Tuesday, December 18, 2012

over and over

I kept hearing the same things out of other mother's mouths all weekend long:

"I'm having a hard time buying another violent video game/gun toy for my son this Christmas."

The biggest battle most of us with boy children face is raising them in a world saturated with violence.  Turn on a football game and every other commercial is for a video game rated "M" for violence.  Every movie geared toward them is based on violence.  Films rated PG-13 lure in boys far too young to be interested by making Happy Meal toys and action figures, it's not remotely shocking that most 8-year-olds have seen Transformers, Spider-Man and Batman--films NOT rated for general audiences.  But it should be, shouldn't it?

Yet most parents haven't bothered to question it.  Including me.

Every boy I know wants Call of Duty and an Airsoft gun.  Including the boys that live under my roof.
I've drawn a line in the sand on the video games.  We deliberately got a Wii because most of the games for that system aren't as violent.  I've refused to download certain apps on Mr. T's ipod because they cross that line.  No shooting at people.  Zombies?  Yes.  Aliens?  Yes.  Space ships?  Yes.  But no shooting at people.

I'm that mom, but he insists all his friends are playing the games rated "M."  Tough cookies, kid.  And then I let them pelt each other with Nerf bullets and really wouldn't bat an eye at paintball.  Is that hypocritical?  I'm toeing the line of keeping them sensitized but realizing their proclivity for making every toy into a gun.  I try to limit the images locked into their brains when they play games and watch TV, I try to steer them towards the building toys and sports, but they live in a culture where shooting is the most advertised and beloved pastime.

I've accepted hunting and guns in my household, but the boys have to pass Hunters' Safety before they get their own firearm.  We believe firearms belong locked in a gun safe.  Not displayed in a cabinet, not tossed in a corner of the garage.  Firearms get put away unloaded.  Period.  The privilege of hunting comes with proof that you're responsible to handle it.  Those guns are not automatic or semiautomatic, they shoot one bullet at a time for sport and food.  No one living at my house believes anything else is sensible or necessary in any situation. 

And I look again at my sons' wish list this Christmas:  Call of Duty, Airsoft machine gun, football jersey and I think of what the other moms have been saying to me all weekend...

"I'm having a hard time buying another violent video game/gun toy for my son this Christmas."

12 comments:

  1. Caroline really wanted a bow and arrow for Christmas (there are no guns in the Christmas markets, but lots of wooden swords, cross bows, etc). I've said no for this year.

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  2. My six year old grandson plays Black Ops Call of Duty and Halo. My daughter (and her husband) are vocally anti-gun control, and seem to believe that her sons will understand and behave respectfully towards all weapons because she wants it to be so. I have a very heavy heart about all that, but there is nothing I can do--she's the parent here, not me. I'm sure if she had married a pacifist she'd be one too, but she didn't. Logan already knows that Grambob won't play sniper games with him.

    It was so much easier when my son was little--there were no violent video games; I didn't buy weapons for him: simple. At that time, the free-to-be-you-and-me attitude prevailed and although most little boys invented battle games, they were pretty tame --single-shot yellow plastic pistols weren't very scary. Last year I bought him and his roommates potato guns and they had fun all day. (The fun ends when you step on a month-old potato bullet, however.)

    It feels reasonable to me to tell our little boys why, this year especially, those violent video games just feel too sad. I think our consciences are spot on right now.

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  3. I'm glad you're taking the time to think about it. Lots of parents don't.. They just wrap the gift and toss it under the tree with no second thought. Our society is much too violent.

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  4. I hear you. My husband plays Battlefield, but he's really strict about what games my boys get. We're in a weird situation. We live in a hunting state, but we don't hunt. We do have guns, but my husband has to carry one for work. Very mixed feelings -- although not about the games.

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  5. I was on the Lego aisle at the store today and on the next aisle over a guy was trying out the toy guns. My heart nearly jumped up to my throat.

    Then I went to the sporting goods store to look for camping stuff for my boy scout nephews. The front of the store had a huge sale display of guns. I thought maybe, just for this week, they wouldn't have them right in your face when you walk in.

    I'm not worried about the kids who shoot guns for sport or hunting and also get a good dose of learning to be compassionate from their parents. It's the kids who only learn the shooting part and miss out on the humanity part that scare me.

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  6. I just typed, "stick to your guns," then thought better of it. But I do think you should be firm. Your sons will thank you, if not when they first become adults, then surely when they are fathers.

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  7. My oldest asked for COD. He's not getting it. He's played it at friends' houses and I'm OK with that. I told him if he wants it he'll have to buy it and if he does that game will have a time limit on it (maybe twice a week only). Now I let them play video games whenever as long as homework is done.

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  8. Selfishly I'm glad I don't face this. I do think, however, that we need to remember that the people (kids and adults) who have taken guns and shot multiple people have almost all been mentally ill. I think that if you set sensible limits, and explain why maybe this year is not a good year to ask for these things in particular, you will raise sons who are very unlikely to see violence as a solution to anything. I just finished reading an article written by Dylan Kiebold's mom, about how she had no idea that her teenage son was incredibly depressed and suicidal --maybe that's what we need to pay more attention to.

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  9. For some reason, your post has reminded me of my father, who was a career Army officer, and how he treated guns and even swords. As children we were taught that there was no way we were ever to touch them and we couldn't have if we had wanted to because they were always locked up and only brought out for occasional cleaning. They were not there for our protection but rather as "souvenirs" from the war. This is where it all starts. We can either teach our children about how harmful guns can be or cosign more violence.

    btw, not all the mass killings were done by insane people. I admire greatly the stand you are taking with your children.

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  10. My son is 24 now and none of these things are on his wish list, but I remember vividly all the years I had the same internal debate. I didn't buy toy guns or violent video games. For two years the only thing he wanted for his birthday was a party at the laser tag place and since I wouldn't go for that, he had no party. So many people gave me a hard time over it and I was never sure whether I was overdoing it. It's so hard - so complex. It won't be simple to get there, but we have to ask all these questions. The important thing is to keep talking - to each other and to our elected officials.

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  11. Stay strong and follow your gut. I relented when my son was fifteen and felt he could distinguish the difference between real and fake violence (that said, he was wielding light sabers at four. My husband checked out the reviews before he would agree to a purchase. Merry Christmas, M!

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  12. I'm with you--It's a tough job, sticking to your guns, but I'm pretty sure no decent parent has ever said, "I sure am glad I bought COD for my kid for Christmas!" I'm not gonna lie--My son got it when he was 19, but I never even bought a game system for our home until Kyle was 16 or 17. Your boys are young and still being shaped. Go with your gut, and you'll never regret it.

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Spill it, reader.