Tagged guns

What parenting an infant can teach us about social justice.

The Nights I Get Things Right


My son is a toddler. Two and a half years old. I refuse to call it the ‘terrible twos’, and instead call it the “trying twos” as a reminder of what we’re all experiencing. It’s a trying time for him – to carve his place in this world, and trying for us parents – to be patient and compassionate and to stay out the way when the urge is to ‘complete the task’ or soothe the tears. It’s okay to cry, and sometimes, it’s ok to let that be, or to soothe.

I call it the ‘trying twos’ because when you flip the script you also alter that old saying and knock it on its side.

What parenting an infant can teach us about social justice.

About a week had passed and my son and I were stuck in a rut. There were nightly tears when I stopped our playtime and said it was time for bed. I read and attempt to practice RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) and mindful parenting. I often turn to the founder of RIE Magda Gerber’s wisdom when I’m stuck in a parenting moment and yet here I’d let almost an entire week pass. I’ve done my best at creating ‘yes’ spaces and I talk with my toddler in a conversation of adult emotional albeit simplified, detail. For some reason though, these ideas are hard to incorporate when I’m overly tired, or stressed, or in a hurry. It’s as though I’m hardwired to dictate as a parent (time to do this, let’s go, hurry up) and it takes real effort to think before I act and speak with the kindness I want us all to share with each other.

The night things really came together, I played with him, spoke to him and let him know that soon, after the ‘train ride’ we were on, we would tidy up and head upstairs to read, have a bath and go to sleep. He listened. He went to sleep that night without having cried, without whining, without telling me to lie down beside him, and I tuned into the news of the day – another mass shooting in America.

Fourteen dead. The same number of women killed by Marc Lépine at the École Polytechnique December 6th, 1989. Lépine claimed he was “fighting feminism.” Fourteen. The number I would explain to my child as an actor in a high school docudrama performed in 1990, when asked, “How many is fourteen?” “One plus one plus one plus one..” and so on, I replied. The impact of Lépine’s actions has never left me. And now, twenty-six years later, I’m wondering how I will explain any number of deaths to my son. Deaths by guns.

The nights I get things right, are the nights I think twice about raising my voice, when inside there is turmoil and rage for wanting things ‘to run smoothly’ to, ‘go as planned’. Parenting, like so many lessons in life, continues to ask me to slow down, to be present. Parenting asks me to let go of the lists and plans in my head, to be open and willing and accept the present state of not knowing and play.

“There are steps we can take to make America safer,” American President Obama said after the shootings in San Bernardino on Wednesday December 2nd, 2015. He didn’t suggest what those steps are though; he is perhaps not able to be so honest as to what it will really take. It will take a lot of courage in educating ourselves and our children to be strong, emotional, supportive and understanding beings for each other.

The nights I get things right, I am a very present parent, focused on listening and guiding with kindness. I still get things done, not through pleading or begging, or saying it’s so, but by listening, supporting, laughing and slowing down. Owning a gun if you live off the land, are a farmer, a rancher, or a law enforcer, makes sense. Otherwise owning a gun is nothing but a sign of fear. We can all be intimidated by the notion of other at some time. It is indeed, a whopping of an emotion. Think about how you felt when you met someone you really liked. There was an element of fear there. Of nervous energy about the unknown. Or that first time you played a sport, rode a bike, got on a plane, ate bugs.. insert whatever you want here, fear is a naturally occurring emotion. Does owning a gun erase your fear? No.

It’s hard to listen when you are afraid. It’s hard to listen when you ultimately disagree. It’s hard to listen when you don’t understand what someone is going through, is trying to say, or is speaking a different language. It’s really hard to listen with a gun in your hand. A gun in your hand closes your ears and your heart.

How can we disagree in our beliefs, in our religions, and still stand beside one another? A gun ends a conversation before it begins. One of things that RIE encourages is creating a safe space, a yes space for infants and children to walk/lie/climb and play without restrictions. No sharp edges, nothing that will spark an adult to say ‘no, put that down’ or ‘don’t touch that’. We do this, I think, to instill a safety that allows for uninhibited play and learning that embodies a sense of well being that hopefully paves a path to inspired, intelligent, emotionally open adults. How can we create this kind of space and build communities with guns hanging out of our pockets? Guns that shut people up. Guns that say, I have more power than you, when really all that gun is saying is, I am so afraid. I am afraid, listen to me. I am afraid.

How can we create communities where we put an ounce of understanding and acceptance in each other’s minds instead of bullets in one another’s hearts?

The nights I get things right, are nights I will continue to strive for. As a mother of a son I will do my best to ‘get it right’ by allowing for any anger or fear, or rage be heard and understood in a way that encourages open palms and the word yes instead of no. Words that take what a gun represents, all that violence and fear and says, ok, I hear you. Let’s flip it, let’s somehow try to make something work and live, let’s live for fuck’s sake, together.

Experienced parents talk about their family rules for guns (real and play) and gun safety

Parenting Perspectives: Kids, Guns & Family Rules


We’re starting a new series at Up Parenting Creek: Parenting Perspectives. We’ll pick a new topic each month and solicit opinions and advice from parents with differing takes and perspectives. Everyone has wisdom to share with other parents and each family’s situation is different, so please join in the conversation in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Experienced parents talk about their family rules for guns (real and play) and gun safety

What’s your take on kids playing with fake/toy/finger/stick guns?

I’ve never liked it, but I came to understand it may symbolize power more than an actual gun, death and all that entails. – D. M.

We have no problem allowing our kids to have toy guns, even cap guns. I was not allowed toy guns as a child and so I used sticks/ Legos/friends’ toy guns/anything-you-can-point as a gun. My wife and I see only an aesthetic difference between those stand-ins for guns and an actual toy gun. The main difference is: toy guns are more fun. We don’t believe their presence in our home will in any way lead our children down a path of violence or desensitize them to violence. Those behaviors and attitudes don’t come from toys. – A.C.

My husband and I are pacifists. We are firm anti-gun proponents. However, we let our kids play pretend gun fights with their fingers, sticks, chewed up pieces of bread, etc. We talk to our kids about our feelings about real guns, and the difference between real guns and pretend play. – A.J.

Our girls aren’t super interested in playing gun related things, but we allow it. They prefer bows and arrows ala Katniss. – J.E.

We’ve discouraged playing with guns for our boys. It’s not something we could outright ban, because really – how would we enforce that?  – M.M

As a mom and a teacher, my personal toy gun rule is that guns are never pointed at people or animals you don’t intend to eat. Ever. If/when guns are imagined or played with, they may be pointed at targets that aren’t people or animals. – A.G.

What are the rules about shoot-em-up video games in your house?

No games that allow players to shoot humans, or animals in a non hunting environment, will be/are allowed in our home. – A.G.

My kids are only 4 and 6 years old. At this point, we really don’t allow them to play a lot of video games. I would like to limit their exposure to the violent video games. However, if they go to a birthday party at an arcade, I’m not going to forbid my sons to play the Star Wars video games. I’ll probably also not worry about them playing video games at other people’s houses. However, in our home, I’m planning on restricting their access to violent video games. – A.J.

We don’t do video games or own a gaming system. They do play games on the iPad from time to time, but haven’t played anything gun related on it. – J.E.

We allow first-person shooters as long as “humans” aren’t being killed. We also restrict based on how graphic the violence is, how bad the language is and whether there are negative representations of women. We don’t allow the shooting of humans because we know video games can be immersive. Shooting a weird looking alien is more akin to playing with a toy gun. We acknowledge that the we’ve drawn may be arbitrary, so we monitor first-person shooter game play. – A.C.

We didn’t allow any first person shooter games until the boys were 10. Now they can have them, as long as there is no realism to them – like Plants v Zombies. – M.M.

We have them now, just within the past year or so. My boy is almost 13. I’m not fond of them and limit his time with them. Honestly, he plays more basketball games right now. I try playing his shooting games and have more fun stopping in the kitchens and blowing up watermelons – is that so different than watching blood splatter from a CGI? I don’t know. – D.M.

How would you want your child’s school to handle stick/finger guns on the playground?

I am totally against kids getting suspended for playing pretend guns with their fingers at school. In my son’s old school, he got into trouble for playing attack of the Zombies with pretend blasters on the playground. I think this is ridiculous. – A.J.

As a former teacher, it was really easier to prohibit all “guns” because I didn’t feel like it was my job to say if they were ok or not. However, I totally disagree with a black and white ‘no tolerance’ pretend-gun-rule in schools. Redirection and conversation about why it might be ok at home but it’s not ok at school is just so much more beneficial. – A.G.

I’d be upset if the school made a big deal about kids using finger guns. I think bullying is a much more harmful issue on elementary school playgrounds. – M.M.

Let me say that I am a teacher, and I am constantly hearing “no guns at school.” What you’re doing is limiting the kid’s imagination, and making something very innocent into something fear-based. – E.S.

Hunting: Is this part of your family culture? If so, when do your kids get started?

My husband grew up on a ranch and his family hunted frequently. You don’t want to know the ritual when they killed their first buck. But, he hasn’t been interested in hunting as an adult. Neither of the girls have expressed an interest. – J.E.

My father hunts. I’m not sure if I’ll let my boys hunt….maybe when they’re teenagers.  – A.J.

Hunting is a big part of our family culture. We start young, with discussions about WHY we hunt, the differences between hunting for food and hunting for sport (and the overlap that can occur). We include game/herd/species management in the basic hunting curriculum. Kids in our family are introduced to hunting at a very early age because they’re not excluded from the activities. – A.G.

I’ve hunted once in my life. My Dad used to but hasn’t in decades. My in-laws do not hunt. So, no. We don’t hunt. But we have no problem with hunting. – A.C.

It is part of my extended family’s culture. My 13 year old niece in PA shot her first buck last fall – clean kill with a bow and arrow – she also cleaned it and ate it. It’s not my cup of tea, or my kids’ cup of tea. My dad and brother hunted. I got my hunting license at 16 because i wanted to go with my dad, he never allowed me. (I think he knew the actual killing would leave me in pieces). – D.M.

Guns in the home: Yes, No, Maybe so?

One shotgun and two BB guns that grandpa gave the boys. The gun is in a combination lock case in the attic and the BB guns are up high in the garage gathering dust. – S.B.

No guns in the home. We’re not against gun ownership, we simply don’t see the need to have one ourselves. – A.C.

We do not allow any guns in our house. I actually ask people if they have guns in their house before we allow our kids to go over to someone else’s house on a play date. If the person has a gun, I ask if the gun is in a safe. – A.J.

We have guns in our home. They are locked in a gun safe and the ammunition is secured separately. – A.G.

My husband’s rifle is in my parent’s safe, 9 hours away. – J.E.

How have you approached gun safety with your kids? At what age did you start?

We started gun safety conversations as soon as the kids started being interested in playing with toy guns. The early talks were about staying away from guns or letting and adult know immediately if they encountered a gun. When they were 9, they learned how to handle a rifle at camp (target practice). Now we talk more about the social justice issues with gun violence and about the differences between hunting guns and guns that are more likely to be used against people. We also talk about the role that hunting plays in wildlife management. – M.M.

We’ve talked very little about it, mainly just that real guns are different from fake ones and that you should never point one at yourself or others. – J.E.

Gun safety is non-negotiable. I knew at a really young age that guns are not pointed at people, how to check to see if a gun was loaded or not, how to check if the safety was on and put it on, and how to pick up and put a gun down safely. When those skills are ingrained, it becomes easier to teach gun handling. Just to be clear, in our house we’re only have hunting shotguns and rifles. We do not own or have hand guns but are all familiar with them and the same rules apply. Unknown guns and guns that are’t ours/yours are not to be touched without permission. Black and white rule.- A.G.

I don’t plan on teaching my kids to use a gun. However, as of this time, I told my older son that if he ever sees a gun, he should move away from it and get an adult. – A.J.

We’ve shown the kids the real guns at Academy and pointed out how similar they are to toys. We have also told them a thousand times to run to a grownup if a friend ever pulls out a gun that’s not obviously a Nerf gun. But we worry. Culturally, we should become more comfortable with disclosing to visitors whether or not we own guns. It should be like dogs. “We have two dogs, do you mind them in the house?” – A.C.

We’ve talked about general gun safety, no specifics. -D.M.

Do you ask about guns in the houses of friends, before your kids go over?

No. It seems accusatory and so I’m not comfortable asking. No one has ever asked us either. – A.C.

Before a first sleepover, we have had folks ask about guns in our home and we have asked others about guns in their home. The couple times we’ve been in that conversation it was quite casual and low stress. We have limited our kids’ ability to go to a particular friend’s home because the hunting guns were taken out of the safe by the kids when my kids were at the house. I wasn’t comfortable with that family’s gun safety plan. – M.M.

Yes! I do/will/would! And I am not offended when people ask me! I’m not asking to be judgy – I want to know if they are secured, I want to talk to my child about our rules for gun engagement and what to do if those rules can’t/aren’t being followed. I want my child’s friends to know what our rules are and I want their parent’s to know that we take their child’s safety as seriously as out’s. – A.G.


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