Although we do not expressly forbid toy weapons, The Who doesn’t have any (outside of the teeny golden plastic swords that come with the Lego Ninjago sets.) His creative play always leans more toward fire emergencies than any kind of fighting. He has, however, been talking more about killing and shooting and guns as a means of retaliation when he is mad. Mostly, when he is mad at me.
I know many parents who would balk at this kind of fantasy talk (my own among them) but I am not one. I believe that when kids are given the space to play out their totally natural feelings of powerlessness and anger, they are less likely to actually act on them in any kind of physical way. Today, for example, The Who, angry that I had taken away one of his bedtime stories for an earlier zero-tolerance transgression, told me he was going to kill me. “I’m going to go to the store and buy a gun. The store is called ‘Gun-tastic’ and it is going to cost $1.” More than anything, I was proud of his marketing skills. Gun-tastic! Affordable weaponry for children. He just might have something.
Anyway. I didn’t reprimand him. The same way I don’t reprimand him when he tells me he hates me or calls something stupid. He has to have the freedom to use the tools in his very limited toolbox. That said, we do have some hard and fast rules. Some lines that can’t be crossed. He is allowed to call things stupid, but not people. We also have a no hitting/kicking/etc. rule. And that one is zero-tolerance. About most things, he gets one warning. “You are not allowed to call a person stupid. If I hear it again, there will be a consequence.” He is accustomed to warnings and generally responds pretty well. (It helps that he is incredibly attached to his bedtime routine, which includes read-aloud stories, so taking one of the nightly three away — or the mere threat of that — is usually enough to encourage cooperation.) But, hurting another person is another story entirely. There is no warning with an act of physical aggression. You hit, you’re one story down. End of discussion.
So, it was this — the punishment issued without a warning — that made him mad enough to give me a death threat tonight at bedtime. (In case you’re curious, having to go into the grocery store to pick up dinner ingredients after a long and tiring day at Crayola was what made him mad enough to give me s swift swat in the belly in the first place.)
He doesn’t actually want to kill me. Of course not. He kissed me goodnight and told me he loved me (genuinely) before I went downstairs. And although I actually feel fine about this, I am aware that he needs to understand that there are places where this won’t be tolerated. Camp, for example. And school. No one is going to let a kid threaten death in a public school in 2014 without consequence. I have to have a conversation with him about what is and what is not appropriate and where certain things are allowed and where they are not. Given some of the other conversations we’ve had in the past couple of months, I am frankly surprised this hasn’t yet come up. Knowing him, he will ask why. And knowing me, I will be tempted to launch into an explanation of 9/11 and bomb threats and Columbine and on and on. (I won’t, though. Unless it goes there, I guess. But I won’t bring it up myself.) Still, he’ll probably probe.
I’m ready for it, though. Armed and ready, even. With the .45 I bought at Gun-tastic for a buck.