Smile Politely

Guns and Violins

The Preschooler finds himself on the playground with a new friend from the city, and the friend suggests they play “Robbers and Policemen.”

“I’ll be the Robber, you be the Policeman!” the new friend shouts. “I’m gonna steal all the money!”

The kid screams and does a perfect John Woo sideways double-fingered gun at my child. “BANG! BANG!” a five-year-old mouth shoots. The Preschooler flings his hand back and forth at the criminal in a half-hearted effort to simulate a gun. He has no idea how to do it. On top of it, it’s his (violin) bow hand, so he’s got this natural circle going between his thumb and index finger as he shakes it. “Piew! Piew!”

The Robber jumps into the wooden playground car and grabs the Golden Basketball Of Money. My child — The Police — scrambles into the car after him. The Robber shoots again. Preschooler stands perplexed, looks at me, looks at his own gun-less hands, and looks at The Robber, then proceeds to punch The Robber in the back. Horse-stance, perfect Tae-kwondo punches. He’s watched way too many of my classes.


“How do I fight?” my poor Preschooler yells.

We don’t allow guns in the house. We don’t allow toy weapons in the house. He’s not allowed to watch any violent movies. All he knows is how to punch like a black-belt. He can kick and punch, using his body weight and perfect fist position.

He hits again. The Robber don’t give up the basketball for nuthin’.

“STOP IT!!” I yell. We could be sued. “You cannot HIT!” I yell.

Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here — this is the War Room!>

“WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?” Preschooler yells.

“Shoot him, I guess.” I scream back, brokenly. Horrified. The Horror. The Horror.>

Distraction! “I’ve got an idea!!” I yell. “Why don’t you play Hurricane Hunters!” It’s the Preschooler’s favorite game. When there are enough paid adults present, they channel the Preschooler and his colleagues towards scientific discovery-enriched dramatic play. This is why we pay the big bucks.

I have to infuse “Hurricane Hunters” with enough potential violence to entice the rest of the new friends, but soon the Preschooler is releasing probes into the storm and radioing in data he has culled from the instruments to the Florida coast, and the other kids are shooting cannonballs at the Hurricane to kill it.

A three-year old runs across the playground, dribbling a soccer-ball. Perfect balance. My kid can barely hold the ball and run at the same time. Don’t genetics proceed towards a norm? Shouldn’t he be a bit more adept than both his parents? I mean, he can actually see through his own eyes, unlike either of us. I thought maybe he’d maybe be gymnastically-capable, too.

Or maybe it’s my fault. I haven’t been playing soccer with him. I’ve been forcing him to practice the violin, do capoeira. He had tennis lessons for a while. He doesn’t even have enough competition in him to want to win at the games they play in music class. And, at four, he still doesn’t know how to properly fire a gun.

The fact that in this context, shooting was a lot less harmful than hitting, was really disconcerting to me. It also doesn’t help that hitting is something that I actually spend two hours a week teaching. But from talking to other parents now I am starting to really believe that our input, our discussion, our views on these types of things, whether they are pretend shooting, real hitting practice, creating music, or watching anything on TV, our guidance is of paramount importance. When kids decide to kill — even just to kill pretend monsters — we need to make sure they understand what Murder Death Kill really means.

So let’s make sure we keep our minds and mouths open.

And please, VOTE. On TUESDAY.

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