I hate guns because I fear guns. I'm not ashamed to admit it. Guns=death, and my goal in life is to live. The purpose of a gun is to shoot a bullet into something with such force it tears a hole into it. That something is often a living being, and the result is death.
My gun-loving friends will argue that guns don't always equal death. It's fun to shoot bullets into a nonliving target at a firing range. They can tell me as much as they want that it's good, clean fun where no one gets hurt. They have about as much of a chance of changing my mind as I have of convincing them they'd have more fun joining me in a game of Scrabble. People like to do different things in their free time, duh. Some people get their rocks off shooting bullets into a target. Some people get their rocks off scoring a fifty-point bonus for using all seven tiles when playing the word "handgun".
Simmer down. Just because I hate guns doesn't mean I want to take away your gun. I support the Second Amendment.
I read Jason Whitlock's eloquent piece, In KC, It's No Time For a Game, the one Ted Nugent's got his panties all in a wad over Bob Costas' paraphrasing it during Monday Night Football.
He makes some excellent points about our culture's glorification of gun violence. But I don't agree that gun control is the answer. Government control isn't the answer. Self-control is.
But what do I know? I'm just a mom. Doing my best to teach my child self-control. How to live peaceably in a violent world. Some days, like when I read news reports of a professional football player gunning down the mother of his 3 month-old child, and then shooting himself in the head in front of his coaches, I worry how on earth Katie will survive in such a violent world. I must teach her how to acknowledge and confront violence without knuckling under it.
I can't rely on the government limiting citizen's access to firearms as a way to keep my daughter safe. When alcohol was illegal people still found ways to drink it. They just bought it from criminals instead of licensed, regulated sellers.
image source: Facebook
Same with drugs now. If I want Katie to stay away from meth, I'll talk to her about how it's ruined the lives of people we love and show her ways to have fun that don't involve ingesting substances. I'm not going to rely on the government making it illegal to keep it out of my daughter's body. Ultimately it's her decision what she puts into her own body. I can set a good example for her. I can ply her with real-life horror stories about drug abuse. I can read books to her and send her to school in a silly hat. But no one can keep her from doing what she wants with her own body.
What I can do is set a good example. It's my job to teach my child the way of nonviolent resistance, interpersonal and political. I feel the same about gun ownership. I do not want Katie to shoot a gun. But I don't think the best way for me to get her to not shoot a gun is by making it illegal to do so. The best way is for me to teach my daughter to diffuse a potentially violent situation so she never gets to the point where firing a gun into someone's body feels like the only way to end an argument.
We all get angry. We all sometimes feel like lashing out and attacking others. But when we do, we need to reflect upon ways we could have defused the situation. Here's an example.
I got home from work and Katie was at the door greeting me. "Hi, Mama!" I love that my big first grader still calls me "Mama" when she's been missing me.
"Hi, Sweetie. How was your day?" I asked, hanging up my bag.
"It was bad." Katie's face suddenly changed from sunny to cloudy like a silent movie actor's.
"Oh?" I sat in our chair and patted my lap for her to join me. "Why was it bad? What happened?"
"I lost a cube."
In First-Gradespeak, this means Katie got into trouble for inappropriate behavior. In other words, she had to stand at the wall for five minutes during recess. It's been rough for me to learn the lingo of modern public education. When I was a kid, if you did something wrong the teacher yelled at you and you stood at the wall during recess until she decided you were done and that was that. Today you lose a cube, and each cube represents five minutes off recess time. If you lose three cubes, a note gets sent home to your parents to talk to you about your inappropriate behavior.
I've never gotten a note about Katie's inappropriate behavior. She blabs to me herself way before it gets to that point. She's lost three cubes so far this year, and it's always the first thing out of her mouth when she sees me after school.
"Why do you think you lost a cube?" I stroked Katie's messy hair. She brushes it herself now and I think it looks neater when I brush it for her, but she insists on doing it herself. It's a battle not worth fighting.
"Because I yelled in Brady's face," She said, looking down at her hands. I wanted desperately to trim her nails with the clippers but it was bad timing--yelling at your classmate trumps long, jagged, dirty little fingernails in a parental stepping-in to assist situation.
"Oh," I said. It wasn't until Katie looked up and raised her eyebrows that I noticed mine were raised. "Why did you yell in Brady's face?"
Katie's eyebrows now pointed in a diagonal as if she were an angry anime character. "I yelled in his face cuz he said I cutted in line and I didn't cut in line he just didn't see me standing there and so I said NO I DIDN'T but I said it loud and in his face." She looked back down at her hands.
"Oh. It sounds like you had a misunderstanding--"
"--Brady said I'm a poopy diaper!" Katie interrupeted before I got a chance to ramble on.
"Well that was rude!" I said. "Is that why you yelled in his face?"
"Yes!" She looked up again. Her face more of an open slate.
"Oh, I see. Yeah, Brady shouldn't call you a poopy diaper because for one thing, that's rude, and another thing, it's not true." I stopped and nodded my head to see if she'd follow. She nodded her head and smiled, so I continued, "But you shouldn't yell in people's faces. When you make a mistake, do you like it when someone yells in your face or when someone calmly talks to you about it?"
Immediately she repeated, "when someone calmly talks about it."
"Yeah me too. So what do you think you should do the next time Brady--or anyone--says you cut in line or you're a poopy diaper or anything else that is wrong?"
Katie pointed her finger to her chin as she thought about my question. She watches a lot of cheesy old movies on VHS, so she's learned many of these expressions from all these cute 80's era kid actors who have long since grown up, become addicts, and either killed themselves or found Jesus.
She took her finger away from her chin and said, "If Brady says I'm a poopy diaper, I will say calmly--" she raises her voice an octave since everyone knows higher voices indicate calmer attitudes. "--'No I'm not.'"
"And what if Brady says, 'Yes you are!'" I couldn't let her get off easy.
Without hesitation, my sweet, darling child said, "I'd kick him in the face!"
"What?!" I exclaimed. "Where the--?" But then it hit me. She watched "Home Alone" over the weekend. "No, no, no. We don't kick people in the face--" I countered.
"--What if someone's trying to kidnap me and steal the stuff in our house?!"
I made a mental note to watch that stupid movie with her the next time so I can counter-argue all the life lessons it has apparently taught my impressionable youth.
"Honey, Brady was not trying to kidnap you. He was trying to aggravate you."
I wanted to say, "This" but I figured insults wouldn't be helpful, so I explained, "It's when someone does something to annoy you but they don't really mean to be mean."
"Exactly. So the next time Brady teases you, what do you think you should do instead of yelling at or kicking his face? What will you say the next time Brady calls you a poopy diaper?" Sometimes the questions I ask my child make me want to laugh. My facial expressions must be so confusing for the poor girl.
However confusing it is for her, she's turning out pretty OK. She said to me, "I will be calm and I will say 'No, Brady, I am not a poopy diaper' and I will walk to the back of the line."
"Hey, that's smart thinking, Punk! It's not like it matters who gets back to the classroom first, does it? It's not a race," I tickled her under the armpit and she winced and giggled and tried to say, "It's not a race" but it came out funny because she was laughing.
I asked Katie to do me a favor.
"Did you tell Brady you were sorry for yelling in his face?" I asked.
"No," she admitted.
"Ok. Well, it would make me feel very proud if, when you see him at school tomorrow, you tell Brady you're sorry for yelling at him." I nodded my head. She nodded hers.
"I yell at people sometimes too," I admitted. "And I feel bad about it. I shouldn't yell at people. I should try to talk calmly to people. But sometimes I lose it and that's what it's like to be a human being. We make mistakes. And when we do we say we're sorry. Ok?"
She nodded her head.
We ate dinner and then Will took Katie to her school's skating party. I had injured my back lifting a big bag of books last week [insert librarian is a weakling joke here] so I decided instead of accompanying them and risking re-injuring myself by wiping out on the rink, I'd go get a massage.
I got home a bit before they did. When they arrived, Katie burst through the door and exclaimed, "I didn't fall down one single time except for once on the carpet and that wasn't my fault!"
I hugged her and said, "Congratulations! All those skating parties have been good practice!"
She kicked off her shoes and skated around the living room in her socks.
Later, tucking her in, after tooth brushing, bath, books, then bed, just as I thought she was about to fall asleep, Katie rolled over and said, "I saw Brady at the skating party, Mama."
I sat down on the edge of the bed. It hadn't dawned on me that Brady might be at the party too. "Did you talk to him?"
"Yes," she paused and smiled at me, like she was about to hand me a gift. "I told him I'm sorry for yelling in his face."
I hugged her and said, "Oh, I'm so proud of you. What did he say?"
"That's OK," Katie said in a high-pitched voice. She smiled. I attacked her face with kisses til she rolled over and fell asleep and slept soundly through the night.