I had to. This park is well-known for the dozen or so tanks that have been parked here for decades. Kids climb them every time they visit until they grow too self-conscious to scramble up and pose for a photo. Then they come back in a few years and set their own children atop these mammoth vehicles. It was the first true Saturday of spring, perfect for being outdoors; as long as the boys gave equal time to the rest of the park, I was happy to let Henry and Liam have some rugged play.
Make no mistake, I am not changing my stance of zero tolerance for weapon play. It is not by accident that the boys do not even own a squirt gun. Occasionally, they will pretend that some long stick or pool noodle is a sword but that's as close to combat as I'll allow. I have been known to throw away Happy Meal toys and return birthday presents in order to keep anything that resembles a gun away from my boys. They are not allowed to watch any movie or television show in which the characters use weapons. And you know what? There are still lots of shows to watch, learn from and enjoy.
Contrary to common belief, my sons, having not been given toy pistols, do not aim random stick-like objects at targets and pretend to shoot. Why do people assume that that is okay? That boys will be boys and that's how they should be? What value is there in that kind of play? I want my children to grow up to be strong, brave and kind. When they go out into the world, I never want them to intentionally harm another human being. So why would I have them practice the opposite behavior in our living room?
In the past week, I've witnessed two things that are hard to believe --especially in a post-Sandy Hook society. Or maybe...sadly, easy to believe. One day as I was on my way to pick up Henry from kindergarten, I heard a rhythmic popping sound coming from a parked car in front of the school. Inside was a preschooler shooting what I think was a cap gun (do they still make those?) at the school windows. I couldn't believe my eyes. I didn't see anyone else in the car--presumably they were meeting older children at the school doors. With each pop, I felt nauseous. I wanted to grab that toy from the child's hands and shout No! in his face. Then I wanted to find and slap his parent. But I didn't. Because, after all, it is a parochial school. And a free country.
Where will that preschooler be in fifteen years? Hmmmm, maybe he'll be working in retail. The young employee I saw today certainly has been holding faux weapons for a while. As he crossed in front of me, he pointed his hand-held price scanner at a colleague and pretended to shoot. I could tell that was what he was doing because he added sound effects. I must assume that this young man was a high school graduate. Although he looked like a student, it was noon on a weekday--so he must be at least eighteen. If he wants to shoot someone so badly that he can't wait until his shift is over, why didn't he just enlist in the army? Maybe since the store is called Target, he thought he had.
So despite this post's first photo, I have no intention of raising warriors. Real or imagined. There are too many other ways to spend our time on this planet.