The sun is shining (apologies if it’s not, where you are), the air is crisp, the birds are chirping; spring is in the air. This, of course, can only mean one thing – Christmas decorations should be hitting the store aisles any second. No, it means that summer toys abound, and nothing says summer like a good ol’ fashioned squirt gun.
As I was waiting to buy (yet another) refill of contact lens cleaner solution at the local megadrug store (Rite Aid for those of you into details), the line snaked through an aisle loaded with literally hundreds of squirt guns. There were the crazy huge Super Soaker, cute little dolphin-shaped and a few I-don’t-know-what-that-is-but-it-shoots-water guns.
And then there were the spot-on .357 magnum and 9-millimeter replicas.
Since I haven’t looked at, or considered the state of, squirt gun technology for quite a few years (I think my last good water fight – with Super Soakers – was in college), I was kind of a little shocked to see the true gun replicas. (The packaging on one even declared something like, “Add water to the clip!” In short, though it was “just a squirt gun” it was “loaded” like a real gun.)
This is the second time in the last month or so that I’ve been faced with this mental “gun dilemma.” Just before Easter, I was looking for some toys to put inside some plastic eggs, and the store (another Rite Aid, actually) only had dinosaurs and soldiers. Naturally, I picked the dinosaurs. I just didn’t think it was appropriate to give K-Man the soldiers. And, there’s no way he’s getting a 9-millimeter replica squirt gun. In fact, I’m not sure he’s ever going to get any kind of replica gun – not even a dolphin.
This is one of those times that “the dad gene” kicks in especially hard. I simply don’t want my kid going anywhere near these things. I SO don’t understand the need to make replica toys of something that symbolizes violence. (Oh crap, save your letters and emails about the right to bear arms and all of that good stuff. Go nuts in your own life. I’m talking about marketing guns to kids. Give it a rest.)
Yes, I grew up with squirt guns. Lots of ‘em. And, it seems that I’ve managed to avoid being arrested on a gun-related incident. I’ve even managed to stay out of prison and avoid any dropping-the-soap-related incidents (which, by the way, is the very image that has kept me on the more or less straight and narrow). So, there’s no reason for me to think that K-Man wouldn’t be able to understand the difference between a toy that squirts water and a not-so-toy that shoots bullets.
But, ya know what? I was playing with my toy guns 30-plus years ago. It was a different time. Today, we live in a society where nine-year-old girls plot to stab their teacher because she reprimanded one of their friends (did you see that story?). Columbine, Virginia Tech and other senseless acts of school-related violence weren’t happening when I was playing with my squirt guns. And, while squirt guns had absolutely nothing to do with these horrible situations (I would assume), who knows what role they might play in the future? Is it so outlandish to think that some kid who likes shooting water at his (her?) friends will graduate to a BB gun, and so on?
This is what having a kid does to your brain. I wouldn’t think twice – hell, I wouldn’t think ONCE – about this if I didn’t have a kid. And, it’s not just about the squirt gun. I read a story the other day about the increasing number of cruise ships (and other vessels) that are being attacked/hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
Wait. What? Pirates? You mean Johnny Depp? No. I’m not talking about those funny, lovable characters that our kids dress up as at Halloween. I’m talking about real-life pirates doing the horrible, real-life things. Yet, we memorialize and joke about these horrible things as we sing, “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me” (at Disneyland, no less).
It’s not that I’m some nutty pacifist (no offense to nutty pacifists everywhere). I know that this is one big overgeneralization. I even know that I probably won’t be able to keep K-Man from pretending to shoot a gun (squirt gun or otherwise). But, as I struggle with the concept of raising K-Man “right” (whatever that means), it just seems that with every new day comes new hurdles and obstacles to think about.
Who knew that buying contact lens solution would end up turning into such a big deal? On second thought – maybe it would just be better to put up the Christmas decorations.