When you have boys, and maybe girls, there is the question whether you let them have guns to play with or not. I was a teacher and so guns were considered bad and children in all the schools I’ve worked in have been discouraged from playing shooting games and even bringing in guns when it’s actually part of a dressing up costume. This was the ethos of the school so I respected it and that was that.
When I had my own children I actually got around to thinking about the gun issue and as Ollie wasn’t actually wanting one we didn’t buy him gun to play with. I was a bit anal with him anyway always making sure the toys were age appropriate so he grew up slowly which gave us time to think about play and the choices we had. Once Henry came along things changed dramatically. Ollie was 3 and a half and by the time Hen was moving about (was very late to bum shuffle his way about the house!) Ollie was then, most definitely, into guns. He made guns out of Lego, amazing colourful creations they were. I have been shot with sticks, coat hangers, fingers and even a sandwich bitten into the shape a gun. He even learned to make the ‘ddddddddddd’ noise by rolling his tongue and it seemed that our time as a gun free house was well and truly over.
Hubbie and I chatted about this. How did we feel about it? What should we feel about it? What were we going to do about it? And the simple answer was we weren’t going to fight it we were going to follow his lead and chat to him about it. I should say that we were married in Hungerford Church where, at the back, there is a plaque in remembrance to those that were killed by Michael Ryan during that awful tragedy so this is something quite important around where we lived and live. We aren’t a shooting family, we don’t have guns at home but have friends that do.
So first the cowboy costume arrived accompanied by the shinning silver gun in matching mock leather holster. It was worshipped, played to death with but above all much fun was had with it. I didn’t like being shot by even pretend guns (or coat hangers, Lego models and gun shaped sandwiches) so I talked to Ollie and said I didn’t like the idea of shooting people so he still played but just didn’t shoot me.
He played shooting games with his friends and then Henry as he got older. This was lovely to see as it’s always funny watching the mock death as much as listening to the endless insistent arguments of ‘You’re dead!’ ‘No. You’re dead!!’ Even today I watched the baby pretend to shoot Ollie and giggle as Ollie then proceeded to die on the kitchen floor rather dramatically.
I think, sometimes, that to not let a child play a certain game can be counterproductive. It makes them want it more, it makes them not understand why they can’t whereas if you explain, slowly, that guns themselves aren’t dangerous but sometimes in the wrong hands they can be lethal they can have fun but begin to understand the dangers. It seems the gun battles of the kitchen Corale still happen but not in the same frequency they did. The battles have moved outside and into Nerf gun territory with the whole street seeming to join in. Older boys play with the younger boys and even the girls have Nerf guns too. It’s the strategy, the skill of the aim the suspense at hiding and being caught that seem to grab their attention if you actually look at how they play not the joy of supposedly killing another human being.
I’m happy with our decision to let the boys play with guns. Talking is educational and we talk to the boys about what they do and how they play. I don’t like being shot and they respect that but they love playing at being western cowboys, sniper’s and army soldiers and so I, in turn, respect that.