All told, Wombat is not a very boyish boy. I'm thinking less of the fact that his favorite color is pink and his toenails are currently painted purple with gold polka dots (Daycare Lady did it) and more that he doesn't (yet?) have the wild and aggressive streak I see in a lot of other little boys. He likes dirt and sticks and rocks and will choose a train over a doll almost every time, but he's still gentle and polite and calm for the most part, and it's not that I doubt the dervish boys don't sometimes sit quietly and cuddle with their mamas because I'm sure they do, even if only for a split second, but still, my limited knowledge of this age of child tells me they probably don't spend as much time as Wombat does with tiny figurines play-acting scenarios in which no one gets shot or beat up or chewed into tiny bits by a dinomonstersaurus, the living room a carnival of carnage, heads and arms and tiny plastic torsos scattered to the four corners of the area rug. He's more likely to stage a tea party with a choice of muffins and scones.
Which isn't to say the death and destruction stuff never happens in our house because it does, oh it does. And being the peace-loving, bleeding-heart hippy-ass liberal GIRL that I am, I really wish it didn't.
For Christmas Wombat got a set of pirate action figures--ship, firing cannons, booty and all--and so what followed naturally was: "What do pirates do, Mom?" Well, they rape, murder, and pillage. They steal and kill. They guzzle rum until they tumble into a stupor. Or how about they just say yarrr a lot and dig for treasure and occasionally belt out a chanty to the tune of the merry concertina? Look, that one has a parrot on his shoulder! How utterly charming!
For his birthday Wombat got a cool orphaned-animal African safari/sanctuary-type thing (this). It comes with baby animals and food for them to eat and two ranger/handler guys, whose accessories include a camera and a pair of binoculars and a flashlight and a pistol and a shotgun.
Now, I'm the type of parent who rolls her eyes at things like this:
But I'm also the type of parent who will not give juice to a one-year-old, not because I think it will lead to childhood obesity or spoil him or rot his baby teeth but because a one-year-old doesn't even know juice exists and there's no reason he does need to know about it, let alone drink it when milk or water will do.
So what of the guns? Wombat doesn't even know they came with the set, and I'm wondering if we should just throw them away. Now, his pirates have swords and those spikey balls you swing around on a chain and I think even a fat old-timey pistol, and for some reason, that bothers me less than the other guns, even though my knowledge of pirates suggests they're more likely to use their weapons offensively as opposed to the safari guys, who are more likely to use them defensively against charging animals. (As far as I know, Playmobil does not manufacture a set of armed poachers.) When I was little my brother and I had a toy camera that transformed into a handgun and then back again (different kinds of shooting, get it?), and neither of us has of yet turned to a life of violent crime as a result of that exposure. So what's the big deal?
Here's what I think: My job is not to shield my children from these things, these guns, this violence, those parts of the world I don't like or agree with, the stuff that scares and upsets and frustrates me. My job is to teach them how to deal with all of that in a healthy, responsible way. (Hello, sex education vs. abstinence-only.) They need to know it exists, to know that life isn't all baby elephants and shoulder parrots, and no, they probably don't need to know that at age three, but eventually, yes, for sure. Because all of it--the bad stuff too--is part of life, and to pretend otherwise is to revel in ignorance. We live in the world as it is, not the world as we wish it to be.
So what do I do? Keep the guns from Wombat until he's older, old enough to understand what they are and what they do? I mean, when you think about it, that seems to make the opposite of good sense; why not let him play innocently with them now but take them away when he's older and knows exactly what guns are for?
Already I'm seeing Wombat pick up the stuff we all learn at some time or another, no matter how our caretakers might try to shield us from them. In the absence of guns, the kids make "shooters" of sticks or upside down plastic dinosaurs or their own fingers. Weapon education and weapon rules and weapon safety seem a smarter way to go than naïve weapon abstinence. Sex too. Race too. Poverty too.
If we don't know about these things, we're choosing to be powerless to change them. And besides, isn't there also a special kind of virtue in being a good shot?Previous Next