(I’d like to think that) I have a pretty good handle on most things parenting. I’m secure and happy regarding most of our parenting choices. There are very few bits that seem to completely elude me. However, doesn’t it seem like the one issue you have yet to truly figure out is the one that continuously pops up? For me, that issue is: guns/gun play.
I’ve written about it before, about how the concept of gun play (and violent play in general) makes me uneasy and a bit cautious. About how I get a visceral reaction watching my son turn his fingers into a gun and point them at somebody.
I still think about it, constantly: when EZ picks up a stick at the playground, calls it his gun and goes waving it around as he runs. When I’m watching the news and a story about gun violence pops up. When a show he’s watching somehow lets some guns sneak in.
I have yet to buy an actual toy gun (and doubt I ever will), and we haven’t even bought water guns, despite my son’s pleas for one.
So how did we end up shooting lasers at each other this past weekend?
To be honest, I’m still not quite sure. But I have to admit, I loved every second of it.
We were at a birthday party at a kid’s play center. It’s a fabulous place filled with a cool climbing structure, ball pit, arcade games (I need to brush up on my Dance Dance Revolution skills apparently), and… a laser tag room.
After pizza and cake we were told that they had reserved a few rounds of laser tag for the kids. EZ couldn’t even contain himself, he was so excited. Then he asked me what laser tag actually was, and his excitement shot through the roof. Immediately the kids began deciding teams and making strategic plans (as strategic as 5 year olds can get at least).
EZ was already suited up when I finally was able to say something.
“These are just toy lasers, you know…not real guns.”
My son looked back at me like I was out of mind.
“Of course,” he said. “They can’t hurt you.”
He seemed to need to reassure me. I wanted to say something else. About how uneasy I felt about the whole thing. How I didn’t feel okay with basically giving him permission to turn these guns on his friends and shoot freely.
They’re just lasers – I reassured myself. Much different than actual guns.
While I was having this internal dialogue the kids were set loose – out into a black-light filled room filled with various places to hide. I was nervous…would he get scared? Would an actual experience shooting real(ish) guns at friends flip some sort of mystery switch inside of him, relegating him to a life of violence?
Nah. All that happened was that he ran around for 15 minutes with his friends, having a blast and laughing a ton. And to be honest, that didn’t really surprise me.
However, what did surprise me was the fact that I wanted to play now. A second round started up and I wanted in. Watching him have fun, I had to admit, I was intrigued and more than a little eager to try it out myself. I slipped on the weighted vest and got myself ready.
And then? I kicked some major laser tag ass.
No, really, I did. Perhaps it’s my innate competitive nature, but something certainly flipped inside of me once the game started. I strategized, I didn’t play easy, and I kept hitting vests over and over. I felt a rush each time I tagged somebody, and I found I actually liked it.
I ended the game, a bit sweaty, with my heart racing and a huge smile on my face. And then, on the drive home it all sort of sunk in. Just earlier in the day I had refused to allow EZ to play some Jurassic Park video game because it involved using a gun to shoot dinosaurs, and yet there I was, only a half hour later, cheering him on when he successfully tagged me with his laser. I wasn’t sure what to think about it.
I’m still not.
I certainly haven’t jumped on the “Yay kids & guns!” train, and I’m still adamant that I won’t waste our money on purchasing toy guns.
But I have to say, in the few days since the party, my son hasn’t all of a sudden become more violent or aggressive. He hasn’t asked us to buy him his own gun or even a laser. He has asked to go back to this place since he (rightly) thinks his dad, who missed out on the birthday party, would be super into laser tag. And I have to admit, I already feel a little thrill at the thought of suiting up and heading back into the black-lighted laser zone.