Okay, maybe I am a little easier on Child #4. My oldest two boys were raised without the benefit of toy guns. I severely limited their TV and movie viewing to minimize their exposure to violence. I tried buying them kitchen play sets to prevent those sexist ideas that only women belong in the kitchen.
Then I encountered reality. The toy vacuum cleaner became an automatic weapon, though I really don’t know when they were ever exposed to the concept of an automatic weapon. My second child used the plastic chicken leg quarters as pistols. And after twenty-two years of marriage my husband’s idea of cooking is toasting the bread before he makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so, yes, my kids think women are the primary occupants of the kitchen.
Oldest son did some shopping while he was away at college and brought an Air Soft gun home for his youngest brother, much to my chagrin. He felt his youngest brother should have a few things that had been on the “mommy no list” a few years back. Child #4 now has an arsenal of air soft guns. An Air Soft gun is a new generation of the old BB gun. It is spring powered and shoots plastic spheres a little bigger than the old BB’s. We have a dozen boys living in the neighborhood and they all have air soft guns. Our neighborhood backs up to a large woodland area so it is the perfect environment for them to run around shooting at each other. The boys all wear masks to protect their face and eyes and the spring powered guns don’t shoot hard enough to hurt if you are hit.
Yesterday we hosted a major engagement. In honor of my son’s twelfth birthday, we had the entire cadre of neighborhood boys over for an afternoon of air softing. The event was supervised by my nineteen and eighteen-year-old sons. They younger boys loved having the big boys play along and the big boys were happy to have an excuse to run around like little boys. I baked a cake and provided pizza but the boys handled everything else. It was the easiest birthday party I have ever had. Do check out the camouflage cake! I was tickled with the way it came out.
I haven’t given up all restrictions. We still don’t have any video gaming systems. We still have only the very basic cable channels. We don’t have any first-person-shooter computer games. The boys do know how to clean the kitchen, do their own laundry, clean a bathroom, and iron their own shirts. They even can operate a vacuum cleaner appropriately. But I now know that sometimes boys just need to be boys. Some things really are nature not nurture. If they want to use toy guns to play a variant of tag I guess I can’t complain. It is safe and it gets them outside and running around. Since the older boys get to play with the guns now they aren’t even complaining that that the youngest has it so much easier than they did. Sister has a few misgivings. When her date came to pick her up her brothers tried to meet him at the door fully armed with air soft guns and decked out like Rambo, making sure he knew they were looking out for their sister’s well being. That may not be such a bad thing either!
I guess by the time I’ve gotten to the fourth child I’ve learned some things are worth stressing about and some things don’t matter so much. Getting to Mass every Sunday is worth worrying about. The psychological impact of toy guns is not. In some ways I have gotten a little smarter about this parenting thing with each subsequent child. One of the reasons I sometimes wish I had more than four kids.