Lenore Moritz: My sweet preschooler -- the one who says that he swallows my kisses so they can live in his heart -- recently tried to take up arms. That's right: The gun phase had intruded on our peaceful homestead, and I was not having any of it.
My husband and I don't have guns, and after thoughtful debate, I came to the conclusion that I needed to have a "pretend gun"-free home, too. You know pretend guns: Kids make them from anything that has a straight line ... so that's everything, basically, except balls.
Before I decided to ban gunplay in my house, I thought I could convince my son that those pretend "guns" could be water hoses. He asked if they could be fire hoses that spray fire instead, and I was cool with that. The trouble with that system was that it soon morphed into gun-shooting sounds again.
I did all sorts of research and gathered my mom-friends' thoughts. One camp believes you have to give in and allow for this kind of pretend play, because restricting it makes it the "forbidden fruit." The other camp feels that eliminating this kind of play is just fine. Personally, I don't really like the idea of restricting play and imagination, but there are a million other things a 4-year-old could pretend to be other than a gun-toting badass.
The weird thing was that none of my son's other friends played "guns" ... except for one. I had suspected that my son was under the influence of this other young packer, but it was proven after he came home from a playdate and described how his friend had loaded him up with "gear" (not actual play guns, but things they pretended were guns) and they had started "shooting" at things. Then he asked if I knew what a bullet was. Needless to say, our summer suddenly got way too busy to possibly squeeze in even 10 minutes of play with Sir Shoot 'Em Up.
Ever since I enforced a no-gun/no-shooting policy and my son has gone back to playing with his other non-gun friends, all is quiet on the Western Front. I'm not squashing all weaponry, though: Just the other day, my friend noticed our kids (my boy and her girl) "sword fighting" with sticks. I can't explain why this feels better than the gun thing; maybe it's because there are fewer stories about people dying from wounds inflicted by swords than by guns.
As for my son's brief brush with firearms, he seems pretty over it -- at least for now. He's currently channeling his energy into all things baseball. Oh, but you know what he asked me about last week? Batman. Is it the superhero phase already?! I've already had to pick my battle with the forces of nature, and I chose to shut out guns.
I may have to give in to the superhero thing at some point. In the meantime ... batter up!