Up Close & Personal: toy guns

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 October, 2012, 3:30pm

When I was pregnant with our firstborn, my husband and I decided on a number of parenting guidelines. Some, like no smacking, were agreed upon without much needing to be said. Others needed to be more clearly spelled out, specifically by me to my husband. He called them "the regulations".

Our baby would not watch television, would only eat organic food and would never, ever play with toy guns. I'm sure there were more, but those were the most important ones.

At the time, I was seven months pregnant and fuelled mainly by crazy pregnancy hormones, so the fact that my husband obviously wasn't taking the guidelines seriously made me rather mad. But now, 5½ years down the line and three children later, with none of the guidelines still in place, I suppose I can admit my husband might have had a point.

That's not to say there aren't any regulations in place. They do watch television, but in carefully controlled doses. Still, my eldest two would probably sit and watch television all day if we let them. Not that I should be surprised. As much as I loathe television and nearly everything on it, my husband loves it. He falls asleep in front of it. My kids must get that from him.

Not everything they eat is organic. We are raising three children in Hong Kong, so we don't have the budget to only buy organic food. And yes, they have eaten fast food. But they eat healthily 99 per cent of the time. My daughter refuses to eat fast food because she doesn't like it. I rejoice in that.

I am managing with the gradual modification of those two regulations over the years.

I would like to say that we have stuck to the no toy guns rule. But, unfortunately, this is the one that rankles the most. I have two sons, so the potential for gun play has now doubled. Throw in a tomboy daughter and it trebles. What's more, a toy gun is no big deal for my husband. He served in the military and comes from a country where military service is still compulsory for everyone at 18. So our children may even be learning to use real guns several years from now.

I am learning to live with it. Just. As a two-year-old, my eldest would pick up a stick, or a straw, pretend to point it, and shout "bang" or "gun". I have no idea where he learned that. I can only presume that it's a boy thing, and he was born knowing how to do it. Now, at almost six years old, he is an expert at turning pretty much anything into a gun. A piece of chicken, or a rock or shell.

At a recent religious holiday, the children there were given a huge box of big Lego pieces. My son and his friends turned most of the blocks into pretty realistic gun-like shapes. I was slightly mortified, but in a room full of mothers with boys, no one else batted an eyelid at the array of brightly coloured guns toted by each boy under 10.

Our eldest son has toy guns. He has a Nerf gun, and a six-shooter. My husband bought one or two, and some were presents. But most of the time they stay in the toy box.

They occasionally come out when my son has friends over, minus their bullets, of course. They come out with the swords and the shields and the superhero costumes, and dramatic battles and wars are enacted on my son's bunk bed, or in our living room. But most of the time, they are ignored which is fine by me.

I am not overly thrilled by the fact that our youngest son has learned to say "gun". At just 17 months, he knows exactly what to do with a toy one, having learned it from his brother. But the less I make a fuss about the toy guns, the less they seem to want to play with them. If they all mysteriously disappeared, then they would become all they wanted to play with.

I try to make sure they never take them outside to play. I am mindful of just how much some parents hate the sight of toy guns, and I can sympathise with that.

Do toy guns make my sons aggressive? Prone to violence? I don't think so. A lot of little boys are drawn to toy guns, as they are drawn to Star Wars and ninjas and battling superheroes. But everyone always wants to be the good guys, not the bad guys.

And I console myself with the fact that, sometimes, the good guys carry guns, too.

Rebecca Tomasis, a mother of three, was co-winner of the first Proverse Prize for unpublished writers