When I tell people we don’t allow toy weapons in our house, I get one of those knowing looks. This look is the dreaded “you’ll see” combined with an accusation: unrealistic control freak, in the house!
The “you’ll see” is meant to tell me that while I can be keep plastic guns and knives off our living room floor with baby and toddler boys, there is no way I can do it when they are older. The accusation is that if I do achieve this, I will have those kids who spend 24 hours a day at their friend’s house, avoiding home because their mom won’t let them have the latest recreational-stabbing-simulation game or more than one can of Coke.
I am not naïve. I know my kids will be exposed to weaponry. I know kids don’t grow up to be ax murderers because they shouted en garde in pretend swordfights. But I also know the psychology behind de-sensitivity to violence and aggressive stimuli. I know that when I am at a house without toy weapons, the kids almost never choose violence as their theme of play, and when I am at a house with toy weapons, a kid inevitably pretends to shoot my six month old in the face.
But this isn’t really about toy weapons in particular — it is about the insinuation that implementing parenting policies supporting your values is all or nothing. It is about the difference between resigning total control in your children’s lives versus total resignation.
For example: your son is going have McDonald’s eventually, so why try avoid fast food and why bother to feed him organics in early childhood? Or, your tween daughter is going to be bombarded with sexuality and unrealistic female images, so why not get her a subscription to Cosmo?
The world is going to give my boys a million options, but my home is where I demonstrate where our family stands. The world will teach them about aggression while at home we will try to teach love and gentleness. The world will teach them about indulgence, and at home we will try to teach balance in mind and body. Even if our kids grow up to think we’re out of touch hippies, my husband and I will be satisfied knowing we did what we thought was right.
When we are at a friend’s house and the toy guns make an appearance, I ask Jonah not to point them in anyone’s face, and that’s about it. I don’t pretend he will never play with one. Eventually when he wants to know why he doesn’t have a gun in his own house, I hope he will notice over time that the explanation — guns can hurt people and I don’t like to see you pretending to hurt others — is backed up by our parenting actions.
We endeavor to instill our values at home without withholding the world, and I don’t think that is anything to smirk at.