Guns and Swords: 2013 365 Challenge #226

My son with his wooden 'gun'

My son trying to impale his sister with his wooden ‘gun’

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.

Swords. Wasn't much of an alternative!

Swords. Wasn’t much of an alternative!

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.

Son is happy because he 'gunned' his target

Son is happy because he ‘gunned’ his target

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?”

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach

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.


9 thoughts on “Guns and Swords: 2013 365 Challenge #226

  1. Yep, we don’t get hung up on gun play. My 9yo has nerf guns (Having only a girl doesn’t stop the interest!), though we don’t aim them at each other, just at targets. She has a lot of fun with them, and it hasn’t made her violent in the least, just given us a chance to talk about gun safety and their legitimate uses.

    • Thanks, Rinelle. It was one of those posts that I thought about deleting because I’d answered my own question by the end. But writing a blog takes up all my free time so I don’t have the luxury of writing a second one! And I thought it might help anyone else who had concerns. I’m glad my concerns were pretty baseless!

  2. So my nephew is 29 now, but my sister was raising him adamantly refusing toy guns in the house, and no gun play, and turning off violent films. Sounded like a great theory, but when he turned 18 he joined the Air Force and worked with bomb loading. Nothing she could do about it and he finished up his enlistment safely. So to celebrate with his high school friends his return to his home town, he and good buddies got beer and the unregistered handgun he brought across state lines (illegal) and shot the gun from his buddies’ front porch. At least it was across a field, and no one was hurt, but still within town limits and they were all promptly arrested and he spent a month or so in jail.
    The time in jail taught him more about gun responsibility than my sister’s no-gun policy. But my nephew still angrily complains about the “government” telling him he cannot keep an illegally purchased, unregistered firearm, because that takes his “freedom”.
    Well, she tried anyway.

  3. I live on a farm. We own guns. When I shoot my AR-27 that I got for Christmas, I let my 3-year-old shoot it with me. Of course, I don’t ever let him have it by himself.

    I’d rather him know how to use a gun safely. It takes out the curiosity and instills the fact that “it is one of those things you only do with Daddy.”

    I think gun play is a good thing, but I agree with shooting at targets and not people. At least until they KNOW the difference between real guns and toy guns.

    Living on a farm has its advantages. Hunting, I think, might also clarify the severity or realness for them. Though even I have yet to shoot anything but squirrels. I’m always solemn about it and believe in only shooting something if you are going to eat it. I hope that I can instill in them the same appreciate and respect that I feel for the life God has planted on this earth.

    • I talk openly with the children about where food comes from, even the cute piggies at the farm, and they’re okay with that. Kids are far more sensible and grounded than we (me) give them credit for. Having a son and a daughter I do find it hard to make sure they grow up respecting each other but not pushing them into gender boundaries like assuming it’s always my son hitting his sister without provocation. It’s hard not to over think parenting because of wider fears.

  4. I’m in the camp that things that are forbidden often make that thing much more exciting to try. I don’t like gratuitous violence in anything and I do keep my children from watching inappropriate material on TV but when it comes to play guns we have a dueling set of nerf guns and keep it at that. It’s important to watch what emotions come out when they play, if everyone is giggling and laughing then that’s great, but when someone starts using the gun as a way of inflicting pain or venting anger then it’s time to put them away and talk.

  5. Pingback: Mini Pentathletes: 2013 365 Challenge #300 | writermummy

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