“Do as I say, not as I drown myself in awesome stuff that you’re not old enough for.”
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We do not generally allow our 3.5-year-old to watch television containing fighting, or weapons, especially guns. He doesn’t have any toy guns, and I don’t play any violent games around him. Not from like a weird “IF HE EVEN SEES A GUN HE WILL START MURDERING ALL THE THINGS” sort of a place, but more “Shit, man. He’s only three and a half. He doesn’t need to see this yet.”
He’s aware of the existence of guns, of course; we don’t get to control what his friends watch or talk about, guns are on display in almost every toy store, and we even make occasional exceptions ourselves depending on what we feel he’s ready to see. For example, I gave him my old G1 Rodimus Prime transformer from when I was a kid. It became a favorite toy of his, so a couple of months ago we decided to sit down and watch Transformers: The Movie together so he could see Hot Rod in action, despite the fact that the characters shoot at each other. And no, I’m totally not tearing up right now thinking about the death of Optimus Prime. I have something in my eye…
That was a supervised instance, so we could talk to him about what was happening, and watch to see how he processed it. As a rule, however, he doesn’t have regular access to that sort of stuff. What little TV he watches in the mornings tends to be Curious George, Paw Patrol, Daniel Tiger… shows of that nature. Learning, or positive lesson reinforcement.
Most of his toys are cars, or trains, or Pokemon or cars, or cars. He thinks Iron Man’s palm repulsors are flashlights.
Limiting exposure to weapons is a personal parenting decision my wife and I have made up to this point, and I’m not going to argue that its right or wrong, just that it’s what felt right and comfortable to us. Well, comfortable to her. It sort of makes me feel like a dictionary’s definition of contradiction.
As an adult male of particularly geeky tastes, just about all of my favorite things involve weapons on one level or another. Star Wars. Super heroes. Lord of the Rings. Game of Thrones. Zombies. Most of the games I play. Guns. Swords. Explosions. Love ’em. Can’t get enough.
I have surrounded myself with tokens of these things that I enjoy. Physical representations of that which gets my blood pumping. Mostly in the form of my toy collection, but also books and board games and props and artwork. Some small piece of it that I can own and hold.
As you might imagine, a toy figure of War Machine literally bristling with guns is not conducive to a “guns aren’t toys” argument. For a while I was able to get away with a simply “Uhh… look over there!” approach, but those days are over.
While I feel like perhaps I might be more sensitive to guns in cartoons/games/toys than my parents were, strictly as a result of the gun culture we’re dealing with as a society in this country these days, I am nowhere near the (frankly naive) point of declaring “No guns EVAAARR!”
In fact, I can’t wait for the day I can share this stuff with my two boys. Stormtroopers. WarMachine/Hordes (Or 40k now that its less sucky). Nerf guns. Paintball. But my philosophy is that they have their entire lives to enjoy that stuff, there will be plenty of time for that once I know they have a solid grasp on the differences between real and pretend. So for as long its within our power, let’s steer them towards constructive activities/media.
That’s worked out well enough so far, but as I mentioned above, we don’t live in a bubble. Flynn is aware that guns are a thing, but he’d never shown much interest in them. Until one day a few weeks ago, he built a gun out of blocks.
Or as he calls them, a “gum.”
It caught us a little bit off guard; I don’t think you’re ever ready to hear your sweet little baby say “Pew pew! You’re dead!” But at the same time, we have boys and boys are naturally drawn to weapons. Sooner or later he was going to experiment with this sort of play. I just wanted it to be as “later” as possible.
I still have no intention of encouraging this type of play; I’m not going to let him have a toy gun yet. But I also realize I can’t stop him from making one out of a stick, or some blocks, or his finger when he’s playing with his friends. If this sort of play has entered his “creative vocabulary”, then I’m not really going to be able to remove it. I could suppress it, but that tends to be worse. I can make sure I talk to him about the differences between real guns and pretend guns, from now until he’s thirty years old if necessary.
And, as it just so happens, I have lots of the pretend ones for reference.
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