I am the trainer for my son’s minor hockey team. Being a trainer is very much like being a flight attendant. You’re there just in case something bad happens, and the meanwhile you serve drinks (in my case it’s just water). I guess that the main difference is that I also tape sticks and occasionally tie a pair of skates or two.
On Sunday, my son’s team was playing a fun sort-of-inter-squad game with their billet team from Finland. It was nice to see them just have fun without the pressure of having to win. They were playful and silly. It was a lot of fun. I had to leave the bench briefly during the game. While I was away, one of the parents came up to me to express a concern. Apparently, one of our boys was using his stick like a gun. He was pointing it at the coaches and making “bang” motions. This parent asked me to speak with him.
Now… If you give an eleven year old boy a pen, he’ll pretend it’s a gun. He’ll pick up a twig and use it to cut down all of this friends in a frenzy of imagined violence. Is this good? Probably not. But I’m not at all convinced that it’s bad. Yes, bad things happen. I’m reminded of terrible gun violence that happens in schools, post offices, and other places. That’s bad. But I’m not convinced that an eleven year old pretending his hockey stick is a gun necessarily leads to extreme violence later in life. I’m no psychology expert, but I don’t think that stopping an eleven year old from pretending to shoot a gun is going to stop gun violence. In fact, I wonder if extreme sensitivity is the worse of the evils. Isolation, humiliation, beratement, and the like at the hands of peers and elders probably does more harm. But what do I know?
I continually wrestle with these issues. My brother and I used to play “war” growing up. My Dad bought me a pellet gun when I was young. I still have it. I don’t let my boys play war-related video games in the house, but fantasy games like “Force Unleashed” (in which you slash down thousands of poor clones) is apparently okay. My kids have a respectable arsenal of Nerf guns, but I won’t let them get one of those new-fangled “Airsoft” guns. I take them to play laser tag and infrequently let them play paintball.
The line is grey. Guns are apparently fun. But guns are serious business as well.
Being a parent is hard.