"Bang! Bang! I'm gonna shoot you, mommy!" is the greeting I received when I walked in the house from a pharmacy run the other day. Mr. President #2 was standing directly in front of me, aiming his orange and blue NERF gun square at my chest, fully loaded, and ready to fire. I had to make a split-second decision--do I take the gun from him and tell my children there will be no more guns in this house, or do I play along and let Mr. President #2 think he is a good guy who just saved the day? Given the devastating news of the gun violence that recently occurred in Orlando, Florida, I was just feeling fed up, and wasn't quite sure what to do. When Mr. President #1 came running up the steps yelling, "Get Mommy! Get the bad guys," I decided to just play along. I kneeled over slightly and said to Mr. President #2, "Oh no! You got me!"
Mission accomplished! Mr. President #2 had just taken out the bad guy, so he ran off with Mr. President #1 to continue their pursuit of the other imaginary bad guys. But as I stood watching them in front of the door, I couldn't help but think to myself, "Did I do the right thing?" Here were my two, innocent little boys, having the time of their lives, shooting one another and continuously loading their guns with rounds of foam ammunition. What had I done to them? I couldn't help but think whether or not me allowing gun play would increase the chances of them becoming victims of gun violence one day, or maybe even being responsible for being on the wrong end of a gun in the future. My thoughts were not too pleasant, so I decided to do a little research later that evening to help put my mind at ease.
In doing my research, I learned quite a few statistics that were not so comforting. As it turns out, guns have been one of the leading causes of death in children in recent years. And to make things worse, these deaths occurred in the homes of these children as a result of failure to properly secure and store these guns. According to the statistics, parents obviously need to be a little more responsible when storing guns in their homes. After all, the purpose of having a gun in the first place is to protect, and not harm your children. With that being said, these alarming statistics were surprisingly accompanied by a bit of good news about gun play. Perfectly "normal" [for lack of a better word] kids engage in gun play, or aggressive play in general, as part of their growth and development. In fact, when children want to play with weapons, many of them will make guns or swords from sticks, pencils, or whatever they can get their hands on. Apparently it's all just part of play and using their imaginations. And as it turns out, aggressive play is also just part of growing up, and research shows it will help children better self-regulate in real life. Isn't that good news?
Although there is somewhat of an "up-side" to this aggressive play Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 seem to love so much, I still have my work cut out for me. The news has been filled with tragedy after tragedy, and I refuse to sit back and not do my part in teaching some positivity and responsibility for the next generation, so we're setting some ground rules in my house, and I think I'm ready to share them with you. I've decided to let my little guys continue their play with the NERF guns, but we will have some new regulations to accompany that play. Besides, I don't want to make too much of a big deal out of these guns because eventually, by drawing too much attention to them or taking them away all together, Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 will really be itching to get their hands on them then, and will probably even try to do so behind my back. We definitely don't want that! I'd rather have them thinking they're superheroes just trying to save the day, than trying to figure out why mommy and daddy won't let them play with NERF guns. Anyhow, here are the new ground rules:
1. Watch where you aim that thing:
First and foremost, there will be no aiming of any guns at any individual in this house. My boys are free to get the bad guys as much as their little hearts desire, but if I catch either one of them pointing that gun at anyone, (particularly the ones that fire foam projectiles) it will be confiscated. We have a new grid set up so Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 can aim to shoot at the bullseye, and that is fine by me.
2. If you're not a good guy, put the gun away:
Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 often play games with both a good and bad guys, so I decided to intervene just a little. They've recently shared with me that bad guys do bad things, so we have agreed that whoever plays a bad guy does not get a gun. Besides, there is no good that can come of that anyway. But for the good guys....something about being a superhero feels heroic for these little guys, and although they don't necessarily need a weapon to do so, why not just let them feel empowered? Swords, shields, nunchucks, nerf guns! They're just trying to save the day! These two guys made my job on this one a little easier than expected.
3. Please don't use the word Kill:
I know some of you might argue that aggressive play or gun play comes with killing, but Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 know that we do not use the word kill in this house. The objective of their play is to stop the bad guys, and not to kill, so as long as they are abiding by this rule, I think we are okay.
The bottom line is, it's not okay to kill, and I want my children to understand that. I don't want to hide toy guns from them entirely because I don't want there to be this stigma about guns, or for them to have a lasting desire to get their hands on one (especially when they go play at a friends house), so I am going to try my absolute best to teach them as much responsibility as possible. Too many lives are being lost in this country as a result of gun violence and instability, so as parents, we ALL need to do our part to Break the Cycle. So yes...my house might be filled with toy guns, but it is also filled with love and compassion for everyone. And to the parents who own guns, please keep them locked away and unloaded. I'm tired of seeing children loosing their lives because you failed to do so. And if you're hosting a play date and you have a gun, the same rules apply. Parents are sending their children over to play, not to lose their lives. My heart goes out to the families of the victims of the Orlando shooting. God bless each and every one of you.