in Z and my bedroom while Z ironed his shirts (What? Did you think I iron them? I don’t iron my own clothing. Why the fuck would I iron his?). A couple of years ago Z gave me a 12″ vintage Boba Fett toy for my birthday. Mine isn’t in perfect condition and it better not have cost anywhere near $400. And yes, the gift was like me getting him a massage gift certificate…for myself. We talked about it.
So, T had my Boba Fett in his hands and he was playing with the gun the action figure came with and asking me all sorts of questions about it. T “Mom, what is this part?” Me, “Um, I think it’s the handle.” T, “No. THIS is the handle. What is this part?” Me, “I don’t know. I don’t really want to know. I don’t like guns, T. I don’t want to touch them or talk about them or be near them. Guns hurt people.” T, “Well, I like guns.” Me, “Ok, that makes me pretty sad. Guns hurt good people.” T, “No they don’t, Mom! Guns just kill bad guys.” Me, “Oh T. That just isn’t true. Guns kill good people all the time. They are very dangerous.” T, “But Mom! Luke and Leia use guns! They are good!”
Oh boy. Luke and Leia do use guns. And they are good. Z and I are not hunters, and I don’t believe we ever will be. We don’t shoot recreationally. In all honesty, I’ve never touched a real firearm in my life. And I don’t want to. Guns scare the hell out of me. And that is my prerogative just like it is someone else’s prerogative to be a gun enthusiast. Free country and all that jazz. But Z and I made a decision to introduce a movie with adult themes to our kid. Star Wars has been on in the background since he was an infant. It’s too familiar to be scary, but now that he is older we need to deal with the repercussions of him being exposed to guns. A dear friend of mine called Star Wars our religion. She is an observant Jew and is raising her kids in the faith and compared their learning about the bloodier aspects of religious history to our kids watching A New Hope. It was incredibly generous of her. But the bottom line is Luke and Leia shoot guns. And policemen have guns. And soldiers have guns. And he is going to be hearing about guns for the rest of his life. He is too little to understand the nuance of gun use. He thinks they can only hurt bad people like storm troopers. It’s important for him to know that people with guns can protect other people. But it’s also important that he learns people use guns to hurt others.
I know his fascination is developmentally appropriate. We talked to his preschool teacher about it and she agreed it is normal. It’s a hard topic, but we have the responsibility to address it as his parents. We do not want to be around guns, but after he grows up and is able to be responsible if he wants to hunt or join the rifle team in high school (is that still a thing?) we will let him make his own decisions. We need to explain to him that guns are dangerous and that he is not allowed to ever touch one while he is a child. We also need to explain to him that different people have different attitudes about guns. A lot of people incorporate guns into their life responsibly. A lot of people are irresponsible with guns and the consequences are horrifying.
I think I can handle the hard stuff when it comes to teaching our kids about guns, but here is where I’m worried. I keep reading crazy articles about kindergartners being suspended for pretending to shoot an imaginary gun. This behavior is developmentally normal in kids. Should it be corrected? Hell, yes. It’s cool to let a kid know they are behaving in a way that is not going to be accepted. But draconian disciplinary measures that will be on their record for the rest of time? What the fuck? They are five or six. They can’t understand what they are doing. Isn’t it our job to explain it to them?
I don’t have the answers. I’m still not sure what to say to T. Maybe I said the wrong thing this morning. Maybe we royally fucked up by showing him Star Wars. But I’ll keep on trying to figure it out. I just hope our local school is also figuring it out and can handle little kids playing like little kids. I hope they have a system in place that helps them learn to be better people, not that harshly punishes them for behavior they can’t understand.