I used to be one of those anti-gun moms. No weapon toys. Ever. You know – only developmentally appropriate wooden toys made by totally-not-oppressed elves, who live in a socialist eco-village in Vermont.
Tariku is four now and he wants guns and swords. He wants knights and pirates and battles. True, I do expose him to media like "Puss in Boots," which features sword fighting. Maybe if he had never seen a weapon he wouldn’t want one. But I feel the instinct is more primal than that. He bit a piece of toast into the shape of a gun last week.
I make up stories for Tariku all day long, and lately he’s been requesting stories of battle. I tried to tell him a story about how Puss in Boots walked him to school and they met a Tyrannosaurus Rex, who seemed really scary. But when they talked to him they discovered he actually was friendly and just roared so loudly because he was insecure about his little arms. Puss and Tariku and the dinosaur became friends and he let them ride on his back down Colorado Boulevard.
And T said, "That was a great story. Now can you tell me a story where Puss fights?"
And here’s the thing – as a storyteller, I gravitate toward stories of battle. Because all good stories are about conflict. And heroic stories often have sword fights. And if you’re going to tell a story, why not make it heroic? Tariku struggles with a lot, frankly. He has tremendous fears and challenges to face. Maybe battle isn’t such a bad metaphor for him, if I can place it in the appropriate context.
What broke me down finally? Tariku got in a water gun fight at his friend's house the other day. His friend had a WAY better gun than him. T had some lame foam shark thing that he had to reload every two seconds, and he got massacred. That was all it took. I strapped him soaking wet into his car seat and promised him a better weapon next time.
It’s liberating to shed my assumptions and theories, to open myself up to this aspect of parenting a boy. I’m curious see where it leads. I marched into Target the next day and bought the most bad-assed water gun they had. Actually, I bought two. One for me. It’s so on.
Jillian Lauren is the is the author of the memoir Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and the novel Pretty. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine and Vanity Fair. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, musician Scott Shriner, and their 4-year-old son. She blogs about motherhood, adoption, writing and being a rock wife at http://www.jillianlauren.com/blog/.
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