This morning I got a comment on one of my blog posts that made me shake my head. Tricia, a young mom from Western Australia, told me that she had gotten an angry email from another woman when she wrote a blog suggesting that toy guns are a part of growing up. The woman who emailed told Tricia she was encouraging people to raise murderers. I immediately thought Tricia should have told the woman to go sell crazy somewhere else. What the holy hell is wrong with people?
Now, I’m no child development expert, but I did look around a bit today for information on the subject of children and imaginary violent play. There are no studies that link pretend gun fights to an increased likelihood of adult violence. There was one study that actually suggested that boys perform better in school when they’re allowed to engage in this type of imaginary play. Honestly, if every boy I knew as a child became a murderer because he played with toy weaponry, I’m not entirely sure there would be a living soul in the western United States.
I understand our natural tendency to want to curb violent play in our children. As a new mother of two boys, I decided I would not purchase toy guns for our sons to play with. Round about the time they were 5 and 3, though, they started using their fingers to pretend to shoot each other. Apparently, keeping the guns out of their hands was not going to hinder their notion of gun play. While my sons do not own guns that shoot anything other than Nerf bullets, they do enjoy shooting at each other. We’ve never been parents who wrestle with our boys and our boys do not wrestle with each other, so perhaps this “shooting” helps them act out their natural aggression in a harmless way? I’m not sure. All I do know is that whether or not I had wanted them to talk about gun ships, war, and killing, it seeped its way into their lives. They seem no worse for the wear because of it. They are not violent boys. Joe will cry when the neighbor boys steps on ants in our driveway. (For the record, I don’t think that crying makes him a sissy, either.)
I do understand that we are hypersensitive to guns after the recent killings at the movie theater in Aurora, and I am not entirely comfortable with actual guns myself. But, toy guns are not real guns, and I am clever enough to understand there’s a difference. I’m not handing my boys semi-automatic assault weapons loaded with live ammunition to play with. I’m simply allowing them an outlet that encourages their style of creative, imaginary play. As long as boys have been boys, there has been cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians. It seems to be a rite of passage. Why get worked up over it? I’m not sure purchasing Nerf guns for my sons turns them into murderers any more than handing a young girl an Easy Bake Oven will turn her into the Julia Child. Heck. I played Charlie’s Angels with my sisters when I was growing up. My gun fingers neither turned me into a murderer or Farrah Fawcett.
To the woman who found it necessary to berate my fellow blogger, Tricia, I would simply suggest this: find something else to worry about. Perhaps a new hobby would help relax you? I’d suggest knitting, but that involves needles and I wouldn’t want to turn you into a heroin addict. If the new hobby doesn’t work, then Xanax might. I have no personal knowledge about Xanax, but I’ve heard it works wonders when you’re a bit overwrought. We all need to relax a bit and not become too worked up over things that have no root in day-to-day reality. We do the best we can with our boys. Sometimes their incessant chatter about bullets and battles makes me uncomfortable, but that’s my problem not theirs. I don’t believe that their toy guns will lead them to violence in adulthood. After all, toy guns don’t kill people, crazy people do.