Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Letting her babies grow up to be cowboys

When I was growing up kids (in my age-group anyway) didn't play with guns. It was a mindset that most of our parents held: guns were not toys; there was nothing of value to be gained from leveling the barrel of a plastic peashooter in any direction, even at an imaginary foe.

Had we hailed from a family of hunters, maybe we'd have a different take on the subject. But no, we, and nearly everyone we knew, were doggedly anti-gun.

My assumption has always been that the war in Vietnam - which had recently ended - was the main factor behind the boycott. Too many young men our parents had known just never came home, or they'd come home so affected by the horrors they'd seen or participated in that they weren't the same people when they did come home.

I was quite a bit older than most kids' (I think) when I finally saw a child playing with a toy gun. I must admit the sight shocked me.

But then again, I was a girl. A tomboy, perhaps, but a girl all the same. The boy stuff I was interested in wasn't playing cops and robbers or war games; it was going fishing or climbing trees or catching snakes. It was scaling walls and getting dirty.

I have come to think of it as a testament to my lack of imagination. I wasn't interested in thinking and role play as much as I was fixated on getting things done. I wanted to be the Engine Who Could. I wanted to be as high as I could get. I wanted to face fear and stare it down.

Guns didn't frighten me; they weren't even on my radar.

It didn't occur to me until much later, though, that guns were all around as I grew up. They didn't much look like what they were supposed to be, however, a red button on a rectangular hunk of plastic, tethered by a chord to the television screen. The explosive blasts sounded more digital than mechanical, and the targets were little men from outer space.

Few could work up much opposition to something so fanciful.

Shooting aliens, after all, would be a desired skill in the unlikely event of an interstellar invasion.

Of course, my interest in such things never lasted long; again I blame my gender. Even with the advent of Charlie's Angels, I was more interested in the caliber of their coiffs than the caliber of their side arms.

But boys will be boys.

Jed's mom was not much different than my parents. She was another mother who forbade games depicting mortal combat. Of course she herself fell victim when her only son - unhappy with the edict - chewed his toast into the shape of a revolver and brazenly shot her over breakfast one morning.

"Where do they get this from," I recall was her recollection.

I have to admit, I had the same degree of wonderment when The Champ, a few months ago, picked up a roll of wrapping paper, aimed it at the dog and said: "Psssshoooooo!"

I shook it off. He's only 17 months old. It didn't mean what I think it means.

Then a month or so later I found him quietly stalking our furry, incontinent beast with the core of a toilet paper roll. One eye shut. BOOM!

I sent out the APB: "Silas has a gun," but I didn't bother asking where he got one.

"Bond. James Bond." Has been his dad's nightly routine for falling asleep since Santa brought him the complete boxed set.

"We don't shoot family pets," I say ... wondering if it's possible rabies (and not age and a lack of estrogen) is causing the pee puddles around the places she's been, in which case it might not be so inappropr...

"NO! It is not OK to shoot the dog, Silas. OW. The dog would get hurt."

"No. Pshooooo?"

"No Pshooooo."

Since the all-out bans haven't really changed society's view on guns, a number of social scientists have found that toy guns and violent play acting might actually have an important role in motivating the later academic learning in boys, as well as allowing kids to explore weighty life issues such as fear, death and violence in a safe manner.

To me it makes sense. Not only do we learn through play, but it doesn’t seem as if outright bans instill knowledge as much as they reinforce fear. And looking back, I can honestly say that none of the kids I knew who played cops and robbers ever became either. Although it's possible one or two are still shooting at aliens.

I suppose the argument over whether children should play with guns is going to be a moot point in our house.

The kid's already found his dad's "potato gun."

And he's got his trusty steed, Butterscotch, to take him Home on the Range whenever he squeezes her ear.

I suppose the only thing missing is the cowboy hat -- although not if you consider his recent finding of a plastic fire helmet in the back of his sister’s closet that he now wears as he rides off into the sunset on the PlasmaCar.

Perhaps I should think about getting the poor old dog an orange vest, just incase this particular mother's son does indeed grow up to be a cowboy. ... We wouldn't want him mistaking her for a wolf, anyway.


Firestarter5 said...

If no one had a gun, there'd be no gun crimes.
If everyone carried a gun, criminals would think twice about committing a crime....or something like that.

We had pellet guns growing up. Rifles to be specific. The kind where you crack the barrel open at the stock and put a pellet in the barrel and snap it back into place.

One day, I have no idea of my age, I was walking down a dirt road and right above me in a tree was a small sparrow. Quietly I pointed the gun straight up and fired. I killed that sparrow in one shot and it lay dead right at my feet.

I've never shot anything since then.

Go out and get Annabel and Silas a video game unit...then the fun really begins!

Anonymous said...

We played Army with plastic toy guns, kinda of like hide-in-seek only one did not have to actually touch ones opponent to disqualify them from the game. Made for a much more stealthier game, one could duck, move,and break into a zig-zag run.
When older we had bb and pellet guns and we killed everything that moved within our range, but knew not to point them at another human...When out of ammo we would fashion clubs and chase down rabbits and muskrat, clubbing them to death.
I think it boils down to nurture, we played army as a game, hunted as a challenge, but new it was wrong to harm another human being...they were never any rewards for harming a fellow playmate, unlike today's video games of point, shoot, destroy.

Later, Kcoz

kimmyk said...

What's a potato gun?
I loved Sila's "No. Pshooooo?"
So sweet.

I gotta say though, Kcoz...I'm a little concerned at your "When out of ammo we would fashion clubs and chase down rabbits and muskrat, clubbing them to death."....

you would beat them to death???

No offense, but uh...that's a tad harsh even for boys don'tcha think? If kids today beat an animal they're looking at time behind bars. (and in my opinion, it's justified...)

Firestarter5 said...

KK...YouTube is your friend. Look for potato gun.

I've only killed spiders, and mice, and one bird.....oh, and I guess a rabbit I hit with my car.

toyfoto said...

See. I thought a potato gun only killed potatos. We've never used ours for real.

Anonymous said...

Good point kimmyK, let me explain. I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago that still had wooded areas, as young boys we would "hunt" the woods. The rabbits we ate, my dad would skin, clean, and cook them for us. The muskrats we considered a dangerous predator after a young boy from the neighborhood was bitten by one and had to get rabies shots.

What I question now is all the birds we killed as target practice, Robins, Sparrows, Black Birds...ect.

We NEVER pointed our guns at eachother, because we were aware of the damage even a pellet gun could inflict.

Later, Kcoz

kimmyk said...

gotcha. makes sense now that you put it that way.

now i gotta go google a potato gun.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to also add that i do not hunt animals anymore. I started to hunt Deer when older equipped with my 308 Ruger and a 35mm camera, I found it more interesting to photograph the deer than shoot them and never hunted again.

I'm still a crack shot with a rifle from all the practice as a young boy, not sure this is of any importance in my life unless there is a knock-down, drag-out, bloody revolution!

Later, Kcoz

Martha said...

My caveman, I mean, son, prefers something a bit more primitive: a club.
Your dog should consider itself lucky. Our cat will tell you that...

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I grew up with rifles in my house, hanging on the wall (a remnant of my dad's days in "Rifle Club" in high school---can you even imagine that club existing today???).

We have "no guns", but my son will take his toy drill and "shoot it". I tell him, "don't shoot anyone directly" or "maybe it just tickles and doesn't hurt anyone". He looks at me like I have three heads and keeps firing.

And, yeah, video games---I though "Lego Star Wars"--how bad can it be? They're Legos! And, they aren't "Bad" per se, but I'm seeing pretty early on that my son has inherited my dad's ability to shoot on target. And, you know, I think that, wherever he is, my dad is smiling.

toyfoto said...

We had a rifle in our house, too. I think. Someone gave it to my dad and he kept it unloaded in the back of a closet.

He never touched it. Never loaded it. Never shot with it that I know of. I really don't know why he owned it.

He liked to fish.