When my son was born, he brought with him this natural interest in guns and explosives that my daughter did not have. I let it go, mostly amused that the first word he wrote was TNT. I knew stopping it was pointless – everyone knows a kid who turned toast or some other food into a gun shape – and that it would run its course. We did set one rule, which was that you could only finger shoot at someone involved in your game. No sniper play was allowed.
My son is six and he knows nothing about Sandy Hook or what happened to a group of kids his age, but when he fell into imaginary play days later, and made a gun shape with his hands, I freaked. “No guns, no guns!” I said, surprising him. “Not now.” He looked confused and a little embarrassed. I felt the same way, but I also wondered if letting my son play with guns, even in finger form, was glorifying them.
My son is a normal, happy, carefree kid, displaying no red flags that he’d ever be a person crazy or disgruntled enough to turn to a gun in anger. We don’t own guns and never will. He knows they are misused by bad guys to hurt and kill people, and when he plays, he’s after the bad guys (sometimes in the form of his sister). When my daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher addressed the issue, saying that it’s a part of innocent play that concerned her as a new teacher, but at that point, nearing retirement, her opinion had shifted. She was the one who explained the no sniper rule, and said if kids are playing together, it’s pretty harmless.
Maybe it’s too soon. Maybe from last Friday on, I will always feel uncomfortable when I see his thumbs go up and two fingers go forward to form a barrel. It still seems pointless to crack down on his imaginary weapon play, but I’m having trouble rectifying it with our values.