Boys Being “Boys”

Like the dark wood leaf table, the frayed black-and-white photos of relatives long gone and the bottles of Manischewitz lined up in the bar, it was always there in my Pap and Gram’s dining room, leaning against the corner.

On any of the rare occasions I recall touching it, I distinctly remember actually freezing with fear.

My cousins and I—all five of us, rambunctious and kinetic and curious as all get out—knew two things about that hunting rifle. It was loaded. And we were to never, EVER touch it. Never.

And we didn’t.

My Pap was an immigrant, a hunter, a WWII ranger, and an all-around, make-your-own-way, take no crap, tough guy. Guns, to him, just were. They were what you had, what you hunted with, and by golly—should you cross him in any criminal way—what you used to protect yourself and your family.

My cousins and my uncles were hunters. My dad has always owned a gun. My husband does, too.

You see what I’m getting at. I’ve basically been around guns my whole life.

But when my 2-year-old son wanted his own toy gun, all of a sudden, I became that 8-year-old girl in my grandparents’ house again. Frozen. Scared, even.

I know, it sounds silly.

“How in the world does he even know these things exist?!” I asked my husband. We certainly hadn’t exposed him to them at all.

“Is this some born-in-the-blood boy thing??” I remember asking.

I mean, being raised in a girl house, we were going around stealing each others’ clothes and eyeliner, not hiding behind corners and fake-firing.

This all comes to mind because I read an article today that made me realize this is something a lot of we “Boy Moms” have to address at one point or another. (link here:

And it hit me: I just don’t know how to talk about this with him, not yet. And that makes me nervous, you know?

At the end of the day, for now, I let him play with whatever toy he wants. It’s a toy, for heaven’s sake, but I’m still figuring out how I will talk to him someday about what that toy really represents, and how to keep him safe when there are real guns around.

Because as we’ve seen time and time again, this isn’t a conversation we can ignore with our kids.

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