Hold it. This is not a propaganda piece for the National Rifle Association. Nor am I Bree Van de Kamp. But it is a woman's perogative to change her mind. And I have. I've revised my view on toy guns.
Several years ago I wrote a piece called "Guns and Proses," bemoaning my then three-year-old's preoccupation with a ridiculously innocuous piece of plastic. It was a pop gun with a blue ball that bounced lazily across the floor at the click of the trigger. Observing his love for the toy, I was up in arms (pun intended). And I wrote about it.
Despite massive negotiations with my child, he refused to let go of his toy. Any veteran parent knows that trying to reason with a three-year-old is like expecting your white carpeting to shine after inviting over the adorable 101 Dalmatians for tea. The two simply don't jive. In my view, at the time, neither did a gun and my baby boy.
I tried hiding his toy gun. No dice. His arsenal radar was already in full swing. At some point, I threw it out, then retrieved it. The crushed look in his eye spoke volumes. Calculating his future therapist's bill, I sheepishly washed off the breakfast remains from the gun and handed it back to him. To be honest with you, several weeks later, the item surreptitously found its way back to the garbage can. This time, it was the outdoors one. He promptly forgot about his beloved toy for months. In an exemplary application of superior parenting, I convinced him to use a stick as a gun. That strategy lasted for two years.
Until show-and-tell last Thursday.
"Alex showed off his toy gun yesterday," Jackson informed me. I continued wiping the breakfast table.
"...with handcuffs," he pressed on. I silently raised a brow.
"Where's my gun? Mama, I need a new one." My heart sank to my knees. Pushing air from my lungs, I knelt down to his level. "Lucky Luke has one," he remarked.
Ah yes. He watches 42 minutes of TV per day, and Lucky Luke has started running in his allotted time slot between dinner and bedtime.
I'm so lame, I thought. Think. Think. THINK!
Then something clicked. He was wearing his black cowboy hat and black T-shirt, looking smashing and not unlike the late Johnny Cash. I dried my hands, sat him on my lap at the table and typed www.JohnnyCash.com into the laptop's browser.
"See!" I exclaimed merrily. "Johnny is a singer/cowboy/songwriter!" I held out hopes that my muscially inclined progeny would suddenly replace his love of weaponry for the love of a six-string. Jackson pointed to the cowboy boots at the top of the screen.
"He's a cowboy, and I want his gun."
Not even Johnny could save me this time.
"We'll go this afternoon between Sophia's ballet and a few other errands," I promised. A sheath of glee transformed his face.
Six hours later, we stood in front of the toy gun display at the local toy store. Fearful that I might change my mind, Jackson decided quickly.
As we neared the cash register, a gun holster with bucking broncos caught my eye.
"Every cowboy needs a holster," I said, laying it on the checkout counter, too.
Jackson's eyes filled with love, spilling over to his cheeks and washing away the pain of his once three-year-old mug marked by my heinous gun-tossing crime.
The cost of the gun and holster? $12. His bow-legged, gun-toting gait as we approached the pet store afterwards? Priceless.
In the eyes of a little boy, a gun makes you a hero, not a criminal as we view it. We adults often think children see it our way. The fact is oftentimes they do not. That day, my son did not see me as a criminal who had cast away his favorite plaything. That day, he saw me as a hero, too.
Christine is an American author and freelance writer living near Munich, Germany, with her husband and two children (Jackson, 5, and Sophia, 7).