Guns an' Boys
Turning a blind eye to the 'shoot outs' while the apple of her eye was in nappies, Josie Barnard found her son's 'inalienable right to bear arms' took on a different hue when nursery became part of the scene..
Saving the universe
When I was a shiny new parent and my son was a rosy cheeked baby, almost any toy I gave him made him gurgle with pleasure - rattle, cuddly animal, teddy bear’s tea set - and I suppose part of me thought it would always be that way. He’d like what I'd like him to like.
Not that I had a clear idea of what I wanted him to play with. But I did know I didn’t want guns to feature. Some chance ... As soon as he could get a long piece of stickle brick to stick to a short one he was playing with guns.
And he was surprisingly specific about the sound they made - not 'bang' or 'pow' but 'pee-ow', again and again, 'pee-ow', 'pee-ow'.
I did consider banning guns, for about a millisecond. I’d have had to keep him in an empty room with his hands strapped to his sides. Instead, I took the "turn-a-blind-eye" approach. That didn't work either. There was only so long I could ignore battles raging in my own living room, especially when my son had decided I was the 'baddy'. So we'd go out, maybe to the park strewn with twigs, in my son's hands, 'guns', which he'd aim and fire at passers-by. Some of the looks we got were surprisingly nasty. And he was only brandishing a twig.
In any case, it was all very well me turning a blind eye, but soon he started nursery. And at nursery, the ban on guns was serious.
Of course, it didn't mean superhero games didn't happen. The mini-Batmen and Power Rangers just had to go undercover, saving the universe furtively, behind the climbing frame, over in the trees. And avoiding the teachers meant avoiding the computers, the water play area, the drawing tables: all the places the teachers wanted them to go.
One day I was sitting with my son while he drew a spaceship. A teacher came over, and, oh, she lavished him with praise - until he drew a gun on top. And suddenly he was being given a lecture on why guns were bad. And she was his favourite teacher.
So at home, he wanted guns? Fine. Play-fights? Every morning. He'd leap off the bed and swing from the clothes rail, tumble-turn across the floor on his way to laser blast the ‘baddy’ escaping up the bookcase. But, then he noticed that stretched out on the floor like that, he was the shape of a '1', and if he curled round and bent his knees, he was a '2', and suddenly he was being numbers, right through from 1 to 10. In fact, he got so excited he ran downstairs and actually started to write them, with a pen.
At nursery, though, he was still busy avoiding the teachers. It must have been the very quietness of the rooms that set them thinking. Apart from the odd glimpse of trainers running through the bushes, the only sign that my son and his friends were there at all was that the capes from the dressing up rail were gone. So, at school, the ban on guns was lifted.
Once being a superhero was OK, violent mayhem didn’t break out, but instead, saving the universe led the children inside, to the drawing table to make a back-drop, or, to the cutting table to make a mask. The mini- Batmen and Power Rangers were doing all the things the teachers had wanted them to do in the first place.
And anyway, what a hypocrite I was being. I'd spent half my childhood running round the Yorkshire moors playing cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, using cap guns and bows and arrows that could give quite a sting. And there I was objecting to my son waving a carrot.
Of course now that I’d quite happily give him a whole toybox full of plastic Smith and Westerns, he's grown out of them. If only I could find reasonable grounds on which to object to footballs ...