My children have reached that stage I’ve been dreading as a parent: gun role play. They must have learned it at nursery because we don’t let them watch anything remotely violent on TV (we even fast forward through big chunks of movies like Lion King and Jungle Book. Time enough for violence when they’re over five).
I hate gun play. It makes me edgy. I know that it isn’t guns that kill people: people kill people. But it’s a lot easier to do it with guns than fists.
So today, when I discovered my son ‘gunning’ his sister with a three-foot flag pole and laughing every time he ‘got’ her, I suggested they play something else.
My attempt to change their focus ended up in a game of knights and swords – the children love Mike the Knight (on Cbeebies: I think he’s a selfish, whining brat). I thought that would be safer than running around with a three-foot stick, as the ‘swords’ were light plastic and they were wearing their knights’ helmets.
I was wrong.
Shooting siblings happens (mostly) at a distance, but you get up close and personal for sword play. Within seconds they’d whacked each other on the arms and both ran to me screaming.
I’ve suggested they make a den out of the climbing frame, and they’re cooperating for now, but I think some days they’re just out to hurt each other one way or another.
I feel like the kill joy. I feel like the meanie. I stopped a game on the chance that someone might get hurt (see the picture where my son’s trying to impale his sister on the pole) only to instigate a game where someone did get hurt.
I don’t know what to think about guns. We don’t live in a neighbourhood where gun crime is likely. Guns are used for shooting pheasants, and only hold two cartridges (although two would be plenty to hurt or kill someone). Not many swords around either, although I suppose there are knives. I don’t like to think about it. I want to keep my kids in the garden and protect them forever, though of course that isn’t possible.
What’s the answer? Suggestions welcome. Is gun play okay? Do I need to lighten up and buy them some Nerf guns instead? A sort of ‘if you can’t beat them, at least provide them with soft foam bullets’ sort of solution? Sometimes I wish I’d just had girls.
P.S. After I finished this post I looked for related articles and came across this great one: Keep Kids from Toy Guns – How one mother changed her mind. I have completely changed my view.
I love the thoroughness of this article – how it explores the necessity of role play and rough play for children (particularly boys) and the suggestion that depriving them might hinder their growth. It also explains that violent role play doesn’t mean the same to a child as it does to an adult.
A friend on Facebook suggested that forbidding gun play just makes guns taboo and exciting, meaning the children are more likely to seek them out. All great advice.
So I will try and ignore my son’s fixation with guns and just make sure he’s using something other than a three-foot flag pole!
P.P.S One of the schools we looked at for our daughter offered fencing lessons. I think that’s a great idea! Teach the right way of doing things. Might look out for a class if the school we’ve chosen doesn’t also offer it.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire followed the driver down to the beach, shivering in the evening breeze.
What am I doing in my swimsuit and a sarong at 6pm in autumn? Even if that is a New Zealand autumn and it’s probably as warm as a British summer.
The driver carried a bundle of spades and Claire hadn’t yet found the courage to ask what they were for.
When they reached the beach Claire felt like she’d arrived on the moon. The charcoal-grey sand was littered with dozens of craters, some tiny, some several metres across. Steam rose from the nearest ones and Claire could see scantily clad people lounging in the water as if they were at a spa.
“Okay, guys, grab a spade. Watch out, sometimes the water can get too hot, you know?”
With that the driver dropped the spades and sauntered off. Claire hung back as her fellow travellers surged forwards. As she’d hoped, there were soon no spades left and she felt able to wander down to the shore.
Claire walked along the sand, splashing her feet in the lapping waves, and staring out at the horizon. Behind her she could hear shrieks and yells as people jumped into hot pools or shoved their friends in. She heard someone call out, “That one’s too hot,” followed by a confident denial, then a loud scream. Claire smiled.
The night air brushed at her skin, raising goosebumps and making her shiver. It was no good, if she didn’t get in the hot water soon she would freeze.
Claire turned and walked back up the beach, hoping to find a small pool that had been vacated because it was not required rather than because it was scalding hot. As she made her way through the pools, avoiding eye contact and ignoring the giggles, someone called out her name.
She turned and saw a dark shadow lying alone in a large pool. Visible only by the whites of his eyes and his shimmering teeth, Claire recognised her nemesis and cursed herself for responding to his summons.
“Come and join me, Claire?” Neal patted the sandbank next to him in invitation. “Water’s lovely.”
Claire hesitated, but shivered again as the sun dropped lower in the sky, taking its warming rays with it.
“Chicken?” Neal’s voice dripped with provocation.
Not wanting to give him an opportunity to goad her further, Claire took a step away from the edge and scanned around for another empty pool.
“Come on, don’t be shy. I don’t bite. Not unless you want me to.” His deep chuckle rolled through the dark, doing strange things to Claire’s insides.
Realising she was getting strange looks from the people in nearby pools, Claire tugged off her sarong and slipped into the water as far away from Neal as she could. She sat upright, but the contrast of hot and cold made her shudder, and she was forced to slide in deeper.
It was bliss. Claire realised she hadn’t had a bath in months. Hostels didn’t have baths and when she was staying with her sister there had never been the time for the luxury of deep hot water. Kinks and knots in her back and neck shifted under the heat and she squirmed to find a more comfortable position.
Claire felt a pressure on the ball of her foot and kicked out in panic. Her action led to another deep chuckle, and she realised Neal was massaging one of her feet, his thumbs digging deep in soothing circular movements.
She wanted to pull away, to protest, to get up and leave the beach, but somehow she couldn’t. Not wanting to think about anything other than the heavenly sensation, Claire laid her head against the sandbank behind her and closed her eyes.
Related articles (the top one is the one that changed my view)
- Keeping Kids From Toy Guns: How One Mother Changed Her Mind (theatlantic.com)
- Local churches offering ‘Toy Gun Exchange Day’ throughout St. Louis area (kmov.com)
- Kids and Swords (phoenixswords.wordpress.com)