Last night, College Student asked me if I would “have a problem” with him getting together with a group of friends to do Airsoft. (My understanding is Airsoft is a military live-action role playing game — i.e. the point is to shoot the other players with pellet guns.) Well, College Student has been a college student for the past four years; he turns 18 in August. I’m not really in a position to tell him he can or cannot do something anymore. He is a kid who has never caused me a moment’s grief. And he is NOT me…I can’t expect him to only do things I want him to do. So if this is something he wants to do, I’m not going to say no.
Well, College Student wasn’t happy with, “no, I’m not going to stop you.” He wants me to say I APPROVE of this activity.
I don’t like activities that glorify war and/or violence. I’m sorry…that’s just who I am. Neither one of my kids ever had a toy gun of any kind until Junior High Kid received a super soaker as a gift when he turned six. And believe it or not, that really hasn’t been a huge problem around here. Neither of them ever asked for a gun…neither of them has really enjoyed any kind of violent play. It never even came up until Junior High Kid got the super soaker seven years ago. College Student convinced me it was a “water propulsion device” and not a G-U-N, and in the end I not only let the “water propulsion device” stay, I let College Student get one, too, and all was well. I even let them get light sabers…eventually (one does mellow with the second child!). But no guns. And please don’t ask me why light sabers are okay and guns are not…I admit I don’t have a good answer. (Maybe because we’re not using light sabers in Iraq???)
So about this Airsoft…College Student tried the football argument on me first. “Football’s a war game…Airsoft is no worse than football.” Agreed…football IS a war game. I’m not crazy about football, either. But again, I would let either of my kids play it if they wanted to…I would probably even do the “good parent thing” and go to their games…but I wouldn’t like it.
Then he tried to tell me basketball is a war game. I’m sorry…basketball is a war game??? How so? There are no guns. You are not ramming your opponents. In fact, you’re fouled if you even touch your opponent. All you want to do is get the ball in the net. How is that a war game? College Student started talking to me about territories and teamwork and goals and well, I just didn’t buy it.
So then he switched to chess. Chess is the “ultimate war game.” You’re just fighting the war on a board instead of a field. Why is chess okay and Airsoft not okay? (For the record, let me remind everyone I NEVER SAID HE COULDN’T DO IT…I just didn’t get excited about him doing it…) Uh…because there are no guns in chess? You’re not aiming a gun at a person and firing it? Yes, but doesn’t chess still “glorify war?” College Student wanted to know. No. It doesn’t.
What about stage combat? I’m letting Junior High Kid take a stage combat class this summer. Why is that okay? Well, because it’s THEATRE! (This one got a little harder to argue…and truth be told, I’m sitting here, writing this entry in City Park, watching Junior High Kid’s stage combat class across the park…and I just saw him smack a girl across the face! I HEARD it, too!!! Did I really HEAR it from way over here??? I also saw him punch his teacher, and I saw another kid kick him in the stomach…very interesting, this stage combat! No one got hurt…not even by accident.)
What about fencing? Junior High Kid wants to take fencing lessons this fall…I don’t have a problem with that, either. Well, I took fencing classes with College Student when he was younger. I found muscles I didn’t know I had! I think of fencing more as “exercise” (both physical and mental) than I do “violence.” But again, this one was hard to argue, too.
And archery. “YOU like archery, Mom!” Yes, but I have never shot at anything other than a hay bale.
I have always raised my kids to think and to question. I have never said to them, “because I’m the mom and I say so.” (Not that I haven’t wanted to.) But I’m starting to wonder if this was such a great parenting philosophy after all? Okay, not really…but sometimes it’s frustrating to have a child who is smarter than I am and who can argue circles around me.
I suppose I should be thankful that College Student doesn’t just want my permission; he also wants my approval (a lot of kids don’t care whether their parents approve or not). I wish I could give it. But I’m sorry…permission is about the best I can do.