My five-year-old son, Gavin, just came upstairs to my office — a pint-sized bundle of tornadoesque energy and noise. Today "the good guys" and "the bad guys" are flying fighter jets (which look, ironically, exactly like the ASL handshape for "I love you"). Now, I'm still not terribly comfortable with my kids embracing imaginative play involving weapons. On the one hand, I know that boys — especially at my boys' ages, and unlike their female counterparts — need rough and tumble play with strong male role models as part of proper gender identification. On the other hand, I don't want my little guys desensitized to unnecessary or unlawful violence (though I'm fighting an uphill battle against the entirety of mainstream media in this, it seems). So I decided to interrogate Gavin about his play today.
"What makes the Bad Guys bad?" I asked.
"The Bad Guys are the ones doing bad things, Daddy."
"Okay, but sometimes you do bad things, too. So do I. So does Mommy. So do your Good Guys, I'm sure."
"But my Bad Guys are the ones with the guns."
"Your Good Guys have guns, too, though. I dunno, Buddy — I can't see any difference between your Good Guys and your Bad Guys."
At this, Gavin paused. You could almost smell the grease in his mental gears as they warmed into steady rotation. Finally, he asserted, "But the Bad Guys are using their guns to hurt other people, and the Good Guys are trying to help those people."
"Well done, son. Have fun playing."