Last night DD wandered into our “home theatre/office/grownup-retreat” while DH and I were watching the Sopranos (there is a baby gate in the doorway and there was nothing bad happening so I let her in). One of the characters pulled out a gun and laid it on the bedside table. She asked what that was, and then before I could answer she said it was a gun. She asked me what they were for. I was starting to give her the most benign answer I could think of, along the lines of “Well, they can be used for many things…” and all the while wondering what the hell one would use a gun for that doesn’t involve killing people (target practice? shooting squirrels when you are lost on Grouse Mountain and dying of hunger?) when she says in that eye-rolling, boy-are-you-stupid way that 4 year olds do so well, “Mama, guns are for dying [her word for “killing”] people”. Oh, really, and where did you learn that???!!!
So as a scene with violence was about to come on (this was after she saw topless ladies lap dancing, which I’m sort of okay with as I’m at least prepared for THAT conversation), I took her out into the dark living room and we looked out at the lights of the city all around us. She started asking me questions, like if there were guns out there and should we look out for them, and what do policemen do with their guns, and do they “die people” with them, and if so why? Good grief, I was so not prepared for this. I tried to explain that we are very lucky to live in a city and country where guns are pretty rare (sympathies to my US mamas!). She wanted to know how I knew there weren’t many guns. Later I explained that police would only shoot at someone if that someone were going to hurt someone else, and then she worried because she had given her brother a couple of nasty bites earlier that day, which had led to a failure-as-a-mother moment for me and many tears for her, and wondered if the police would try to shoot her. Wow, did that ever sting my heart, I mean geez, what a thing for a child to worry about! I quickly explained that biting your brother is not grounds to bring in the SWAT team. Then, of course, she wanted to know why some people would want to shoot at someone else, which I tried to explain as them being very sad or angry inside and never having been taught how to deal with those feelings (which may have given some meat to my lecture earlier in the day about how important it is to find non-violent ways to resolve disputes – are you listening George Dubya? You might want to think about that next time a teenager in Anytown, USA goes postal on his bullying classmates).
What makes this all harder is that, on the show, she also saw a guy in jail (all this within 5 minutes of the Sopranos – I love the show but wow, watching with a 4 year old makes you question your own taste, lol)…now riddle me this: how do you explain the concept of jail and the justice system to a child who has never been punished? Who is being raised in a family that believes punishment is wrong, ineffective, and counterproductive? Well, I decided to save that conversation for another day. It was enough to listen to my sweet, innocent, four year old daughter say “guns die people” a few dozen times to turn me off serious conversations for a while.