On a recent weekend, our family went to a neighbor’s house for some afternoon play. At one point during our visit, my five-year-old son came tearing around the corner with a toy gun in his hand making blasting noises. I quickly walked over to him and took the gun away.
“Honey, what are our family rules about guns when we are at a friend’s house?” I asked him.
“Always ask an adult before I play with a toy gun,” he recited, looking a little sheepish.
“That’s right. Did you ask me or your dad about playing with this gun?”
“No. Sorry, Mom,” he said.
“Playing with guns is a big responsibility. Let’s remember next time. Who is playing with you?”
We went on to discuss who was engaged in the blasting game and who wasn’t, and we set clear expectations that the people who did not want to play would be fully left alone. I reminded him that he is never to point at someone who isn’t part of the game. He agreed and ran off with his friend to continue playing.
Sometimes I think I go overboard with the rules we have about guns in our house.
We always ask if parents keep guns in the home. No toy guns of any kind are allowed in our house. We have strict rules about obtaining consent if any inanimate object gets transformed into a gun (i.e. sticks, legos). As detailed above, we have strict rules about how we approach toy guns at friends’ houses, which has been adapted over time.
At first, I tried to say our kids could not play with guns, period—no matter if we were at a friend’s house or not. That proved to be really difficult. So for now, we ask that they request permission prior to playing with a toy gun and follow our rules of consent. Obviously, it’s still a work in progress.
In February, another mass shooting of children happened—the 18th school shooting of 2018. I know my rules around guns will never be enough to keep my kids safe. It is a sick and terrifying realization. Regardless, this morning I spoke to both my 5 and 3-year-olds about the fact that kids were hurt by another kid with a gun.
My 3-year-old put her hand on my cheek and asked, “Why would a kid hurt another kid? That’s not good!”
I hugged her and admitted I didn’t know. I told them how sad I was, and reminded them this is why we don’t like guns and why our family rules are so important.
“What do you do if you see a gun?” I asked them.
“Run and tell an adult!” they chanted back.
“And you NEVER touch it!” my 5-year-old added.
“Yes,” I said. “Guns are serious business and need to be treated as such.”
Unfortunately, this image sums up America’s relationship with gun violence.
We don’t have to live like this. I refuse to live like this.
Folks who know me know that I breed hope through action. In Georgia, where I live, we have the opportunity to elect representatives who will pass common-sense gun legislation and unseat those who refuse. The primaries are on May 22, with the general election on November 6.
We must fight for gun control. For our children. For each other.
How will you demand common sense gun control in your community?
Originally published on A Striving Parent, a blog that explores ways to address and combat systems of oppression within the context of family. Republished by permission.
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