my son, the paper marksman

I know there have been plenty of blog posts and news stories about the tragedy in Connecticut last week. Truthfully, I haven’t read many of them because my heart just can’t take it anymore. Unlike the families and friends directly effected by the shooting, I’m lucky that I have the ability to just shelve it in the back of my mindImage. I can’t imagine the level of daily pain that so many people feel. Just knowing what I know is difficult, I could not handle more. 

The thing that is so beyond understanding to me in this whole horrible situation is why this man had the guns he had. How does that happen? I’ve already gotten myself in trouble on social media for saying that stricter gun control might have prevented this, so I might as well go all in. 

I hate guns. Hate them. If I had my way, no one would have one, for any reason, ever. There. It’s out there now and you can feel free to stop reading if you need to. I’ve always hated guns. Hunting makes me sick to my stomach and the idea of having a gun to protect yourself is ridiculous to me. I would have been perfectly happy to never have a gun, or the idea of a gun, or the word “gun” show up in my life forever. I could have lived my whole life without a finger pointing at me and saying “bam.”

But that wasn’t my lot in life. My lot in life was to have sons, three of them. Me, hater of all things violent and weapon-like. My oldest son, ten, is the sweetest, kindest, animal and baby lover there is. He defends woman-kind to his 4 year old brother when he can’t shut up about “pajinas”. “You should stop that, it’s offensive to women!” That’s my boy. 

We go through more construction paper and tape in our house than should be allowed by law. That’s good, right? He’s making an arsenal of paper weaponry: giant, intricately created rifles made of rolled up tubes of paper, handguns, even a bazooka. That’s my boy, too. And it scares me. 

We were a “no guns allowed” household for many years, then he went to kindergarten, where a boy with older brothers (of course) taught him about bounty hunters and bombs. I was destroyed. Discussions about bombs blowing up the world were few and far between at first, peppered in with a love of Herbie the Lovebug. But, then came Star Wars. Lightsabers turned to blasters. We left Star Wars behind only for ninjas, with giant swords and nun-chucks. The last five years of my life have been a merry-go-round of things that kill. Then of course, the two younger boys wanted to do everything he did. Little shot me in the face with a finger gun at the dinner table when he was nine months old and I bawled.

Why didn’t we just ban weapons in our house? I tried for awhile, but they were just everywhere in boy play. Daddy reminded me again and again that he had played “war games” and turned out fine. He’s right, he’s the kindest, gentlest husband and father I know. I read books by experts on boys, experts who said that “war play” seems to be part of the genetic makeup of boys, it’s what they do. I had to make peace with my sons warring ways. We have strict rules about the warfare and people’s feelings are a top priority. I feel like I’m doing what I can to keep a minimal amount of control over the weapons. But can I tell him what he can and can’t make out of paper? He’s the most creative and mechanically inclined kid I know. I can suggest other options, but ultimately I don’t want to dictate his art projects. And I don’t think I should. We talk about what weapons really do, and why I don’t like them. Big gets it, but Middle and Little don’t see any danger in a paper grenade launcher or a plastic laser blaster.

I’m pretty okay with the “war play” at my house until something happens like the tragedy in Connecticut. Then I panic. I get anxious. Seeing paper rifles leaning in the corner of my dining room and a Popsicle stick and construction paper dagger on the sideboard make me nervous. I’m ill at ease with what’s happening here. I don’t care what the experts say, I don’t like it and I DON’T understand it. Is it my femaleness? Is it my bleeding heart liberalism? I don’t know, but my comfort level in my own home is way down as I pick up Star Wars guns from the couch. Big and I talked about it and he respects my wish not to have any guns in my sight for awhile. He knows about the tragedy in Connecticut and has talked to Daddy about how he thinks assault weapons should be banned. Just not the paper kind.

Our next door neighbor is two years older than Big and before he got too old, he was a regular in the neighborhood Star Wars play. He’s kind and witty and thoughtful. He’s smart and funny and he plays first person shooter games. His mother is involved and socially conscious and they have a great relationship. Will this be Big? With a chest of construction paper weapons instead of a first person shooter game? I hope so. My deep, aching fear is that it will go the other way. No matter the evidence I have to the contrary, I see him patiently working out the details on another rifle and my heart breaks a little. 

My son is loved, cared for, listened to. He is smart and kind and thoughtful. He recognizes when other people are feeling bad and tries to help them feel better. He is a good, good kid. I’m going to nurture him as best I can and hope that the interest in things that kill is a passing one. I’m going to love him hard. I’m going to try not to be judgmental about his interests. When I was a girl I couldn’t get enough Barbie,so there’s no argument that my childhood interests were healthier than his. It’s just no one ever got killed by a Barbie. I’m trying. Trying to be both loving and aware. I’m trying to be both patient and firm. I’m trying to make sure that the dark side never wins.





2 Responses to “my son, the paper marksman”

  1. 1 Amy
    December 18, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I feel for you “Mom”! You are a great person, a wonderful mother and live in a compassionate home.

    If guns didn’t exist, people who haven’t had the benefits your boys have would still be able to inflict harm on others. It’s been this way for ever.

    No one was ever killed by a Barbie, but she has equally screwed up a lot of little girl’s lives. All we can do is the best we can with what we have.

  2. 2 Jan Brown
    December 19, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Good post! I hate to complicate things more, but my parents gave me a BB gun when I was about 12. I used it to shoot birds in the neighborhood. And, inspite of that, I turned into a Buddhist. Things will work out…

    See you for Christmas,


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