Nothing like the Nerf guns really existed when I was a child. I had a bow with several suction cup arrows, a few wooden toy guns, and a Laser Tag set, but that was the extent of what was available back then.
The more I saw those kids on TV playing with those Nerf guns, the more I knew that I had to convince Addie that we needed to get one. Or two! So that’s exactly what we did.
We headed to the store and I bought two Nerf guns and a few packages of darts to go along with them. I also bought a pair of safety glasses for Addie so that we wouldn’t have any upcoming eye accidents. We raced home from the store as quickly as we could so that we could have our first gun battle.
We both loaded our guns and practiced shooting the darts at the wall. After we got tired of shooting the darts against the wall, we decided to have our first father vs. daughter dart gun war.
It wasn’t long before Casey awoke to find her five-year-old daughter in the middle of a shootout. That’s when my panic set in. The decision to buy these toys while Casey was taking a nap was… pretty deliberate. Okay, VERY deliberate. She had very strict rules when it came to guns. Addie wasn’t even allowed to point her fingers in a gun shape and fake shoot at other people. We had also had an incident where the neighborhood bullies grabbed Addie, pulled her behind a house with Nerf guns pointed at her head, and demanded all her money. It may have been the world’s first Nerf gun mugging and it sent Casey off the wall. Each of those kids’ parents experienced Casey’s wrath.
In my mind, playing with guns as a kid was really just part of being a kid. All of my friends played with toy guns and none of us ever had any problems with violence when we got older. But Casey was a girl and she didn’t grow up around toy guns and no matter how badly I wanted one of those Nerf guns, I didn’t think she’d allow it. So I decided to adopt the tactic of acting now and apologizing later.
After Casey saw how much fun Addie and I were having, she did something surprising. She joined the battle on Addie’s side and the first of our many family Nerf gun wars began. I don’t know how many times a Nerf gun battle has broken out with all three of us diving for cover behind couches and other obstacles, but we have had hours and hours of family fun during those battles. And I don’t think either of us really thought a whole lot about whether Addie should even be playing with guns during those battles because we were having so much fun.
Vivi being part of our family hasn’t stopped our regular family Nerf gun battles, either. It actually gives me someone on my side and evens the odds a bit. However watching my baby grab one of those guns and start walking around like she was the Terminator, made me stop and wonder if our family Nerf gun battles should be put on hold until Vivi is a few years older.
The whole situation creates a weird dynamic. Here we are playing with guns, yet we want to teach our children that real guns are very dangerous and should be treated with respect and handled only with appropriate adult supervision.
So how do you handle such a situation? Do you stop toy gun play all together or do you find a way to teach your kids that Nerf guns are toys and that real guns are dangerous?
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