Sunday, April 22, 2007

Guns and fairly tales

Dear girls,

Now and then, discussion erupts on this here Internets (as our president has called the World Wide Web) about children and their choice of imaginary play. I am intrigued about this debate. This week, especially, the issue is in the news due to the tragic loss of 33 lives at Virginia Tech thanks to a young man with guns who realized that there was no such thing as Happily Ever After for him.

Some say that boys like violent play -- that they need this sort of play. As discussed in the comments on a post about Boys and Play on Mother Talkers, a fabulous blog, and in this article.

Some say that girls still prefer fantasy saved-by-a-man play. For all of us devout feminists, this is almost as hard to swallow as boys playing with guns. A guest blogger at Wonderland shares her story and some news about this article from last year.

I’ve already been thinking about all of this, purposely encouraging you to play with trucks instead of dolls. Already knowing that anything that even resembles a gun will not end up in our toy box for very long.

I do not want to coerce your style of play and I won't.

I was an only child for all of my childhood years and so I was drawn to imaginary play of all kinds -- school, house, etc. But, my favorite was with my friend from birth, Mary Anne. She and I fondly played superwoman both at my house and her farm. This kind of play landed me in a big pit of manure, once, too. But, that’s another story for another time. Or, maybe not.

Mary Anne had powers of the eyes, I think. And, I had powers of the ears. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Either way, we weren’t easily taken down by our imaginary villains. We built forts in the woods, too.

This does not mean I did not play with dolls. Your great-grandmother stood in line for hours early in the morning to snag me an ever-so-popular Cabbage Patch doll. I still have her; she’s in the attic awaiting your calls. I also played with Barbies. Those, too, are here for you. Should you decide. They are no where near perfect condition. I played with them often.

As much as I don’t want to influence your mind, I have to object to toy guns and knives – or anything else that is designed intentionally to hurt or kill. I can do my best to raise two strong, independent women who are also pacifists.

This does not mean that I would stop you from pretending that other objects are guns or knives or if you choose to have a shootout among yourselves with your fingers shaped like guns. Pretend all you want, my dears. The imaginary world is amazing. I just prefer that you stick to your invincable super powers to take down the evildoers. Or, even better, try and talk it out.

This is a funny thought to you right now, I know, because you take to pulling and pushing each other, slapping at each other when you get frustrated over the loss of a toy or being left out of the fun.

Mostly what I want to teach you is that real life stories don't always end with Happily Ever After. But, violence certainly does end whatever chance you -- or anyone else in our world -- might have to find your Happily Ever After, whatever that ends up being. And it may take some time to find that kind of happiness within yourself.

What do the rest of you think? Are you in the camp of helping shape your child’s play, or not? Will you allow toy guns, baby dolls or readings of "Sleeping Beauty?"


Kim said...

While being a believer and a strong advocate of women rights, we still have a long way to go. Just yesterday, women converge on capitol hill (PA) to demand being paid equal pay as their male counterparts for doing the same work. There is still much work to be done. However, I am also a believer of girls being girly. I am all for the frills, curls, and lace dresses, and girls just being girls. I think every girl should have at least 7 Barbie dolls (one for each day of the week), and more if they are so blessed. Having a dumptruck or two is okay too. Girls also must have a set of work tools and a work bench. You never know when you might have to fix something. But make sure Barbie is involved in the mix somehow. Toy guns have been banned from my home for as long as I can remember. I am of the radical opinion they should not be manufactured! As far as the tradegy at Virginia Tech, I believe there were a total of 34 victims. The shooter was also a victim in my opinion which brings the count to 34 lives that were loss to gun violence, who will never know Happily Ever After. So enjoy being girls. Enjoy your "antique" Cabbage Patch doll and taking your Barbie dolls for a ride in your dump trucks for as long as you can.

kcole said...

My 4yo summed this up for me the other day when she told me she wanted to grow up to be "a teacher, a doctor, a cooker (LOL), and a mommy". Anything she wants...

ONEDIA said...

Hello, As the mother of a kind, thoughtful, intelligent, peace-loving young woman with global vision and a mind of her own, I know your concerns exactly. My daughter was born in mid-80's and I was a navy officer so I wanted her to be strong, open-minded, and a good person. She had a vivid imagination and loved the stories about princesses -- all the Disney flicks before Mulan et al. I finally told her a story (at age 4) from one of my favorite authors , Robin McKinley's THE BLUE SWORD. She was so take with the idea of a young woman who saved a King that on our next trip to Disneyland she insisted on having both a pink sating pointy princess hat and a pirates sword. Although , I have never allowed weapons as toys in my home, I did allow this. She never forgot the point and with a few more object lessons , never forgot to speak her mind , believe in herself, and be a good person. She also became a devotee of folktales and a darn good writer. (

Anyway, having a girl is so much fun because I think the world is more open to them because they can wear jeans and satin and love dolls and cars.

I think I rambled -- O.