I Need Gandhi: Little Boys and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Sea cucumbers can be used to squirt opponents.

Sea cucumbers can be used to squirt opponents.

Give a boy an object and he’ll make a weapon of mass destruction. Every time. My son is six. I’ve watched this phenomena brewing for some time. I’m a Gandhi-loving pacifist. I never push gun toys on The Boy.  I don’t give him games that promote violence, and we don’t watch “inappropriate” shows on TV. Somehow, deep in his soul, he knows that if there’s a stick on the ground, it should be converted to a sword or fashioned into a rifle  complete with the “Psew, psew, psew” sound simulating a shot at a human target.

Culture’s changed over the last thirty years. Portraying violence in front of kids was okay in my day. These days it’s not cool. I grew up on the old Tom & Jerry where they smacked each other with household objects. Wile e Coyote got flattened daily. My husband watched spaghetti westerns where people got shot and died. Not anymore. My brother sent us The Muppet Show.

We popped in an episode. I was truly horrified. A male monster dragged a lady around a Western bar by her hair after she rejected his dating overtures. Alcohol? Domestic violence? Great topics for little kids. I grew up on these shows. Somehow, I didn’t convert objects into weapons, nor did I shoot anyone or thing for real except a couple of police range targets and archery bull’s-eyes.

Why do otherwise good little boys convert everything into imaginary weapons?  That’s scary these days. You can get picked up by Homeland Security for flicking a booger (bioterrorist threat) let alone simulating the gun noise with a crooked stick. “Ma’am, I know he’s six, but we have information leading us to believe he’s a member of an organization. Look at the word he wrote under this picture his teacher turned in.”

“Excuse me, Agent. That’s a dinosaur. And labeled as such.” When did teachers start reporting to Homeland Security, anyway?

“It’s really a code word for Al Qaeda.”

“It’s a palaeobtrachus. That’s a dinosaur frog.”

“I’m afraid we’ll have to take him in for questioning.”

And off he goes. No more dreams of first grade. I wonder if they have first grade in Guantanamo.

We went to the Maine State Aquarium.  The tidal pool is filled with little creatures who would rather be taking their chances in the wild against natural predators than subjecting themselves to discovery by children. It took less than five minutes for Declan to appraise the situation, categorize the creatures into,”weapons,” and “not weapons,” and make a pile of sea creatures that he could convert into WMDs. Take the sea cucumber–a creature that looks just like a slimy dark cucumber.  When held out of water, it squirts to shrink its size so a predator won’t eat it. It’s the Nerf super-soaker of the sea. The stream goes pretty far. Before long, there was a whole cluster of little boys aiming sea cucumbers at each other.

I removed the poor creatures, apologizing to each one. Declan picked up a scallop. Scallops spit at you. Something to do with breathing and movement, but the end result is the water in their bodies sprays at your face if you’re looking too close. Yes, indeed, another living water gun. Declan looked both ways, dipped the scallop, squirted, and then laughed like a maniac, “I just squirted that dad!”

Everything’s a weapon. Why can’t we use weapons of the mind. I figured we’d play chess.
Giant chess

Giant chess

The inn where we stayed has a giant chess set.  We like chess. Giant chess is a nice cross between cerebral and Alice in Wonderland. That is, until the other little boys invaded our game, making the King and Queen fight each other viciously. That’s no good for the empire. Thereafter, whenever we played, Declan karate chopped pieces off the board, simulating battle action as best as a six-year old can.

Now we’re home. He’s asking for Beyblades so he can “defeat his enemy in combat.” I’ve worked hard in life to be kind so I won’t have enemies to defeat in combat. I guess he hasn’t been as successful and wants to be prepared.
I’m quite stumped on this one. As much as I hate the written cliché, I think this one might just be spot on…boys will be boys. But if they can refrain from shooting and bashing each other, maybe we can get a little closer to an episode of world peace. I’d like that very much.

5 thoughts on “I Need Gandhi: Little Boys and Weapons of Mass Destruction

  1. My son used to take his Thomas the Tank Engine set and set the engines up so they would crash. It wasn’t fun until Thomas was in an accident. I think boys will be boys. Doesn’t mean they can’t ALSO be kind and empathetic and sweet.

  2. Interesting that you find chess, quintessential military strategy game of the 7th century to be “peaceful and cerebral” but a sea scallop used to squirt water at another person becomes, to your mind, a make-believe firearm. What if squirting water on another person and watching them shriek with glee were actually an interpersonal exploration (quite cerebral in some sense) but chess were understood as the Cold War writ small? is your son really playing the grown-up version of violence that our sick society is playing? Or is his mind and his heart somewhere a bit more complex? A bit more innocent?

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