I never allowed my eldest son, now nearly 19, to play with toy guns, swords etc. If I discovered he had borrowed, found, or been given a toy weapon, my immediate reaction was always to confiscate the item; he would be psychologically damaged otherwise, according to contemporary thinking; he might become a murderer! These days, he is very sociable and popular; a musician and trainee chef; a decent, hardworking young man, but a tough cookie who takes no crap from bullies and will fight if attacked. I put this down to testosterone.
I have stuck, so far, to the same principle with my younger kids; no toy guns, no toy weapons of any type allowed. My youngest son, aged seven, spent most of this morning joyfully tracking goldfinches and looking for caterpillars for the sheer pleasure of admiring their colours and habits. He says the finches hop onto the bottom of dandelion stalks and then do tightropes along them, flattening them to the ground so they can peck at the seed-head. He is worried that a black-and-red moth he found yesterday in undergrowth has hardly moved since then, and may be ill. He is very gentle with all living creatures, and deplores the slightest unkindness to even the smallest insect. However, after lunch, my daughter came home to tell me that her brother had found a toy gun whilst looking for a nest in a hedge. My immediate reaction was to check and make sure it wasn't a real one. What a sad sign of the times we are led to believe we live in. A real gun in a hedge in a suburb of an English city? The possibility seemed real.
Keeping as calm as possible, I strolled out to see and found him with a very fine toy machine gun, green and yellow camouflage with automatic rattling fire; and what was this gentle little soul, this brown-eyed teddy bear in human form, doing? He was playing at murdering four of his friends as they cycled around our cul-de-sac! All were having a delightful time, laughing and shrieking. I opened my mouth to speak against the toy, against the game, but as I did so I remembered the great fun we had playing Cops and Robbers and Cowboys and Indians as children. I saw the happiness on the kids' faces as they swerved and veered to avoid being shot; I saw cooperation and coordination, fresh air and exercise. I understood it. I left them to it. I didn't feel guilty – I feel differently now than I did in my twenties about this. I thought breaking up the sociability, disappointing him in front of his friends could be more damaging than sticking to my guns, so I let the play-massacre continue.
They wanted to know if they could keep the gun. I said I'd think about it, but the mean look my daughter gave me as she aimed and fired was somewhat unnerving. I hadn't formed a full opinion on this yet. I decided the issue of property rights would be my focus, and they would have to put the toy back where they found it.
Hours later, a loud argument broke out amongst all the kids on the street over who should possess the gun on a more permanent basis. This resulted in a summit meeting of neighbourhood mothers. The gun's in the bin, now, with the rest of the garbage. My little girl doesn't care — in fact, she agrees it's the right thing to do — but the boys are particularly unhappy and grouchy.
I'm back to the no-guns-no-weapons rule. It seems correct, but it doesn't seem much fun to my inner child or to my youngest son.Powered by Sidelines