My boys have spent the whole day building paper guns. Here is how I feel about it.Aug 16, 2018
It is late summer, and the days of doing nothing all day will soon be replaced with schedules and stricter bedtimes. But for now, we milk the last few drops of utter lazy freedom.
It is in this spirit, that my boys somehow woke up today determined to build themselves some paper weaponry. Not just a measly little sword or two. No, instead they are obsessed with building replicas of some vintage (and to me still absolutely terrifying-looking) guns.
Just the mere mention of the word gun is an obviously loaded topic these days.
My mind flashes to headlines and school shootings and ballot boxes. To the bill of rights and what did it all mean way back then? What should it mean now? What is freedom and how do we balance it with responsibility? Why do so many boys like guns anyway? Will my boys know the difference between play guns and real ones? Can I trust them to turn out ok, to never hurt someone?
But these are my adult thoughts. Their minds are whirling with scotch tape, paper, hot glue, scissors and invisible blueprints in their minds. They are in creative flow, and it is beautiful.
They spend the whole day - literally hours upon hours - cutting, glueing, taping. They build and rebuild when it doesn't work. They consult with each other as to design flaws, and how they could be rectified. They inspire each other with added details, and strive to achieve a sort of accuracy with their paper replicas.
When they have questions, and need to see images of an actual 19th century Gatling gun for verification about some details, we learn how to carefully consult the internet without the internet thinking we are buying guns, or ushering us into a world I'd rather not send them into.
These are important lessons for these tweens, and they are coming to me, trusting me to guide them. Just as I am trusting them to guide me through the world of their boy play.
At one point, my older son is tired. He just can't cut anymore. He asks his brother to take over. The little brother has a rather gnarly blister already from cutting the hard cardboard for his own gun just moments earlier, but still he helps. I sense the genuine gratitude in the older son's voice as he with deep sincerity thanks his brother for this sacrifice.
How many years have I tried to teach this sense of gratitude to be met with rolling eyes and a smirk. And yet here it is, ripe and in full bloom. All of his own accord.
And why? Because his brother is willing to cut a gun barrel for him. The easy banter between them fills the house with joy all day. There is no competition today, only a shared goal, and teamwork.
The older son decides his gun needs a tripod. He builds this too out of paper. It is gorgeous. I feel like it should be in a design catalog. The younger son, the resident designer and engineer of our household, thought it might need a ball bearing in the middle to help things turn, but the older one found his own method, and shows me proudly how his way works.
He has found his design voice today, and his face beams with pride.
And one last and very interesting thing to note: at only two points in the day did they ask to watch something on YouTube. And then they turned it off by themselves after just ten minutes each time! Which was a major step forward in our family plan to make them responsible for their own screen use. (Something we are actively working towards!)
So yeah, my kids played with guns all day. But I am pretty sure what they also did today was:
— believed in their own vision
— reveled in teamwork, and helped each other out of pickles
— felt and expressed true gratitude
— solved engineering problems & practiced resilience when ideas failed
— filled their day with imagination and industry
— and even took a major step towards modulating their screen use by themselves.
Pretty good for a lazy summer's day, if you ask me.
To be clear, there is no single right answer as to how anyone should feel about kids and gun play - only your answer - which is right for YOUR family. Hopefully, this exploration can help you consider that there are way more nuances in such a choice than you may have previously thought.
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