Somewhere in the years since I was a young child, I began to buy into The Childhood Myth. Not consciously, not entirely, but I did. I began to believe that childhood is about innocent, heart-warming things, like watching ants at work, or being delighted to meet a kitten, or engaging in long hours of imaginative play. More specifically, I began to forget the bits about stomping on ants, or pulling the kitten’s tail, or how frequently death and destruction occurs during that much-vaunted imaginative play. (To be fair, all good stories need drama.)
It takes only the most cursory walk down memory lane to remind myself of the truth. Nevertheless, with that oh-so-human capacity of believing simultaneous contradictory things, some part of me clings to The Childhood Myth. This causes all sorts of vaguely uneasy feelings when Nathan and Ryan are perfectly happy playing an innocent childhood game in which they pretend to kill each other repeatedly.
This brings me to the subject of guns.
I suppose that if we’d been very careful about media exposure, it’s conceivable that our kids might not know about guns. I’m only guessing that’s possible. We haven’t been even remotely careful enough, and I have no idea how many times our kids have seen a weapon used on TV.
The Childhood Myth implies that young children shouldn’t play with guns, or even want to play with guns. However, in the real world, guns seem to fall into that irresistible category of Powerful Destructive Things. Although we don’t actually own any toy guns, a wide variety of objects have been pressed into service in that capacity. One of my regular household duties is to fall down after having been “killed” by some kind of imaginary projectile weapon.
Recently Nathan’s interest in guns has received an additional boost. The computer game that Nathan is interested in (Minecraft), while primarily about collecting resources and building things, can also involve defending oneself from various pixilated monsters. Although the game itself only contains weapons such as swords and bows, Nathan discovered that there was an add-on available which allowed guns. Not just simple guns either: things like high-powered rifles and flamethrowers. These can chew up The Childhood Myth in seconds.
Needless to say, Nathan wanted this add-on. And Dave obliged him by installing it. Soon our sun room was filled with the delightful sound of innocent childhood laughter as Nathan equipped himself a missile launcher and set out to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting simulated world.
Meanwhile I reminded myself that this is technically less destructive than stomping on ants.