When I was cleaning out my basement the other day, I ran across one of my favorite toys from childhood: a plastic army man on a parachute. The kind that you throw up in the air, all bundled up, and the parachute billows out and helps him land gently by the time he reaches the ground. Turned out I’d saved this guy all these years, and my kid is now just about old enough to really love playing with him. Hooray! Or … maybe not.
We committed long ago to being a gun-free home and a home in which even toy guns and other weapons would not be welcome. But we didn’t plan on having two active little boys who like to make up stories and run around. (Well, one at least, and another who will be ready to do so any day now. Really! At just over 4 months, Little Bear is 16 pounds and strong as a … well, a little bear. He stands up holding on to our hands, sits up by himself, and lunges forward to try to play with Widget and the toddlers at playdate. What a big baby he is!)
As much as I liked reading The Dangerous Book for Boys, I’m also committed to raising boys who are nice to play with. You know what I mean: kind to animals, gentle with babies, generous with peers… the kind of kid that will pick up a worm while gardening, but then place him gently back in the soil to wriggle away.
So how best can I raise this kind of gentle, but intellectually curious kid?
I think that a start is continuing our commitment to keeping toy guns and other weapons out of our home and out of our kids’ hands. Violence begets violence, so why provide the tools?
And if we’re gun-free, shouldn’t we also be sword-free? And light saber-free? Pocket-knife free?
I thought so, and that’s the path that we’re on now. But here’s where it gets tricky. If I have a (mostly) TV-free home, and a gun-sword-and-weapon-free home, what’s left for a red-blooded preschooler to do?
I want to encourage role-playing games, both indoors with figures and outdoors in wild, swashbuckling adventures. But how do we introduce pirates without violence? Even Richard Scarry’s story of “pie-rats” has pictures of the little guys with tiny swords and miniature guns hanging from their belts. What about the Wild West? Nope, those guys need guns or bows-and-arrows to hunt with, at the very least. Star Wars? Without pistols or light sabers? Are you kidding? Even a good alien yarn needs weapons or danger.
There are adventure stories like Tarzan, if I don’t mind my two year old trying to shimmy up trees and swing from ropes. Or Robinson Caruso, as a vegetarian. But really, what else is left?
Am I being overprotective?
Do I really want to raise the “mediatot” who turns every game of War into a negotiation session? Or the army “medic” who refuses to fight? There are so many ways for kids to stand out as “different” in this world; I hate to add a burden to my kids’ social play. But mostly, I’m not really sure it’s possible to raise kids today in both a TV-free and a gun-free home.
What do you think?
No pressure; it’s just my future we’re discussing.