Posted by: instanthausfrau | April 18, 2008

Parent like your spouse is on fire.

The Husband, On Fire At Preschool of Choice, the “gun game” issue is starting to loom large. As we head into the warm weather of Spring, and shed those bulky coats like so much snake skin, the kids are running more free and wild.

As I watched the children start a chasing game, involving everyone grabbing a sporting implement and forming teams of baseball bats vs golf clubs, my new-found parent’s eyes recoiled from the scene. At the same time as I shudder in horror now, I know that as a kid I would have been in the thick of the frakus, gleefully shouting and running and pretending (the kids with golf clubs were the Monsters, the unnamed masses with the implements of America’s Favorite Pastime the humans, one presumes).

Violence and play are always thorny issues, but at times they seem especially so at our house.

The Husband and I were both raised as members of the Religious Society of Friends, and while neither of us is a member of any local Meeting for Worship, our childhoods were both of the “no-violent-play” sort. At the Hippie Montessori School of my Youth, gun play was verboten and so we simply made sure the teacher’s backs were turned before re-starting our enactment of the Vietnam War (Oh, how I wish I were kidding now, but it’s true. Someone in our group of elementary-aged friends had seen part of a war movie, and we spent our days shouting “V.C.s!” and diving behind hills in the woods behind the school. Unwilling to admit my ignorance as to just what a V.C. was, I pictured green aliens with a silver space ship and shot my pretend rifle with the best of them). If the teachers came back around, we quickly switched to the language of “house”, complete with the veiled insults of referring to each other as “Barbie” and “Ken”. Straight-laced nerd girl that I was/am, the extent of my middle and high school rebellion was to start taking Taekwondo, earning an almost-black-belt before leaving for college.

As for the husband, gun play was not allowed in the house, so he simply played gun games at his friends’ houses. If ever you wanted a cautionary tale against banning gun play in kids, The Husband would seem to be it. A student of martial arts, he works as a fight choreographer and “gun wrangler” for local film shoots and stage shows. A (locked) room in our basement is full to bursting with swords, shields, knives, and plastic gun replicas. The photo at the top of the post is him, performing a stunt burn that was his friends’ birthday gift to him this year (talk about the nightmare of mothers. Seeing your child all ablaze has got to be up there on the list).

So where does this leave Moon?

She has foam swords, and the simple rule “Swords only with other swords” as her guideline. No picking on the unarmed, especially the cats. Who says chivalry is dead?

She doesn’t own any toy guns, though as gun play has picked up at school she has begun to “shoot” us in her expression of anger/frustration. Not her parents sort of finger-as-gun either. While her hand closes around an imaginary gun handle, her thumb at the top, she presses her thumb down repeatedly to fire while shouting “Cue! Cue!”, her face twisted into a scowl. The gesture itself is more likely to call to mind the warnings against children playing video games than any gun of this world. Even in pretend play, children seem to have a gift for new technology.

As for her dad’s work, Moon doesn’t even get to watch. When he was lit on fire, she was safely playing at a park with a friend under the watchful eye of said friend’s parents. As we saw it, there were two possible responses to seeing her father burning as she watched — 1) Ahh Dad’s on fire! Trauma! or 2) Hey friend! Let me show you this cool thing I saw! Hold still while I light you!. While I understand that my job as mom is to find new and exciting ways to traumatize my child, different from the means employed by my own parents, we simply can’t afford that much therapy.

Talking to parents around me, I see a mix. The three year old who informs me with serious eyes that, “I can’t even say the word gun,” gets around the problem by using her s.o.b.y.n. (I’m a real fan of this particular case of “creative spelling” — from the sound of it, an s.o.b.y.n. is nothing to mess with lightly). Tearing around the house after her friends’ 17 month old younger sister, they shout “Kill the baby!” while the smallest one runs and shrieks with joy to be the recipient of so much big girl attention.

Comparing notes with a friend in a similar situation (he’s a fencer, studying historical technique and translating old Italian manuals), I heard the story of his 5 year old daughter being approached by another kid with foam swords. He invited her to play, handed her a sword, and began that age-old practice of thwacking foam-on-foam. My friend’s daughter stood there watching for a disbelieving moment, then lowered her own piece of foam to belly-level and thrust, using proper technique to insure that her body weight and momentum were behind the move. The poor boy had to be collected from the pavement. Talks about the time and place for such things ensued.

As Moon grows, our rules about these things will have to grow too. Until then,

A thank you to the PI’s Working Dad, for giving me reason to put thoughts into words on this issue. Apologies for not being able to do it before anything remotely resembling your deadline.

While it has a definite axe to grind, an interesting look at children’s violent play is “Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence“. When the Husband and I find ourselves at odds on the issue, he can generally be counted on to find a passage from this to quote at me.

Looking for an Outlet? Some Martial Arts Classes for Kids in Seattle: | Wu shu is often a good compromise art between kids who want martial arts classes, and parents who feel unsure about sending their child off to learn violence. It requires all the discipline of learning new forms and technique without including any sparring. If you enjoy all the pretty, pretty kung fu movies, this is the sort of pretty you are used to seeing. Sifu Hong is amazing to see in person, and offers some classes for kids.

Kung Fu Kids! | Seattle Kajukembo’s Kung Fu Kids! program starts children as young as 4 learning a practical martial art. With technique designed around a smaller person defending against a larger opponent, the art is often said to be ideal for women’s (and children’s) self defense.


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