We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness. David Orr from "Earth in Mind"
Oct 27, 2008
Guns guns and more guns and a few crummy plastic swords too
I'm having to processing something I experienced the other night. We went to a Halloween party at a co-workers house last Saturday night. The first thing I noticed that Alder was the only child in a home-made costume. All the boys were Power Rangers, Star Wars characters or other "soldier" story characters (although there was one vampire) and all the girls were princesses (and on Pokemon). But the costumes we the supermarket sort and they all really looked the same, polyester one piece suits with a big gaping hole at the back and some indeterminate symbols on the front. I didn't think too much about it because I know not everyone sews or has the time to make a costume.
So we're there, all of us feeling somewhat uncomfortable. Everyone seems to know everyone else and we literally know one person. Not to mention the fact that I don't really like parties where everyone is crammed into a house and there is loud music. So I sort of hover in the kitchen talking with my friend and trying to help with setup. After a half hour I realize that Alder still hasn't left my side (A is usually searching out the other kids, even if it's to just watch them).
So I decide to walk him back to the kids room to show him where they are playing, and to give him a little space. I was not expecting what I would find in this sweet four year old's room. Guns, lots of toy guns, sixteen toy guns to be exact and an additional nine toy swords and knives of all varieties. I was speechless. The kids, even some younger than Alder, were collecting them in piles and shooting them at each other, in each others faces and sticking them in the faces of adults and pretending to threaten them. And no one seemed to care. Luckily Alder is my son and just the noise from the room was too much for him so he followed me back out to the living room.
Now I understand that I live in a bit of a "crunchy" public radio no TV bubble, but I was a public school teacher for five years and I can not remember ever this much focusing on guns. To be honest it really disturbed me. I know that it was a hyped on sugar get together but still it seemed so unchecked.
I should explain that it isn't as if I have a hate of guns, certainly not those used by hunters, in fact I spent many winters in Durango eating the elk, pheasant, venison and turkey that my friends would kill. I can even say one of my favorite toys as a child was a toy gun that my father and I made together that shot little pieces of cardboard. But in all these situations there was a great deal of understanding of what guns were for and the real effects that they can have.
The father of the boy whose room this was is a hunter, in fact he had just shot a bear that day. I thought that if anyone hunters are the ones who try to have their children understand guns and safety the best, because there are real guns around, but it seems as though it isn't always that way.
Besides the fact that they were guns I was also shocked by the quantity of them. Just the idea that a four year old had sixteen of anyone thing is sad to me. Especially when they are all disposable and pretty much interchangeable, why so many?
What does all of this means in relation to how I want to bring up Alder?
Violence is not okay, ever. Not for Alder while he is still young and forming his early sense of self. I know eventually weapons will make there way into his play, whether is pretending to be a medieval knight or a Greek soldier violence will enter the picture. But I would like for it to be introduced within the frame work of a story, one whose meaning goes beyond the fight. But these are not stories that he needs to hear for another four years, at least. Until then I am absolute in my feelings about violence and the associated play. If this means that I may shield my son from certain cartoons or other media (hey we already don't watch TV except fpr movies) I have absolutely no problem with that.
Of course no answer can ever be that simple. Alder already is growing up in house with weapons in it. Kevin practices martial arts and uses swords, staffs and kuan-daos as part of his practice. But Kevin frames it as an art form, sure he can protect himself as need be but he has never deliberately gotten into a fight. Alder may end up learning to use a sword in one of the sets that Kevin does which have more in common with ballet than with fighting (something he pointed out to me). To me this is a good thing, I think that if he learns about weapons first with respect he will be more apt to make better judgments later on.
Of course all of this means that Kevin and I have had to make some choices in our movie watching habits because we like to watch action movies. I can still recite Raiders of the Ark and James Bond (Sean Connery Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan only please) is in regular rotation in my favorites list. But now they are left for later evening viewing.
When Alder is all grown up I'll be able to see whether any of this has an affect, but I'm not going to let it slide just because there isn't a lot of evidence one way or the other (according to one GAO study I read).
How do you approach things like this in your families?