Gun Talk

All Oliver can talk about is guns.  Nerf guns.  Water guns.  Real guns.  He desperately wants a Nerf gun for his birthday.

Now, in principle, I am okay with toy guns.  My concern is that in a society for which violence has become commonplace and not a big deal, without a lot of care and due diligence (for lack of a better term) by the parents, that same casual attitude is passed down to our children.

I think it’s a big cognitive leap to understand that playing with toy guns in a game and pretending to kill people (!) is okay (and is it?), but playing with real guns where people really do get hurt or killed isn’t.  We’ve avoided this, in part, in the past, by having games that we play with him that do involve shooting be able shooting marshmallows and getting each other so sticky that you lose the game (totally Kullervo’s imagination at work there, mind you!).

I’m not going to pretend otherwise–real guns make me really uncomfortable.  I’ve had some bad experiences in my life associated with them.   I lived in a house once where the gun that was there (not mine) that was for self-protection was turned on us, and we were sort of held hostage.

At the same time, my baggage is my baggage, and not something that my kids need to live or deal with.  And part of being a responsible parent, in my opinion, is recognizing that, and thus teaching my kids appropriate caution without terrorizing fear.

So, for now, we talk about it.  We talk about real guns and toy guns.  We talk about how they are different, by a seriously huge magnitude.  We talk about killing, and death, and hurting people.  These aren’t fun conversations to have, but important in the context.

And I have to figure out–or rather, Kullervo and I have to figure out–what sort of play is okay.  Kids have been playing cops and robbers for ages and ages.  Is it bad to pretend to kill a bad guy?  Is it wrong?  What do we allow?  On the one hand, when kids pretend to kill things, it’s downright creepy.  On the other hand, death is a part of life.  And, for worse (not for better), killing and hurting other people is a part of life.  And exploring difficult, complex, and philosophically deep ideas about life and death through play seems appropriate.  We are supposed to role play to teach our kids how to handle things like smoking and bullies… is it okay to role play to teach our kids about death? About the darker nature of man?  If I tell him that he can play with toy guns, but he can only pretend he’s hurting someone, not killing them… does that make death seem like this big, terrifying thing?  What do we do, then, when our enormously-fat-probably-won’t-live-forever-seven-year-old-cat dies?

I’m sure that a part of this conversation also has to go into religion.  Which means I’m going to have to prayerfully figure out what the heck I teach my kids about hard questions like that, religiously.  This probably belongs in a whole separate post, but I feel like Jesus’s way was wholly different from the instinctive response to this.  For example, bullying.  I want to teach my kids that if someone bullies them, or hits them, they should hit back.  Knock a kid out.  Bullies only respond to strength.

But Jesus didn’t teach that.  I don’t want my kids to hurt… but I do want them to follow Jesus’s teachings.  Those two might be mutually exclusive in some circumstances.  And I need to spend some time with God figuring that out, and then with Kullervo to make sure that we are on the same page in terms of raising our kids inter-faithfully.

Another aspect of the whole gun issue revolves around hunting.  I respect that it’s a sport, and that lots of people seriously enjoy it.  I personally find it repellent, but I can see and understand where other people would feel differently.  And Kullervo loves going shooting (not hunting, but shooting).  He was an infantry soldier, and he’s a good shot.  It’s something he excels at.  How does that fit into all of this?

In addition to the concerns about Oliver playing with Nerf guns, letting him do it exposes Hazel at a much younger age to them.  Which means that she needs to be a part of the conversation as well.  I don’t think she’d show as much of an interest in them, but I think it would be really easy to have the conversations with Oliver, and then just assume Hazel picked up on it, when her cognitive development is that of a three year old, not a five year old.

I don’t have any answers at all, just question on question, so any feedback or suggestions are appreciated.  Do you let your kids play with toy guns?  How old were they when you let them start, if it wasn’t always?

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Blur

This is all I ever see of Hazel anymore. Now that she is very two (which includes unreasonableness, defiance, willfulness, and a stubborn streak that I can only blame myself for), she also is an unstoppable force of nature.

As such, every photo I take seems to be just a blur.

However, I have it on good authority (from strangers who see her while she runs away from me in some public and dangerous place and from shutterspeeds on cameras that aren’t my phone) that she is absolutely beautiful.

Time Out for Oliver

I feel like there’s something LDS related to Time Out (Time Out for Women?  Time Out for Love?), which I have no idea what it is, but the title stuck, and that’s why I titled this post what I did.  (Oh, and it’s about time outs, too.)

So, time out.  I mentioned here that the way that I do time out is different than it used to be.  Most books and magazines that I’ve read recommend giving time out for a minute per year of age.  I’ve also heard theories of letting your kid be in time out until they’re ready to get out and behave.  I don’t really do either of those.

I’m going to illustrate the way that I do time out with a couple of typical examples in our home.

1.  Oliver gets angry that Hazel is playing with one of his toys.  He snatches it from her, and then hits her.  Hitting is one of those ‘don’t pass go’ cards straight to time out.  He usually gets really upset about having to go to time out, and I often have to carry him over there.  He sits in the designated time out spot by the door, facing the wall, and I usually st behind him and hold him while he’s crying and carrying on.  I try not to talk to him until he’s managed to calm down a bit, and if I do talk to him, it’s usually to say  (or whisper) that we’ll talk when he’s calmed down.  (Aside: Sometimes he’ll shriek that he IS CALMED DOWN, and I have a hard time not laughing.)  When he stops freaking out about being in time out, we talk about why he’s there.  I ask him why he got sent to time out, and he’ll tell me that he hit Hazel.  Sometimes he tries to interject with, “I hit Hazel, but…” and I interrupt him and tell him that there aren’t any buts because we don’t hit.  And we talk about why we don’t hit–that it hurts people, that we don’t want to hurt people, that he loves Hazel, even when he’s angry with her, and that she is smaller than him, so hitting her isn’t fair, and that there are better ways of dealing with a problem than hitting.  If I still have his attention, I try to talk to him about what he could do instead.  Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

2.  I ask Oliver to please get his shoes so we can go outside, and he yells at me, “No!  YOU do it!”.  Now, my problem here isn’t that he didn’t obey me, but the way that he told me.  If he had asked me politely, and I wasn’t doing something else, I wouldn’t really have a problem with doing it.  But I won’t let me three year old boss me around.  Then we’re stuck in a battle of wills where he’s said he won’t do it, and I won’t back down because that wold be a parenting nightmare.  So, we often wind up with a statement of, “Oliver, if you don’t get your shoes by the time I count to five, you’re going to go to time out.”  I don’t love putting him in time out for this, but I’m not sure what else to do when it’s a stand off.  So, I wind up having to carry him to time out if he doesn’t do it.  Again, I sit with him, and when he’s ready, we talk about why he’s in time out, and what he could have done instead–he could have politely asked.  Or he could have said, “Mommy, I’m in the middle of putting my cars in my bookbag; can I do it when I’ve finished?”  Here, it’s a matter of learning how to speak to each other respectfully, so we talk about why we don’t talk to each other that way.

It sounds kind of touchy feely, I guess, but maybe that’s okay.  Mostly, we try to adapt our punishment to make sure that we and the kids know why they’re being punished, and also try to modify it so that they aren’t being abandoned and forced out of the family because they acted out.  I don’t want my kids to feel like we don’t love them as much or want to be around them when they’re behaving badly.  I don’t want them to think that my love is conditional on perfect behavior, because it’s not.  So, I love them harder when they’re rotten, and try really hard to stay calm.

And I apologize when I yell at them or snap at them.  Because I want to treat them with respect too.  And I want them to know that they deserve to be treated with respect.

He’s Growing Up On Me

So, I’m a little bit heartbroken today.

First, Pap, Oliver’s beloved frog, died.  We broke the news to Oliver, who cried and was sad, and asked some questions, but is doing okay.

Then, later on, Oliver yelled at me and told me to go away.  So I acted extra-sad to let him know that he was saying things that hurt feelings.  I asked if he was sorry, and he said that he wasn’t sorry because he was angry with me at the time and wanted me to go away.  I told him that we should work on nicer ways to say that to each other then, because we don’t want to treat people that way.  He said, “OK, Mom.  But that’s impossible.  Sometimes I’m just angry and I don’t think then.”

Um, the kid is three.  What’s up with the articulation extraordinaire?

And then, to top it all off, Oliver has always called peeing “peeping”, which is adorable.  And we have totally taken it on and always ask him if he wants to peep.  He sat on the potty before bed, and said, “Mommy, we can’t call it ‘peeping’ anymore.  It’s peeing.  “Peep” is the name of a chicken.  So let’s call it pee, okay?”

Kullervo then tried to say ‘peep’ a couple of times, but Oliver said that that wasn’t right.

He’s growing up much too fast.  But in the meantime, he delights me every day.

Parenting Tip!

I am no god of parenting, and I screw up all the time.  But occasionally I stumble on something that magically works.  Yesterday was one of those days, and it worked again today.  I thought I’d share for the other parents out there who might struggle with the same.

Oliver is three.  He wants everything he sees.  He wants everything he’s not holding.  He has had a blue doll stroller (they were all the rage last year among the toddler set in NYC) for a year, and he and Hazel wind up fighting over it.  So, and because Hazel so rarely gets anything new (besides clothes), I got her a doll stroller.  She loves it.

Of course, that means that Oliver wants it.  He only wants hers; his is unacceptable.  Hazel only wants to play with hers too, which means that I am having the same fight, but now I’m $13 poorer and frustrated because I have two freaking doll strollers.

So, because the pink one is Hazel’s, and we generally institute a ‘you have to share, but you don’t have to share what you’re playing with rightnow or what you love most’ policy, Hazel doesn’t have to share her pink stroller.  Which leads to mega-tantrums by Oliver.  And if you know anything about our housing situation, you’ll know that that could lead to us getting evicted from our apartment.

When Oliver was throwing his tantrum, I kept my cool (woohoo!), and we talked about it.  He said that he really wanted a pink stroller.  I explained to him that we couldn’t go out and get him a pink stroller right then, but that we could start a list of the things that he wants, so that if we’re ever out and want to get him a treat, he can pick something off of the list.

So we made a special “Oliver’s Wish List”, and when he gets upset about something he wants, we add it to the list, and it seems to calm him down and I guess it makes him feel heard and understood.  Right now, his list consists of three things–a scooter, a pink stroller, and a remote controlled Thomas train (I love advertising and its effects on children *cue eye-roll*).

Oliver’s Tattoo

When Kullervo first got his tattoo done (of Odin and Sleipnir, his eight legged horse),
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Oliver would tell us every day about his tattoos. He would pretend he had one on his nose, on his arms, all over his body. Usually he said that his tattoos were of some of his favorite TV characters (specifically, The Backyardigans). Once the newness of the tattoo had faded, though, he stopped talking about it.

The other night, he was painting after Hazel went to bed and got paint on his leg.
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He told me that that was his tattoo. When I asked him what his tattoo was, he told me “Sleepsha and Sheepneer”. He was pretty proud of it.
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Then, he got more paint on him:
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These were also tattoos. One was “Ooks and his horse Sheeks”. The other remained nameless.

However, he did make me scrub them off before bed. So I think that he maybe isn’t ready for a real tattoo just yet.