The (Toy) Gun Debate

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I don’t think that my husband and I have ever even had to discuss it. We’ve never had to discuss it in the same way that we’ve never had to discuss what we would pack for our move to the moon. Why would we discuss something that we know is just simply never going to happen? That’s to say that we would never consider keeping or allowing guns in our home. Real or otherwise.

When our eldest was about 16 months old, we noticed that he was developing an obsession with cars. An obsession that continues to this day. His Lego became cars. His wooden blocks became cars. He started making ‘vroom vroom’ noises before he could even speak properly. And yet, perhaps surprisingly, he didn’t even have one toy car at home. Seeing him make a beeline for other children’s toy cars at playdates, we decided that this was a normal boy obsession and we were happy to indulge it. Bring on the toy cars! Our house is now overflowing with them and we have no problem with that. And I should add, that the reason that my son didn’t have any toy cars is not due to us, as parents, have anything against cars. It’s just that Mommy is a girl and Daddy doesn’t care about cars so I guess it just never dawned on us to buy any.

But this is not how we feel about guns. Without going into a whole ‘thing’ about guns and gun ownership, I do believe that there is a time and a place for them. But that place is never going to be in my home. I’d also like to add that that ‘time’ is not in childhood but that, sadly, would just be naive.

And that leaves me wondering . . .

Why do boys turn everything into a gun?

It’s sort of become a habit when we go to any market that our four year old comes home with a toy of some kind. In an effort to stem the inevitable refrain of ‘but I want that toy’ every 5 seconds, I set him a 50 baht limit and he gets to pick out one thing and one thing only. He’s learning (slowly) that sometimes the first thing you see isn’t always the best thing and that choices have consequences. (Or at least that’s what I tell myself – check back with me in 10 years.) He is allowed to choose anything he wants. Well, sort of. I do draw the line at anything that has too many small parts (choking hazard for his little brother), anything that I think will get broken before we even get home and, of course, toy guns.

So we were so pleased when, at a market up north recently, our son passed over the (very) pointed child sized wooden swords on offer in favour of this:

Toy gun debate

When you press on the orange bit, the flower’s petals open up and spin around and little sparks are created. Sweet right?

Wrong.

As we’re walking back to the car our son, showing me the spinning flower, shouts excitedly “See Mommy! When I do this, it shoots bullets!”

Seriously??

I guess my point is this. Despite our unconscious lack of cars in the home, our son still found a way to ‘play cars.’ It’s the same with guns. And it would be redundant of me to point out here that he’s not the only boy to do this. Just this morning his teacher told me that the entire year group had to be spoken to about how their play on the playground is too aggressive (playing shooting games, pretending to be superhero ninjas, wrestling etc.).

As an educator, I’ve spent a career resisting and actively countering gender stereotypes such as ‘girls aren’t good at Science and Maths,’ ‘boys aren’t good at learning languages’ or ‘and they don’t like to read.’ But I find myself at a loss to explain this whole ‘play fighting’ business without resorting to gender; without resorting to the cliche that ‘boys will be boys.’

And the irony is that his dad and I have always encouraged him to explore his physical boundaries on the playground. We’ve always taken the ‘shake it off’ approach when he falls down. His dad has always roughhoused with him.

Is playfighting a rite of passage for young boys? Are guns a normal obsession for young boys? Is it simply part of their development? And how far should we, as parents and educators, let it go? I wish I had the answers to this one.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Photo Credit: linh.ngan via Compfight cc

My name is Jodie. I'm a 38 year old Canadian working and living in Bangkok, Thailand. My husband and I are both international teachers - though I'm taking this year off to be a full-time mom.

When we're not busy with other people's kids, we try our hand at raising our own very curious nearly four year old son and his 9 and half month old brother. When it comes to parenting, like most of us, I’m making a lot of it up as I go along .

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