Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Toe Piranhas and Robots.

There's this school of thought that you should not give your Babies! war toys or violent toys. People who advocate that approach say that giving things like guns and war toys inspires violent behavior and perpetuates a culture of warmongering. And that's certainly worth thinking about.

Also worth thinking about: What if instead of giving a toy gun to your kids, you simply make them be the gun? Because that's what I do. And it's necessary.

I am not one of those parents who thinks that kids should only have nonviolent toys. I had, I bet, every violent toy you could think of growing up. Okay, maybe not every violent toy. I didn't have nunchuks, despite my best efforts, but I had an awful lot of dangerous toys. I had a "wrist rocket," a slingshot that had a lot of power. That one slipped by Mom, who complained, when she finally saw them, that she thought "wrist rocket" had more to do with rockets and less to do with shooting rocks at people's houses. I don't know what Mom was complaining about; she was the one who bought us BB guns.

Even the toys we had that weren't meant to be violent, like the Evel Knievel rev-up motorcycle,

copied dangerous activities. Plus the fact that they were not violent per se didn't stop us from using them in violent ways, like when we would shoot them at each other.

While violent toys permeated our household, it didn't really matter, like I said, because any toy can be violent. My sister, ten years younger than me, had girl toys like Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcakes. When we had to play with her, the Care Bears would usually want to go on some sort of quest to destroy Strawberry Shortcake. Grumpy Bear would start fights, too. And there were absolutely no ill effects on my sister from that type of play, unless you count as an "ill effect" her once taking an entirely-innocent Fisher-Price train and whacking me on the head with it.

All that violence never carried over into my adult life. I'm about as nonviolent as you can get. True, I'm nonviolent in part at least because any activity more strenuous than watching "Battlestar Galactica" leaves me aching in pain for days, but I am also nonviolent because I'm simply a nice guy. So nice that when I was putting in the range hood that we bought the other day and slipped and banged my head on the cabinet so hard that I caused it to bleed (or, as The Boy put it, "You're sweating red,") I didn't swear, or throw anything, or even make a scene. I did hold my breath for approximately 13 minutes until the urge to do all those things passed, while The Boy and Middle, who were helping me, tried desperately not to say anything or laugh. They're good kids; while they found it inherently funny that I had brained myself, they also know that the number 1 rule to follow when someone near you bumps their head is do not talk to that person at all.

Seriously. It doesn't matter what you say or do. You will make it worse. When someone bumps their head, the only thing you can do is ignore it. The Boy, when I bumped my head on the cabinet, turned immediately to Middle and said "Don't talk!" If you say "are you okay," or "did that hurt," or any of the other nonsensical things that people say when someone is staggering around the kitchen clutching a power screwdriver in one hand and a bleeding forehead in the other, you're just putting yourself in the line of fire. Just walk away and don't talk to that person for at least a half an hour.

It does not matter what you say. If I have just bumped my head, and you come in and say "Guess what? We won the Powerball! We're billionaires!" you will feel anger like the wrath of Zeus raining down on you. And it's going to ruin that moment.

I was putting in the range hood because I have still not entirely graduated to the level of society where all my furniture gets delivered already put together. I've moved up a little from the level where I have to put it all together, but I'm not all the way there yet. So when we decided to buy a new stove we were able to get the stove delivered and installed, but I had to do the range hood myself.

The decision to buy a new stove was prompted, apparently, by our upcoming trip to Florida. It seems that what Sweetie and I do is this: We plan a big trip, then make it harder to take that trip by buying some expensive piece of home furnishings. So four years ago, we went to Las Vegas, then got home and bought a big sectional couch and coffee table. Then last year, we booked a trip to Florida and promptly decided to buy a new TV, which then meant postponing the Florida trip. So now we've rebooked the Florida trip, and based on that, felt it was the best possible time to also buy a stove.

But we got the stove, and got it installed, and I was able to get back to my usual pasttime with the babies, which is, as I said, making one of them be the gun when we play, because I think they need to learn how to handle themselves in a violent world, even if it is a world that is violent primarily because their dad keeps playing violent games with them.

"Be The Gun" started out as a simpler game in which I chased the babies around saying I was going to get them and roaring. Mr F and Mr Bunches were born with running motors. Their favorite thing to do is run as fast and as far as they can. We take them to the park sometimes and they just tear off in a random direction, yelling. They can't do that in the house, so I chase them around the couch. (Like most of my parenting, it makes sense if you don't think about it.) They'll run around a couple of times, then let themselves be caught and suffer the "Toe Piranhas" (me grabbing their toes and yelling "Toe Piranhas!") and then we start again.

That was how the game went until Mr Bunches had a cold and couldn't run quite as much without coughing -- but he didn't want to be left out. So I picked him up and started carrying him to chase Mr F. But Mr F was fast that night. We had trouble catching him, which meant that I had to take extra measures, and I started using Mr Bunches as a laser gun to shoot Mr F, making the laser sounds (bew bew bew) and using Mr Bunches' arm as a trigger.

See? All perfectly innocent and in no way promoting violence. Who could object to teaching your kids that one of them might at any moment be used as the instrument of destruction for the other one? That's just good parenting. And they need to learn these things, because kids never know when they might be the victim not only of their sibling (I still have a Fisher-Price shaped dent in my head, next to the stove-shaped new one) or of the Toe Piranhas but of colorful robots with guns and pincers:

See? He seems unaware and nonchalant-- but he can be that way because my parenting has prepared him for any eventuality.

And they have to be ready to fight off the Toe Piranhas and robots and their brother because if I try it, I'm liable to bust my head open.