Janie’s Got A Gun

May 13, 2009

So, the other day, when I was worrying about the potentially deleterious effects on my daughter of too much exposure to princess culture? I think that I have bigger issues to worry about:

So here’s the thing: I played games like Cops & Robbers and – yes – Cowboys & Indians (it was a different time) and Star Wars – complete with Light Sabers and sticks wielded as guns and sound effects – p-chew! p-chew! p-chew! – when I was a kid, and I loved it – loved it – and yet I still managed to grow to be a liberal pacifist and so I’m not inclined to a knee-jerk reaction of horror at the idea of children engaging in imaginative play that involves weapons. In theory.

In practice, when my three and half year old daughter cocks her fingers in the form of a gun and points them at me, mock-execution style, I recoil and quietly freak the hell out before telling her, in as calm a voice as I can manage, that it is simply not nice not nice at all to pretend to shoot someone in the face.

Then I debate whether or not to march down to her preschool in the morning and demand to know how and why it is that the preschoolers are engaging in pretend gun-play – because she did not learn this at home – and where the hell are all the princess dollies, dammit? Then I contemplate home-schooling. Then my head explodes.

Then I calm down and ask myself why I need to freak out over everything. Why do I freak out over everything? Is this worth freaking out over? Or, you know, do all preschoolers make a game of executing their mothers every once in a while?

She’s only three. Three. This is nothing, I know, in the bigger scheme of growing up and going to school and making and losing friends and falling in and out love and – oh god – sex and drugs and gah gah gah, but still.

I’m going to need more Ativan.

(Thoughts welcome. Am I freaking out unnecessarily, or is home-schooling in order?)

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    Anonymous May 14, 2009 at 6:09 am

    I can vividly remember in the early eighties, with all the Star Wars mania, turning everything into a gun. My favorite gun/ not-gun was a bright blue toy drill with a yellow “barrel”.

    To this day I still think of weapon noises as “pchew, pchew” and not “bang bang”. Later, at kindergarten we were taught not to use objects as play guns. It had to be reinforced a lot (because there were building blocks that were just screaming to be turned into ray guns), but it sticks to this day. When i started teaching there it was the same issue. It takes time and you are doing a great job. (However I caught myself thinking, “those are REALLY good gun noises!” I am a bad influence and I didn’t even know it)

    Mommy Writes May 14, 2009 at 8:17 am

    I agree with everyone else that this is a normal “phase” for kids and, short of locking them in the closet, you really can’t keep them away from weapon play.

    If you do talk to the school, though, be aware that they may not be encouraging it, but that they can’t eliminate it either. My kids preschool at a strict no-weapon policy. Reminder notes went home on the day they were to bring in “something that starts with S!” that it COULD NOT BE A WEAPON! NO TOY SWORDS, EVEN THOUGH THAT STARTS WITH S. My child still came home one day pretending to shoot people. So, if the preschool basically blows you off? It doesn’t mean they don’t care about your kid. It just means they know what battles are worth fighting.

    I think, really, this is all a part of kids playing around with the concept of death.

    Joyce K. May 14, 2009 at 9:48 am

    My son went to the most progressive, loving preschool. They let the kid’s do pretend gun play. I was shocked. The teachers said it was a normal part of development and to squelch that part of them would do more harm than good. As long as you talk to your child about real life consequences she will be fine.
    Plus my son has made guns out of toast, chicken nuggets, you name it!
    He’s 10 now and doing just fine!

    Will May 14, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Two words:


    Seriously this isn’t a big deal. At all. Gun play as a child doesn’t equate to being a homicidal gun nut as an adult. Parents that don’t give a damn cause that.

    Nicol May 14, 2009 at 11:46 am

    It’s like you READ MY MIND and then blogged about it.

    I have never before had an issue with toy guns. Never.

    I was a kid once — heck some people still think I am (those people being in the form of elderly ladies at the mall lecturing me about babies having babies — gimmie a break.)

    Until last Thursday. I took my son to the park across the street from our house where he played contentedly on the equipment, going up the stairs and down the slide for what seemed like hours (of fun of course.)

    Then, out of nowhere two little boys came around the corner shooting their cap guns (I think that’s what they’re called) No biggie. Whatev. As long as it doesn’t scare the munchkin I’m cool with it.

    THEN they had the nerve to start screaming racial slurs and threatening a little African American boy. They proceeded to pretend to shoot him while they did this.
    As soon as they noticed me coming up to them they stopped and took off.
    Then I turned around to find them threatening my two year old and pretending to shoot him execution style.I cannot tell you how utterly disgusted and mortified I was.
    Sick to my stomach.

    And I almost kicked a couple of six year old asses.
    Excuse my language.

    I will never bring him back to that park and my son will never have a gun — toy or otherwise.

    “Gun play as a child doesn’t equate to being a homicidal gun nut as an adult.. ” ..but I’m willing to bet their parents don’t give a damn. They had to have learned it somewhere, right?

    Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com May 14, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    This story portrays me in a really terrible light, BUT it’s the perfect forum for it.

    So, a couple years ago, I was in a shop somewhere and there was a small boy – about 4 years old – there with his mom as well. I was making faces and playing with the kid from a distance, which was fine and dandy, and then out of the blue, he made his hands into the shape of a gun and pointed it at me and shot.

    And said “BANG! BANG!” and laughed maniacally.

    Did I march right over to him? Yes. Did I lean down to his eye level, completely uncaring of whether or not his mother was right there? Yes.

    And did I tell that little boy that pointing a gun at a stranger, even a make-believe gun from your fingers, is not nice? Yes.

    And did I tell that little boy to NEVER do that again, that he hurt my feelings, and that I would like an apology?


    His mother was PISSED OFF, but you know? There are some behaviors that are just not okay. Some behaviors that are worth freaking out about.

    Cassi May 14, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    If it makes you feel any better, I grew up around guns – both antique and not. Most family nuptials brought new meaning to the term “shot-gun weddings” and everyone had an obligatory picture of their children holding a decapitated deer’s head.

    Despite – or maybe because of this upbringing, I’m now a gun-hating card-carrying liberal. So don’t fret!

    On a side note, if you ever get to write about the vasectomy, I would be eternally grateful. I’m collecting stories to convince my husband it’s the way to go. :)

    Tina C. May 14, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I would freak. majorly. i have 2 boys so i am expecting this eventually, but not from an almost 4 year old as the elder one is.

    Her Bad Mother May 14, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Cassie – vasectomy post coming. It’s an, erm, touchy issue, so it’s taken a while to get to ;)

    Goldfish May 14, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    4yr old: “Mom, if I put my finger and thumb like this it looks like a ’7′ or an ‘L.’ But it looks like a gun, too, and I like that the best. Bang! You’re dead.”

    And so it goes around here, and some days I am tolerant and some days I think they’ll be felons. Probably they’ll okay. Right?

    TheFeministBreeder May 14, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    I grew up around guns – was given a BB gun for my 10th birthday – often saw my grandfathers antique Colt 45′s sitting around (bullets and all) and am still the liberal pacifist. I can’t even stand hunting (which is so hypocritical because I am very much a meat-eater.)

    I’ll probably freak out the first time I see my son pretending to “shoot ‘em up” but I freak out about A LOT of things that aren’t going to matter in the long run.

    I wonder what my son will blog about in 30 years with the caption “I can’t Buh-LEEEIVE there was (insert object here) in my house!” I’m sure he’s bound to find something!

    Lady M May 14, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    We tell our four year old that he’s not allowed to ‘shoot’ any people. So now he tells me that there’s a battle droid behind me that he’s shooting, to protect me.

    Can you tell we’re a Star Wars household? The baby raised his little hand and made “zzzt zzzt” noises at his brother’s lightsaber today, imitating how he “uses the force” to fend off attacks. Great.

    Anonymous May 14, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Enjoying your new blog but HATING the platform that it is on. I am attacked by advertsing every time i check it out and i really dislike that. not sure if it’s just me, but it is a bit of a turn-off.

    Mandy May 15, 2009 at 12:19 am

    I didn’t have the energy to read all the comments, so forgive a repeat.

    When I was growing up in the 70s, my mother decided my younger brother was not going to ever get a gun to play with.

    So, he used sticks, fingers, etc. Eventually he was given guns for birthday/Christmas gifts from friends or relatives, and then the capper was when he saved up enough allowance for a cap gun.

    Now, as a 35 year old productive member of society with no gun wielding tendencies, he seems to be okay.

    I’m willing to bet your kids will be okay too. After all, it’s the parenting around the finger pointing pistols that counts, no?

    Shawna May 15, 2009 at 9:46 am

    I wrote about the same thing back in January. I used to freak out but now I just drink.

    Brooke May 15, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Know what? I might freak you out a little bit more with my story… I freaked out when I noticed my son having pretend gun-play as well. And I asked his teachers about it.

    At his preschool (he is three, also), one of the kids there witnessed a shooting a few weeks ago. And they’ve been trying really hard to redirect him and try to explain that violence is most certainly not okay but have not been completely successful. So. Sometimes craziness does happen – I won’t be taking my son out of the school, but we have begun having similar talks with him re: violence that his teachers have been having with his friend and their class.

    oy. Parenting.

    EvaV May 16, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    aak! guns! My little girl isn’t old enough yet, but you’re preparing me for what’s to come… thanks for the shared wisdom in the comments :)

    abomo May 17, 2009 at 9:42 am

    You know what? I’m coming around to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be much of a Mom if I didn’t freak out over things. Gotta embrace that part of me and then it calms down and I don’t freak out as much or as intensely.
    And, BTW, my 9 year old son checked out a book at the library called “Your Personal Weapon.” Talk about freaking out – I wanted to get him into therapy that very minute. My husband calmed me down explaining that ALL boys go through this phase and he’ll chill out about it soon.
    Hopefully, so will I! Peace…

    Anonymous May 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    What about the swords? Are those fencing swords propped up in the corner beside the guns? Do tell.

    PS you beautiful babies look just like you did as a baby!

    Meg May 17, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    We are gun-owners, so we’ve had to deal with discussing guns and how to play pretend with guns. It’s okay to pretend to shoot a gun, but we NEVER shoot people. I know it’s hard to know where to draw the line and I think that differs by family.

    The bottom line is that you’re concerned and you will do what is best for your family!

    Kat May 18, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Oh my. Things like this are what parents fret over. I have a post coming up on somewhat the same subject, and I’ll tweet it to you when it’s ready. Talk about freaking out with your 3 year old pretending. Imagine if your stepdad bought your FOUR year old a .22 rifle? Oh yes he did.

    It’s brewing in my head, and when I’m not mad enough to SPIT bullets I’ll post.

    Christine May 18, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I may not be the best person to answer your question, as I am one of those, ‘freaked out so much that we homeschool now’ moms. I would just like to say that you’d make a rockin’ addition as another face of homeschooling.

    Blend May 19, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Yeah i too used to freak out, now do not react in that way…..

    ozma May 19, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    We freak over things because we don’t have the data.

    I suspect the data says that things a child likes to play as a child does not say that much about what kind of adult that child will be.

    I LOVED GUNS as I child. I am terrified by guns now. There’s a little anecdotal evidence for ya.

    I asked for a bb gun every year and always got every kind of gun except a bb gun.

    Nor did fairy tales work some weird anti-feminist juju on my brain.

    Crucial thing, I suspect: Get the kid thinking for themselves.

    Jennbatt May 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    It’s because she’s 3 that it’s freaking you out. In a few years, it won’t.

    Gunfighter May 21, 2009 at 7:23 am

    My parents didn’t own guns (although my dad had one… he was a policeman). I wasn’t raised in the gun culture… but I played soldier, I played cops ‘n robbers, I made the gun sounds.

    I learned to shoot when I was a 12 year old Boy Scout.

    I joined the Marines when I was 17… they taught me to use a variety of guns, some that could spit death out to over a thousand yards.

    I am a professional firearms instructor. I tteach people how to efficiently kill other people

    I am wearing a pistol on my hip and one on my ankle as I type this.

    I’ve never shot at anyone in my life.

    Playing “guns” is fairly normal, as is playing princess, or firefighter, or whatever… I think that the key element in the discussion always has to be PARENTS.

    Oh, and I don’t belong to the NRA.

    Gunfighter May 21, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Oh, and I meant to add the neither of my children, despite what I do for a living, ever played “guns”

    All kids are different, eh?

    Melodie May 22, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I was feeling this way this week too. Alittle boy who comes to our daycare plays guns all the time. My dd didn’t even know what a gun was until he started coming over. He made one kid cry when he pretended to shoot him dead and I had to tell him to stop (the crying kid’s dad died last year so death is not the best subject to play around with). My daughter is starting to make guns out of lego now and I am recoiling and imagining she’ll turn out to be a terrorist or something. I know I am over-reacting but my mind turns to homescholong at these times too. Kindergarden starts next year. Might be safer at home…. hmm.
    Love your pic of the gun rack, btw. Helps put this all into perspective.

    quarkwright May 23, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Yeah, I saw, you already worked past this in the next post. And as a mother with only boys I don’t know if I have the right perspective on all the girly stuff. But my own anti-gun protests were all left completely in the it-doesn’t-matter-anyways heap when my oldest son, at about 2 1/2 years old, (never having had any kind of play gun before ever) turned the letter L from the fridge magnets into a gun. So I laughed, and threw my hands in the air in defeat, and we just have conversations about when it is appropriate, and when it is not.

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