As western forces bombard Libya, killing the people they
claim to protect, I sit down to write this posting on boys and guns.
I can’t say how many conversations I’ve had with moms that
start out, “I don’t know how they even know about them” (guns).
Yet when powerful and influential world leaders and video game
developers default to combat and confrontation it is no wonder that guns are a force to be reckoned with if we want to raise sons who see creative alternatives to conflict. Even in the most placid, low-media, sequestered environments a fascination with weapons seeps out to a receptive audience of mostly boys.
But does it necessarily mean they will use weapons to kill
and maim or that they will develop a confrontational personality?
At first at least, maybe boys simply notice that weapons and conflict get a lot of attention and are driven to explore the reasons why. Or maybe the interest is more primal.
When my son started noticing swords, guns, and bows and
arrows, when he was about four, we asked him what he liked about them and what he
would do with them.
It turned out that it was all about having something to aim for. A
wise woman told me to give him a target and let him go at it. She also
suggested putting a single square of toilet paper into the toilet and letting
him aim for it when he went to pee.
So we made a bow and arrow and a target and he loved it. And
I took a turn and guess what?? I loved it! It brought back memories of me as a
kid shooting an arrow or throwing a snowball and loving the challenge of
hitting what I was aiming for.
And maybe that’s where all the interest in weapons begins
before it gets jumped on by the media, twisted up, and crammed down our throats
in so many boy-focused toys, books, games, and movies?
More specifally, where do guns come in? I admit I have more questions than
Are they simply the more contemporary version of the bow and arrow eliciting excitement from aiming and hitting something? Is our society’s fascination with and the mass media’s overuse of aggressive images simply the extension of some innate desire to master the challenge of combining speed, distance, and aim – maybe originally to hunt food?
Are all the drawings, legos, and acting out of gun-play just
a way of trying to figure out why they are so prevalent in contemporary culture
or in defining what it means to be a man? Are our children simply
processing society’s interest and if so shouldn’t we give them room to
explore without the fear, worry, or reprimand that I have undoubtedly conveyed
to my dear son? And how much does our reaction to this form of play shape their perception of its power?
I struggle between outright banning of guns and other weapons as toys and allowing him free range, with lots of intervention, to explore them.
Talking through these issues is exhausting, frightening, and frustrating to me. Exhausting
because to do it well I need to think hard about coming up with an effective, non-threatening approach. Frightening because I harbour doubts that I
can explain things effectively or will actually end up deflecting the media’s influence. And frustrating because he will inevitably come up with some hard questions for me that I will
have to devote energy to thinking about.
I want it to be easy even though I know it won’t be.
Yet I am committed to trying, and part of the reason for this blog is to reach out to others who have similar feelings in the hopes of sharing the challenge and coming up with strategies to them.
I welcome your contribution to this discussion and in the weeks to come, plan to share more of my thoughts and ideas about aggression and weaponry in raising a boy.