Guns, and Ships (#357)

I was never going to let my kid play with guns.

I hate guns. Guns make it far too easy to kill people (exhibit A: America). Yes, murder would exist without guns, but pointing and pulling a trigger is simple. Hacking someone to death with a weapon? At least a would-be killer has to work for it. And the time it takes allows potential victims the chance to fight back or escape.

My childhood playmate had no chance against a rifle. She was ten when she was murdered.

I let Baby D play with cars, trains, Legos, and stuffed animals. His screentime consisted of shows like “Thomas the Tank Engine” or “Bob the Builder” or documentaries about firefighters.

He still came home from preschool and promptly turned his Lego cars into Lego guns. He stopped using our dog Woofie’s tail as a fire hose and aimed it while making machine gun noises. When I put a stop to that, Baby D said, “Mommy, can we walk the dogs now?”


“Yay! I can find some sticks and use them as guns.”

I took my worries about raising a warmonger to a therapist. She explained that most boys have a receptor site in their brain for weaponry (or something like that). Other studies show that “gun play” is important for childhood development and there is no correlation between kids playing with toy guns and criminal behavior.

Despite all the studies, parenting is the newest, least exact of all the social sciences. Parents must choose: ban weapons and risk making them even more desirable forbidden fruit or allow toy guns and risk them becoming a gateway drug to actual weaponry.

Baby D is as stubborn and contrary as children come. I opted for Nerf.

Once the ban was lifted, Baby D went wild in the toy aisle of Target with the piles of Lucky Money showered upon the Number One Son of the Number One Son. Occasionally Baby D opted for other weaponry, such as the Nerf mace (now discontinued because Nerf miscalculated and that sucker can actually do serious damage). For the most part, Baby D chose the latest firearm: zombie shotgun, six-shooter, and even the machine gun (of course there’s a Nerf machine gun). His weapons basket grew into a garage armory. The older kids on the block assigned him the role of sheriff or security when they played town, since he always had a gun. Various visiting aunts, uncles, and cousins engaged in Nerf gun shootouts for days.

I’d like to say Baby D eventually got bored with guns. Instead, he requested a bootcamp themed birthday party in first grade. Then a laser tag party with inflatable tanks all over our yard in fourth grade. He proceeded to use everything he learned from reading The Hunger Games to form short-term alliances, shoot his friends in the back, and win the “Last Man Standing” round. I didn’t know whether to be proud or horrified.

Sometimes, when no other playmate was available, I would take up Nerf arms and play with Baby D. But I think he always knew I’d rather play a board game, or pit a plushie dog/bear army against his plushie cat army.

One day, Baby D grinned mischievously and said, “Hahahaha, Mommy, you’ll be so sad if your little boy grows up to be a soldier.”

I instantly countered with, “Oh, no, Dalton. Our family goes into the NAVY.”

“We do?”

“Absolutely. Your great-grandfather served on a warship at the Battle of Midway in World War II. Your grandfather was a Navy helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. And my big brother went to the Naval Academy before serving on submarines.”

Dalton thought about this for a few seconds and then said, “But why?”

The real answer was probably because being on a ship is safer than being Army cannon fodder.

But parenting is a long game and mothers are crafty. I leaned down and whispered:

“Bigger guns.”

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

25 thoughts on “Guns, and Ships (#357)”

  1. I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend at 10. That’s horrible. I share your feelings about guns. There is no purpose for weapons of war, in civil society.

  2. Now you’ve got me thinking if I’ve ever met a little girl who likes to play with toy guns…Do you know any? I’m pretty sure I never did.

    1. My nieces will totally join in the Nerf wars, but it’s not their toy of choice. When we saw the older girl cousins on Andy’s side, they had Dalton playing “store” or “school.” But when those families visited us? The dads were so excited to see Dalton’s toys and join the Nerf wars. One Christmas we gave their daughters Nerf machine guns and the dads staged an epic battle and said it was the best Christmas ever.

  3. Wow that’s tragic to lose a friend at 10…. Only in America.

    I think guns are hyped up in media too. Guns are “cool,” and I think there’s no escaping that messaging. When I was a little girl I always pretend played with swords (LoTR influence), and my dad got mad at me and said don’t play with tools of war! Lol. He should have been grateful it wasn’t a gun.

    Nerf guns sound like a good compromise. I remember playing with those! Man getting hit with those suckers still hurts!

    1. We had lightsabers growing up (thank you Star Wars!), but no blasters. And my brother had cap guns, I think. If it kept us entertained, my parents wouldn’t have cared if our toys were plutonium. Yeah, some Nerf bullets are definitely harder than others. And I find them all over my garden.

  4. My parents absolutely forbade my brother and I from playing with guns while growing up. I can respect that, as I feel the same way you do about them. They may be forbidden fruit to some, but other than firing a pistol at tin cans in the Nevada desert a few times after meeting Tara (which was, admittedly, a rush), I’ve never had any desire to pick up a gun. I still think they should be banned as completely as possible.

    1. Wasn’t your dad in the military? Baby D has lobbied for all kinds of pellet and BB guns, but those are off the table. I fill the kid’s head with stats on gun deaths and suicides every chance I get.

  5. My son-in-law is a peaceable guy, but he was in ROTC and paid it back with a couple years of service (training not fighting). I hope he won’t be a bad influence on my grandson.

    When I was a kid, we all played cops and robbers and (even worse) cowboys and Indians. I think we mainly used our fingers as guns. We did a lot of running and chasing.

    I hate being the only country in the world with more guns than people.

  6. Firstly, my sympathies for the loss of your childhood friend. No wonder you feel so strongly, and I take my hat off to you for fighting the good fight. I’m the same, as is my daughter. It’ll be interesting to see how she copies now that she has a very stereotypical boy.

    Himself has shot pretty much every gun ever made (competition shooter rather than forces). He and I are an odd mix that way, but I read him your (entire) blog post, and he laughed as much as I did. He bought my mother a nerf gun to frighten the squirrels away from her bird feeders (it didn’t work!)

    If Baby D is going to fulfil his Top Gun aspirations, at least you’ll be able to get him to focus on his maths & physics (or use it as an excuse to turn him off!) Thanks for the most excellent laugh 😀

    1. It makes me happy that you and Himself laughed. I wish your daughter luck with her stereotypical boy–it’s not easy to keep boys like that from falling into toxic masculinity.

      In the end, Baby D’s dreams take precedence. All I can do is give him love, support, and the tools (yes, including Multivariable Calculus and Physics!) to make Top Gun his reality. And if I cry as he soars away, that’s just the sun in my eyes.

  7. Guns and receptor in their brains? I have to read that article. I’m sorry about your friend and I can see it must be a bit traumatising for you to see your kids playing with guns. I’ve been feeling the same way. My kids, 6-y.o. boys, want to play “war” and wear “war pants” (camouflage) and I try to tell them war is no fun thing (we are Russia’s neighbours over here and I’d rather not think about how close an actual war is.) I’m not buying them camouflage pants or toy guns. But…. then they had their birthday party and someone from daycare bought them Nerf guns I had to go out and buy protective glasses for them.

    1. Oh, the specter of war hangs heavy over areas around Russia now. And you don’t want to interrupt your kids’ fun with the dark, dark realities of warfare, but it can be difficult to watch. One hopes reality doesn’t come too soon.

  8. I grew up with a father who had a hobby of collecting antique guns. He gave me toy guns to play with, I was a cowgirl of course. The thing is that being around guns as a child didn’t influence me to want them around as an adult, just made me aware of how dangerous they are. And perhaps that was my father’s point.

    1. Oh, there are some very responsible gun owners out there, no question. Much of Switzerland, for example. And it definitely starts with teaching the next generation about safety. At the same time, because guns are so accessible in this country, all it takes is one moody teenager having a bad day to lead to a suicide, a murder, or a massacre.

  9. I will always remember when our oldest was two. We were having spaghetti and garlic toast for supper and Son1 was industriously working on his toast. Finally. he looked up and said “Look! I made a gun!” Sure enough, he had chewed his toast into the rough shape of a gun. That’s when I realized that guns and weaponry seem to be hard-wired into boys. (One of the many things I learned as a boy mom who grew up in an all girl family.) I feel your pain. (We did have some epic family water gun battles during the summers though.)

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