Grey had a birthday dollar burning a hole in his jeans pocket yesterday, so he and I took an impromptu trip to the local Dollar Tree early in the evening. (Our little Dollar Tree is a little over a mile away.)
G selected a set of toy items used for pretending one is an FBI agent--standard gear of dark shades, a badge, a non-functioning walkie-talkie, a holster for a belt, and an orange child-sized .45 caliber handgun. Oh and the requisite hand-cuffs...the item that first drew his attention to the set.
So we mosey around the store for a few minutes and make our way to the check out, where we are greeted by a very young male employee of the store who is the cashier. He dutifully scans each of my items and then Grey's FBI set. He takes a look at the toy gun and makes a "humphhh" noise. And then he said "Isn't it sad that American's let their children play with guns?"
(Insert the screeching brakes sound right here.)
It was one of those special moments when I was so surprised to hear what I was hearing; I couldn't come up with an adequate response in a timely manner. My brain was a little disengaged...we were only shopping at the Dollar Tree after all, and that's not usually a place where I am made to feel the need to defend my parenting choices or my Second Amendment rights.
So what I said was "Um, well, it's a little hard to keep him from them when his Uncle is in the Army."
In hindsight, that statement isn't exactly correct--if I thought it was right to keep Army Andy's gun pictures from Grey, I certainly would do it. The truth is I protect Grey from many things that I don't want him exposed to at the ripe old age of five. But, I do not feel the need to deny my son's interest in all things weapon-ish. It's one of those parenting choices I get to make since I am the mommy.
What I wish I had said would have come out sounding a little like a Julia Sugarbaker speech. Something along the lines of ... "Yeah, it's a little hard to keep him from being interested in serving and protecting when his uncle is serving and protecting your scrawny be-hind in the Army in Afghanistan. You think bad guys are gonna give up their fight if we throw cupcakes and water-balloons at them? Ever hear of a piece of paper called the Second Amendment? Do you want police officers laying it on the line against drug dealers armed with automatic weapons and Kevlar-penetrating bullets with only their wits to protect them? Dude. Am I paying extra for this commentary on your ideas on child-rearing?"
It's probably a good thing I can never think of these things in the moment. :)
I believe little boys are born defenders. It's built into them. Defend honor, defend good, defend the fort, the home, the lines of demarcation, defend the ship, the cause, or the standard or whatever it is that needs or merits defending. Those little boys grow up to be men who defend similar things like life, liberty, freedom, fairness, justice, faith, the fragile, those who need defending in other ways. In most cases, that need to defend requires the powerful component of weaponry. Sometimes those weapons are knowledge, action and education...but sometimes the required defensive weapon is a gun.
Playing with a toy gun most certainly does not make a little boy anything but normal. Cops and robbers is a universal right of boyhood passage. Learning about gun safety and appropriate use of a firearm, as it becomes an age-appropriate topic, is as important as reading and writing and music. A healthy curiosity must be trained and guided as a boy grows. Simply saying "guns are evil" is the parental equivalent of "the street is a bad place" but never explaining how to cross a street, how to be safe near a street and how not to play in the street. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away.
And finally, if I really thought it was "sad" that Americans let their children play with toy guns...would I really be footing the bill for an offensive item?
‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’
There's extensive controversy over whether or not the man who is commonly credited with this statement --Sir Edmund Burke-- actually said it or wrote it...but whoever first said it or wrote it has my full agreement. This call to pro-activity and strength - action before re-action - is a powerful thing to me. In modern terms, I don't believe in parenting from the back seat. I'm in the fight for raising the best possible children. I've not mastered it. I make mistakes, for which I repent and start again, but I certainly will not leave them out in the cold, uninformed and uneducated on how best to pursue and master that which comes as natural to them as breathing...being born defenders.
Admire and admonish.
Build and believe.
Cultivate and control.
Discipline and dare.
Encourage and educate.
Forgive and free.
Give and govern.
Help and hear.
Inspire and instill.
(to be continued)