Sam Wilson

Sons and guns

2004-09-14 08:25

Before we sent our sons to preschool, we did a lot of reading up. (Oh okay, my partner did a lot of reading up and I read a lot of things that he underlined.)

During this process we came across the books of Maria Montessori, which link together around a central premise that I like very much: Montessori believed that play is a child's work.

Think about it for a minute. A child swinging with abandon about a jungle gym is honing his gross motor skills.

Another with a fistful of crayons and a furrowed brow could be unlocking both his fingers and the world of shapes and colours.

A circle of preschoolers listening to a story are beefing up their language abilities.

In fact, when you break it down like this, you see that play is serious stuff and not simply a method of whiling away the years before one becomes a big person.

This is when you are working to build the basic frame on which to hinge your life.

Not exactly rocket science so far, eh?

Which is why the next bit puzzles me so much. Picture the average seven-year-old boy's bedroom. That pile of Lego in the corner? That I get. Who knows? Maybe one day this kid will grow up to be an engineer or an architect.

The mud pies on the window sill could be the sign of a baker or artist in the making.

The pile of guns and rifles and assorted toy weaponry in the other corner? That bit I don't get.

What are parents who give their children toy weapons saying?

"Here son, why not go out and imagine what it is like to kill something" Or perhaps: "You've seen it is the movies, now you too can pretend to kill or at the very least seriously harm other people! Go on... Let's play maim-maim."

We don't have play weapons in our house because, quite simply, killing is not a skill we want our sons to practice.

"Oh don't be so melodramatic!" I hear you say. "Boys will be boys; you can't stop them from playing with toy weapons; they'll play with their friends' guns anyway; they will build their own; it is in their nature; it is useless to try and stop them." And so on.

To this I say: Bullshit

All these arguments boil down, at best, to simple defeatism ("You can't stop it so you may as well buy the BB gun." - I mean, please people. This is like saying you can't stop drugs in schools so you may as well start teaching your kids to haggle over price.)

At worst, these arguments are more ominous - implying that Men are Men and that means Warriors. (And what? That's therefore something we should want to foster?)

I am not saying my sons, like all sons, don't point their fingers about and say bang. I am not trying to say they don't build "blasters" from their Lego from time to time.

If I come across my children engaged in such play, I make it clear that I, personally, am not keen on guns. I don't shout, confiscate or dismantle - but I don't join in or endorse such games either.

Whatever value you attach to playtime, all but a very few sociopaths would agree that killing is not a game.

Neither is war or police work. To me, the ability to feel comfortable with power over the lives of others is not part of life's basic frame.

My sons will need to work out how they feel about such frightening life realities in due course, once they have more life skills in place.

In the meantime, I am not going to help make killing palatable.

Send your comments to Sam

  • Sam Wilson is a strategist for a customer publishing company by day and a columnist for a variety of magazines by night. She is mother to five-year-old Josef and three-year-old Benjamin by day and by night.

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