“Daddy, you need to get a gun and shoot [a kid at school’s dad].” My three-year-old son looked really concerned. Of course, I was appalled.
“Why do I need to shoot [the kid’s dad]?”
“Because he is going to come get us and hurt us.” Words cannot describe how worried my son looked. As he talked, I realized this was a case of “My daddy is gonna beat up your daddy.” conversation at daycare. My son takes people seriously – like me – and thought this kid’s daddy was really going to come and hurt me.
“Son, we don’t shoot people with guns.” I began, “We only shoot targets and cans and things like that.” I continued, “Besides, I don’t have to worry about [the kid’s] daddy.”
“You don’t?” He relaxed a bit.
“Nope. We have policemen and army men in the world to protect us. If someone comes to hurt our family, I can call the policemen and army men to protect us. They have guns they can use on people if they need to. They know what to do.”
Now I had to drive the point home. “Son, look at me.” His blue eyes stared into mine. “We never use guns to shoot people. We don’t even pretend to shoot people. We don’t even say we’re going to shoot people. Guns shoot targets, not people. Do you understand?”
“Good, now go play.”
When my daughter was my son’s age, I took my pellet pistol (the only gun we have in the house) and a juice box outside.
“Baby, come outside. I want to teach you something.”
“What Daddy, what?” She followed me outside. My wife followed as well, probably wondering what I was going to do in the backyard with a juice box, a gun, and her daughter. I sat my little girl on the ground near the door and put the juice box in the middle of the yard. I loaded a pellet into the air pistol, pumped it up, and fired at the box. I repeated the process as my family watched. Then I retrieved the juice box.
“You see the holes.”
She pushed close, “Yeah.”
“This gun shoots these pellets. When I shoot the gun, the pellets go wherever I point the gun. Do you understand?” She nodded, wide-eyed. “When I pointed the gun at this juice box, the pellets when into the juice box. Do you see the holes?”
She put her finger on a hole. “Yes.”
“The pellets made these holes.”
By now, my wife figured out where I was going with all this. She jumped in, “What would happen if that was somebody’s tummy?” Our daughter’s eyes got wide. We could tell she made the important connection.
“It would hurt bad.”
“You’re right. They would have to go to the hospital and might even die.” My daughter looked serious. “That is why we never point guns at people. We never shoot people. If you see a gun, you do not pick it up. You come and get Mommy or Daddy. Guns are always loaded and you might shoot it even if you don’t mean to. Do you understand?”
I had her repeat everything I said. She seemed to understand the gravity of the learning experience and took it to heart.
Before you rant and rave about me teaching my kids about guns, understand this: Guns are part of the culture in this area. People have guns. There is nothing I can do to change that. As a parent, I have to teach my kids how to live within the environment and culture. So I teach them about guns. I teach them what they are for and what to do with them. More importantly, I teach them to have a healthy respect for them.
I grew up in Singapore. You couldn’t own guns in Singapore. You couldn’t buy guns in Singapore. And I enjoyed the safety and security that came in a gun-free environment. But Dallas, Texas, is not Singapore. I have to teach my children to live where they are planted. And that means teaching them about guns.
I wish people didn’t misuse guns. I wish we lived in a perfect world. But we don’t, and I prefer my kids learn about important things from me rather than their friends, TV, or video games.
I think it’s time to teach my son the juice box lesson.