When Your Little Baby Wants a Gun
How do you say no – or should you?
-Carrie Vining Spanier
Let me tell you about my son (*sigh*), my sweet, darling four-year-old son. For as long as I can remember he’s been obsessed with cars, trucks and trains and only really watched television shows like Ni Hao Kai-lan, Yo Gabba Gabba, and of course Sesame Street.
Errr, well, that was until these past few months, when the slow transition began. What transition, you may ask? The apparent transition from toddler-hood into ‘boyhood.’ Yes, my sweet little guy is becoming a boy with new interests, including anything boyish from Transformers to Batman. And with these new interests, has come one that I wasn’t ready for.
Guns. Yep, guns. Obviously of the toy variety, but guns nonetheless. I wasn’t prepared for a recent trip to the toy store, where my little angel was begging and pleading for me to buy him the “coolest” (his word) and to me, the most realistic looking toy gun! Can’t this kid be obsessed with baseball?? At this point I would run out and buy season tickets to the Yankees if it would stop this gun train from rollin’! Well, as with anything else, I made this my obsession: How to keep my little boy interested in Thomas and a large host of other non-violent yet commercially available playthings.
Well, as you would expect, I didn’t buy him the gun. I hemmed and hawed about it; I consulted my team of mommy friends, old and new; and I even talked to an expert. I learned that I am not off base with my concerns, but that I need to relax about it a little, too. Sheryl Stern, MS, told me, “For a kid, toys like guns are part of pretend and dramatic play without the deeper meaning that we adults assign to them. Conversely, toys that symbolize violence or that are inappropriate or dangerous need to be restricted.” I never thought of it that way. My four-year-old doesn’t know that guns kill. In fact he doesn’t know what the word “kill” means. She also adds, “You can use this opportunity to have a conversation with your child to better understand his needs and sort through your own thinking. So, there is a teachable moment here…for parents and kids.”
Ah ha! A teachable moment. Now there’s a concept I can relate to. Having a master’s degree in education, I am always looking for teachable moments with my kids. But this one was different, and difficult. Because the real meaning of guns, or at least the one that adults do in fact assign to them, is certainly tied to violence, it is not really something I want to teach him about just now. While I am well aware of the dangers of guns and safety issues that go along with them, I do not own a gun, nor would my children ever be anywhere where there is a gun, so holding off on the “danger” and scary aspect of it is ok for me—at least for now. There’s still a lot of innocence in my baby, and I will fight to hold onto it!