Saturday, December 15, 2012


(I started this post in September but it remained unfinished until today.  How I wish it could have remained unfinished, because in September, it lacked the passion and the importance that it does today.)

Early one morning when we were camping, Aidan and I were walking back from the wash house, holding hands and drinking in the peaceful, beautiful dawn.  We'd been up only a short time; I hadn't even had a cup of coffee yet.  Suddenly, we heard gunshots in the distance, shattering the silence and the moment.  Neither one of us said anything until finally Aidan asked, "Was that a gun?"  I answered yes, it was.  Aidan's face was a mix of curiosity and confusion, possibly a little bit of wonder.  And so I added, "You know, the first thing that went through my mind when I heard those gunshots was how could anyone take a life so early in the morning, on such a beautiful day?" His face fell and his eyes grew big with compassion, understanding that a death had occurred, that we'd heard the silencing of a life.

In our house, we have a play kitchen set filled with miniature pots and pans, plastic peppers and cucumbers, wooden shakers filled with spices.  On the porch sits a doll's stroller, awaiting a time when it will safely transport a babydoll on an adventure.  In the basement we have a trunk full of dress up clothes, including nurse's scrubs, a firefighter's jacket, and a king's cape and crown.  In other words, our home is filled with toys and accessories that inspire imaginative and creative play, much of which emulates real life.  In the kitchen set, my kids cook up elaborate meals and serve them to us, delighting when we pretend it is too hot, or too spicy, or just plain gross.  Watching Pax lovingly stroll his babydoll down the street to meet his brothers at the bus stop, my heart swells in watching him care for his doll the way that I care for him - tucking the blanket snug; offering a snack.

 What is entirely absent from our home is any trace of a gun or lethal weapon, real or otherwise. We do not own toy pistols or cap guns or even squirt guns; we have just one lone Nerf sword that sits high on top of the refrigerator following its mysterious "disappearance" on the same day it was acquired.   

We do not own guns of any sort because guns are deadly.  Because the only thing you can do with a gun is kill someone or something, and nothing else.  We do not own toy guns, because it must be quite confusing if every other toy in this house is designed to encourage and create real-life play, except for this strange "toy," the one made to look like and be played with like the lethal weapon it is.

Yesterday, on December 14, a most horrific tragedy occurred in an elementary school in Sandy Hook, CT.  20 children and 6 adults were gunned down, at school, by a 20 year old who carried with him three different types of guns. I have not even begun to process this horror beyond the tears I've shed, the articles I've alternately obsessed over and avoided, and the tight and desperate hug I gave each of my children as they were delivered to me safely off the school bus yesterday.  I will not launch into an argument on gun control, because my views are extreme, and unwavering.  I am closed-minded when it comes to gun control; I am not willing to discuss or debate. I hate guns and I think extreme bans should be placed on the right to own weapons - and in particular, handguns.

But I'll tell you what has changed for me since this most recent school shooting.  I will no longer be apologetic about my "no toy guns" stance.  I will no longer feel embarrassed about my position during the rare encounters I'm asked to defend myself on why my kids can't play with the toy guns at someone else's house.  I'll be more vigilant about asking if guns are kept in the home of a friend whom my children will be visiting, and if so, what precautions have been taken to ensure that they are not loaded; that they are locked up and made unavailable to children.  I'll review more often with my children what they are to do if they ever find or see a gun, or hear about one being at school:  Do not touch the gun.  Run away.  Run and find a trusted adult.  Tell them.  In one of the articles I read this morning about how to talk to your children about senseless tragedies like this one, I read about how violence is cumulative.  Violence is cumulative, ergo exposure to violent toys increases the cumulative effect on children.  The mere fact that I had to have the conversation with them, to tell them about the unthinkable act of terror committed in an elementary school against students and teachers, solidified my stance on toy guns: 

 I will apologize no more. 

 How could anyone take a life so early in the morning, on such a beautiful day?

How could anyone take 26 lives?

And what are we going to do about it?


Linsey said...

We don't have guns in the house either. Do you allow your boys to pretend that their fingers are guns? We struggle, mainly with Julian, with his violent play. Everything is a gun or a bomber and I feel pretty helpless to stop it. Curious how you handle that, or if it never comes up.

Guns aren't just something on the news here. We hear gunshots enough that the boys know how to tell the difference between gunshot and a firecracker. I wonder if his play is a way to manage some of the background anxiety about that. Who knows.

Anne (author) said...

That's the thing that always surprises me, Linsey, is that kids still pretend their fingers are guns. We discourage it, I remind them that the reason I hate guns is because guns make people dead, and try to get them to move on to a new game. I *do* agree that the more violent type of play is a way of managing the anxiety and stress of what they experience in real life. A friend told me about a strategy she uses when her kid feels especially anxious or upset - "scary thought/brave thought." When her daughter has a scary thought, she needs to quickly think of a brave thought to counter it.
Finally - I cling to the idea that my brother played his fair share of cops & robbers (with his finger-gun) when we were kids, but he is one of the most non-violent, peaceful men I know.