October 9, 2014

I had an informal meeting today with a friend, who brought her son along. The boys asked if they could use their bebe guns to shoot at targets. We agreed, and off they went. As we talked and occasionally peeked out the window, we realized how happy they seemed. They were setting up elaborate targets with boxes and cans and paper circles. The planning that went into the intended bulls-eye platforms was truly a work of art. Annie Oakley would be so proud. We watched as they discussed their plan to hit one target first then the next. I have to say it is so intriguing to me how boys need to be more aggressive in their play. Not that they were aggressive to each other, just that powerful things attract boys--things like bebe guns, pocket knives, playing cops and robbers, cowboys and indians, magical wands that have spells of good or evil, dungeon and dragons, power tools, and bottle rockets. They respected each others safety, never aimed the guns at each other or even carried them to the targets. (Grandpa taught Matthew all about gun safety when he first started him out with the Red Ryder).  The two of them were out there for hours without a complaint, sharing supplies, discussing the next set-up. Here’s the thing: I hate guns. I hate all the negative school shootings, I hate the idea of guns taking lives, but as I watched my 12 year old boy create, I realized boys need to be physical. It’s the physicality that these tools insist upon their use, that boys crave.  And power. And heroism. Boys love power and being physical and being the hero. We have taken all of that away from our young men, and given them longer schools days sans recess, television and video games to fill the void. This does not work. It’s making them more aggressive than ever. I loved the content confidence my son and his friend had today, and when I looked out the window one last time before the day ended, do you know what I saw? My daughter carving arrows with her pocket knife. I guess girls crave it too. So live on “Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle.”