Bang, Bang

It’s probably no secret that I am one of the biggest pacifists you’re ever going to meet.  So just as I was aghast (as one of the biggest feminists you’re ever going to meet) when Oscar, at age two, declared the predominantly pink toy aisle in Target as the “girl aisle,” I have been struggling of late as to what to do about the recent and hearty gun play between Oscar and Edgar.

With all due respect to people whose line of work requires them, for their protection, to carry a gun and to those who live in places where they must hunt to acquire food, guns have no place in my world.  I’ve seen what they can do in the wrong hands (and, sadly, even in the “right” hands), and my heart breaks.  I eschew violence, and feel that, Second Amendment aside, if no one had a gun, no one would “need” a gun.

Of course, human nature being what it is, I know that as a species, we will never get there–at least not in my lifetime.  Yet as a parent, I had always hoped that my boys would take my lead and not play with guns.  After all, we never bought them for them–and for a while, we even got away with removing them from any action figure that came with them.

But no more.  When it became clear that their beloved Tinker Toys could be made into guns–as could empty paper towel rolls, sticks, and their fingers and hands, we had to throw up ours.  Couple that with the knowledge that the Storm Trooper has a gun in the movie, and ergo he has a gun in his action figure alter ego, we were suddenly–pardon the pun–disarmed.

I then had to do what I do in situations such as this . . . research and read.  I happened upon the following from a physician and expert on child behavior:

“No question about it.  Many little boys are fascinated by guns. Gun fascination often peaks around the same time that boys show the most interest in superheroes, dinosaurs, and in being “big boys.” What ties all of these things together, I think, is the theme of power. Little boys want to feel that they are powerful. In part, this is because they see that the world is full of big, powerful people, and they feel frightened sometimes. Of course, one of the most important people in a little boy’s life is his father. By pretending to be powerful, little boys seem to be more like their big, powerful fathers. Many boys also have competitive feelings towards their fathers, although in reality of course they are no match for an adult. Usually, as boys enter elementary school, their competitive feelings lessen a bit, and they find other ways of asserting their power, such as sports. When this happens, gunplay usually subsides.

“This is all to say that a fascination with guns is both very common in young children and also understandable.  That doesn’t mean that you have to encourage your sons’ gunplay, or even tolerate it. You can say, simply, that you don’t allow guns in your house, not even play guns. You might suggest other ways that “good guys” capture bad guys, such as trapping them or tying them up.

“On the other hand, you could also decide that making a big deal over make-believe gun play is not where you want to focus your parenting energy. Sometimes, when parents strongly forbid an exciting activity, it makes that activity seem even more exciting. A more effective response might be low-key disapproval, such as saying, ‘You know I don’t like gun play. Why not play at something peaceful.'”

And there it is . . . and just as I suspected:  This, too, is human nature–or at least “natural” for many boys–and not about to change any time soon.

As parents, we attempt–when appropriate–to “lift the curtain” and demystify as often as possible; and that is the tack we have taken with the gun play.  When it starts up, we tell them we don’t like it and why, “low-key disapproval”; and, miracle of miracles, it usually subsides on its own within minutes.

Will our sons have the same strong feelings we have about guns?  It’s impossible to script–let alone control–exactly how someone is going to wind up feeling about something.  Many factors will contribute to their ultimate philosophy–and some of those will be beyond our influence.  It is my hope, though, that by demystifying their current fascination and exploration through play while simultaneously providing them with the verbiage as to why guns are dangerous, that their ultimate feelings about guns will be respectful–on all levels.  I might not be able to convince Oscar that the pink aisle at Target can be for boys, too (though I’ll keep trying); but it is my hope that Oscar, Edgar, and August will grow to see that a path of nonviolence–and one free of guns– is the best way to go.


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One Year Ago Today

The four of us woke up at our usual time on 25 August 2009.  And though there was nothing usual about this day, everything seemed so simple, so familiar, so effortless–a run of the dishwasher to ready a dozen brand-new bottles, a trip to BJs to pick up a couple of very large canisters of Enfamil formula, a last check of the car seat, the cradle, the pack-and-play, your wardrobe and toys, diapers and wipes, the drive to Providence, to our adoption agency, the one we had made dozens of times–to attend trainings and classes and support groups, to meet Oscar’s birth mother, to sign very important papers, to visit with Edgar and the family who cared for him prior to his coming home, to meet and visit with Edgar’s biological sister and her family, to meet your birth mother and her grandmother, to meet you (and Laurie, who cared for you for the first weeks of your life) for the first time, to introduce you to our good friends.

Your homecoming was merely a dream for nearly two-and-a-half years; but in the early afternoon one year ago today, it came true, a moment of beauty enveloped by love and hope.

So much has changed for you in the first year of your life, but one thing has not–the effortlessness with which you joined your family.  It was as though you had always been here from the moment you arrived.

August, you have the honor of having completed your family.  We love you, sweet baby!

The Courage to Talk and Listen

Sarcasm is something I practice regularly.  But as children tend to be literalists, I have done my best to explain the concept and point out to them when I am being sarcastic–if only to spare them the confusion that can often result from engaging with someone who actually says the opposite of what she means.   Oscar seems to be understanding my “sense of humor” more and more and will even occasionally look at me, tilt his head slightly to the side, and ask, “Sarcasm?” or “Are you being facetious?”

So the other day when it was about 400 degrees in the house with 200% humidity, and I was on my three thousandth load of laundry, Oscar sauntered into the laundry room and asked what I was doing.

My reply was sarcastic . . . very sarcastic.  And I didn’t take the time to explain it to him.

A few days later he came to me and very quietly said the following:  “Mom, can I talk to you about what you said to me in the laundry room the other day?  It hurt my feelings.”

And I stopped in my tracks and listened with every part of myself to what my son was saying—not wanting to miss a word, a nuance, anything.

I then talked to him about the heat, about my sense of humor, and about his timing—and admitted to him that while all of these might be explanations, none was an excuse.  I thanked him for coming to me and apologized for hurting his feelings.  He accepted my apology graciously and moved on.

Thank you, Oscar, for having the courage to tell me what was on your mind and in your heart and for your willingness to listen to my response.  That is the secret to rectifying the bulk of all of life’s misunderstandings—you’re six and you’ve learned that lesson.  May you carry that with you for the rest of your life and inspire others to communicate as clearly as you do.

The Emergence of a Six-Year-Old

We’ve seen it coming for a while now . . . things that once thrilled you as a preschooler and Kindergartener are being dismissed.  New interests are emerging.  Requests for “independence” and “privacy” are ever-present.   And then there’s that pesky (but oh-so-necessary) testing, testing, testing.

You’re growing up, Oscar–transitioning from a little boy to just a “boy.”  Except there’s no such thing as just a boy.

You are a marvel of intelligence and curiosity.  Your wit belies your years.  You love your family and your friends and miss both terribly when you are not with them.

You are sensitive and want to be the best at everything.  You are discovering–at times painfully–that part of growing up is learning that you don’t have to be the best but that you have to try your best.

You love LEGO and Star Wars and Cheez-Its and chocolate milk.

You’d much rather sit and talk than run.  You have a mind for detail and a flawless memory.

You are cautious and careful and attentive and wise.   You are an old soul who has touched mine.

And sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky that I get to be your mom.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful boy!  Welcome to the second third of your childhood!

The Top Ten Reasons the World Needs More Edgars

10.  You approach life with absolute abandon and seem to love everything this planet has to offer.

9.  You are gentle with people and animals.

8.  You have an energy that is contagious.

7.  You are spontaneously affectionate, seeming to know exactly when someone needs a hug, a kiss, or a flower.

6.  You eat with gusto and appreciate the food people make for you.

5.  You recover quickly from disappointments and don’t hold grudges.

4.  You are silly and funny and make people laugh.

3.  You’re not afraid to get dirty and understand that pretty much any mess can be cleaned.

2.  You are curious and smart and want to know “why.”

1.  You truly are a person who can  “see the world in a grain of sand, and . . . heaven in a wild flower.  [You] hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.”

Continue to share your joy and wonder with everyone you meet.  Be free.  Love and be loved.

Happy Fifth Birthday!  I am in awe of you and love you more than words can say.

You Can Go Home Again

If anyone happens to catch our good friends Mary and Shannon (and possibly Aly, who is starting Kindergarten in September and might be turning on the computer to do a little reading before breakfast) reading this post, stop them–because I don’t want to get in trouble for spilling the beans prematurely.

Last night we learned that it looks very, very, very promising that our pals will be leaving their temporary digs in Virginia and making their way back home to Newport in June.

And we are very, very, very excited about this.

Why?

Because friendships such as this one do not come along every day.  And because even though they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, it’s a whole lot more comforting to know that these five beautiful children are going to grow up together.

Fine Feathers

“I would just like to say that it is my conviction/That longer hair and other flamboyant affectations/Of appearance are nothing more/Than the male’s emergence from his drab camouflage/Into the gaudy plumage/Which is the birthright of his sex./There is a peculiar notion that elegant plumage/And fine feathers are not proper for the man/When actually/That is the way things are/In most species.” –“My Conviction,” Hair

At the end of August (the month, that is, not our son), Oscar and Edgar are going to make their annual late-summer pilgrimage to Snip-Its for their “back-to-school” haircuts.  Much discussion of late has centered on the luxurious curls and substantial length of our beautiful near-fourteen-month-old’s mane.  We didn’t even need to consider haircuts for Oscar and Edgar until they were two years old, but August’s hair is a different story altogether.

It has been suggested that when we take Oscar and Edgar in for theirs, we should let August take the chair for the first time.  Granted, his hair is long enough that–if he were a girl–we would be breaking out an arsenal of clips and barrettes and headbands.

But he’s not.  He’s a boy.  And it seems the only option is a haircut.

But it just seems so soon . . .