People are now being admitted to hospital with eye injuries from Nerf Guns. Ouch but yeah. I’m sure many more have suffered quietly in backyards around the world. It happens.
If you had have told me this a few years ago however, I would have been horrified. “Oh my God. What kind of parent would allow their child to play with toy weapons?”
And now that kind of parent is me.
“No child of mine will have a toy gun”, I declared 20 years ago. Hahahahahhahaa. And also lol.
I was a brand new parent and I was blissfully deluded about 100 things. The idea I would be able to control what my child wanted to play with was just one of them. I’m the parent right? My values. My rules (see: leggings are not pants).
My first child had no guns. I wouldn’t allow it. This wasn’t a huge problem because he was a kid who was obsessed with cars and cooking. While other four-year-old boys carried around guns, he carried around a copy of Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess, weighed down with post-it notes marking all the cakes he wanted to make and then eat.
I felt a bit smug about this. No weapons in MY HOUSE. War and violence are firmly discouraged - no, banned. I had a friend with a son the same age who tried a similar approach before she waved the white flag. “I don’t let him have guns and so he just chews his toast into a gun shape and shoots his sister,” she sighed. I made sympathetic noises while privately thinking she was a pussy and feeling morally superior. My child isn’t drawn to mindless violence. My child is drawn to baking.
But when my second son was born 11 years later, he pretty much emerged from my vagina brandishing multiple firearms.
At first, I tried to hold my line. No Guns. But then one night when my son was about four, he came to me holding my highest, most glittery stiletto. “Mum, you know what this looks like?” he asked me.
“A gun,” he said with a grin.
I burst out laughing and that was when I began to see the futility of my attempts at prohibition.
He’s very particular about props and he’s accumulated quite a cache of weaponry. Some of these have been improvised (see: high-heeled shoe) and others he’s made himself by co-opting sticks and sticking toy knives on the end of them to create spears. But there are other weapons that have appeared in our house mysteriously. Again, with a third child you tend to pay less attention. Maybe some came in showbags? Maybe some were gifts? From an uncle maybe? I can’t recall ever buying a gun… oh except for this one time at Halloween when he wanted to be a pirate or a soldier and I found myself at the $2 shop standing in front of the toy weapons. I knew it was a watershed moment. I knew I was being tested as a parent.
And I knew I was going to fail. I stood there for quite some time, wrestling with myself. Eventually, I ‘compromised’ by eschewing all the more realistic looking high-powered weapons and buying an olde worlde pirate pistol. I justified it to my slightly stricken self by noting that it looked obviously fake and very retro. More prop than gun!
But I crossed that line into hypocrisy. I did. And on the other side of my line was a slippery slope into anarchy.
In my defence, it’s wonderful having a child who is self-sufficient when it comes to occupying himself. Every parent knows this. If a child has an active imagination and can play happily with their cars or doll or tea set or... weapons... then your life is simply easier. It’s a good skill for a child to have and it’s a godsend for a parent who has no time or inclination to be a cruise director.
So when he started grabbing handfuls of his weapons when we went out to dinner or to friends’ houses where there would be other kids, I didn’t think anything of it. Somehow, over time, we became the parents of the kid who carries weapons in public.