Little boys are funny. I’m glad I have one. Despite the bald spot on my head from pulling out my hair, I’d say at least 60 percent of the time, my son is sweet, creative, helpful, playful, and hilarious. Of course, he’s also rambunctious, mischievous, stubborn, silly, and wild. He leaves a path of destruction everywhere he goes. He pulls out every toy in the box. He jumps on (or off) the furniture. And, just like most other little boys, he makes everything into a weapon. Legos are missiles; sticks are ninja swords; and just about everything else—from the TV remote to his sippy cup—is a gun.
I, for one, am perfectly fine with my son’s lively imagination, and my husband and I encourage him to engage in pretend play. It’s better than being zombified in front of the television all day! But with schools suspending young children for things as innocuous as using their fingers to mimic the shape of a gun, I sometimes wonder about my son’s behaviors. I’d hate for my 4-year-old to be sent home from playschool for the now-forbidden “bang bang” sounds that little boys are wan to make. And I certainly don’t want anyone to label him as dangerous. After all, a few months ago, a pretend game of cops and robbers landed an 8-year-old Florida boy with a very real suspension after he made a pretend gun with his thumb and index finger. And in January, three 6-year-olds in Maryland were suspended for doing the same thing.
The fact that I even have to consider such ludicrous situations infuriates me. And all of this insanity has me thinking: what in the world is wrong with little boys wanting to play pretend soldiers or cowboys or space rangers? So what if they blow up imaginary base camps or take down extraterrestrials with laser cannons? I grew up helping He-Man destroy Skeletor over and over again (as She-Ra, of course), and I thoroughly enjoyed wielding a lightsaber to take on the Imperial army with my fellow Jedis. It’s harmless. It’s a creative outlet. It’s play!
As a responsible parent and gun owner, I take pride in teaching my son and daughters right from wrong. We work on good manners on a daily basis. My children know that guns are not toys. And they know that they will be punished if they hurt someone—inside or out. So as long as my 4-year-old doesn’t point a water gun in anyone’s face or somehow wish or believe he’s intentionally hurting people in real life with the Buzz Lightyear Nerf darts, I want him to enjoy being a child and to have fun being a little boy.
All in all, people need to stop bearing down on the children who are using their imaginations for pretend…and pay more attention to the bullies who are hurting their peers—for real. Childhood passes by quickly enough without having to worry about politically correct playtime.