Sunday, February 24, 2008

You Can Never Go To That House Again

Our kids go to a public Montessori school that is also an international peace site. The schools is known for attracting left-wing, hippy-dippy, peace-sign wielding families.

Mean looks are disallowed. Breath hard? You need therapy. People are serious about peace here. Righteous.

Merrick had his first ever birthday part today: Five Years Old!

He invited six little friends from his combined age 4 and 5 year old classroom--and his longtime, best friend, probably future husband Lachlan.

Spouse aside, these kids were total strangers to our family. Most of this little group of five year olds are all first-born to their families, trend setters.

Thus, there were detailed phone conversations in advance of this major social event. Little Q gets a tummy ache after eating wheat. Will there be toast or cracker? T and L don't quite get along. Can't we disinvite one? H. is scared of dogs. Can you euthanize yours?

So today all the fussy parents dropped off their kids for Merrick's birthday party. I used to be one. I understand.

The children held hands. They sang in harmony. Girls and boys pecked cheeks--they shared cake and inquired about hurt feelings and state of mind. They frolicked and radiated sun beams and goodwill.

Until one of the kids went under the couch (why do they do that?) and stumbled across Merrick's hidden arsenal: Knives, swords, guns. Big guns. Lotsa guns. Pop guns, Nerf guns, shot guns, air guns. Sky's the limit.

Now, our household went nearly ten years without guns. I am (theoretically, Opposed). But last year, a friend handed Merrick a bag. He opened it and found a 1950 style pistol. He never looked back.

And because he is child number three, we just took the Path of Least Resistance.

Guns inspire love. This exchange routinely takes place in our household.

Merrick: "Here's my gun!"

Lachlan: "I wove the gun!"

Merrick: "You take the gun."

Lachlan: "No, you take the gun. I wove you."

Merrick: "You have the gun. I wove you better."

And so on.

So the over-attended peace loving children found our cache of juice. Those young ones dropped their flowers and love beads and took up arms. Girl and boy, they spent the next hour killing one another.

Now, this transformation began while I was in the kitchen. By the time I walked into the war zone, a dazed John was asking what kind of Kool Aid we were serving.

Watching D (only child allowed just 15 minutes of television a week and taking careful selection of dance, language, and Suzuki violin) scream with joy while taking out Merrick with a Nerf bazooka, I decided just to let the whole thing go.

Lord of the Flies? Yup. Mini-reenactment here. By the time the mayhem was complete, the children were sweaty, exhausted, content, murderous pros.

Before the parents arrived, we put away weaponry and handed out banal party bags; tootsie rolls, noise makers and plastic frogs. Not exactly lying.

Little D slid up to me: "This was the best party ever."

I considered explaining to parents at pick up time: yes, we have guns. We have them. They were hidden. Big accident, lotsa fun, apologies.

But I didn't.

I decided to let nature take its course. And imagined lots of this, at bedtime:

"Merrick has guns!"

" I shot L!"

"Merrick has a shot gun. Why can't I?"

"Today at the party we all killed each other! "



Rite of Passage

As the guests arrive at my son's party
they gather in the living room--
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins.
Hands in pockets, they stand around
jostling, jockeying for place, small fights
breaking out and calming. One says to another
How old are you? Six. I'm seven. So?
They eye each other, seeing themselves
tiny in each other's pupils. They clear their
throats a lot, a room of small bankers,
they fold their arms and frown. I could beat you
up, a seven says to a six,
the dark cake, round and heavy as a
turret, behind them on the table. My son,
freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks,
chest narrow as the balsa keel of a
model boat, long hands
cool and thin as the day they guided him
out of me, speaks up as a host
for the sake of the group.
We could easily kill a two-year-old,
he says in his clear voice. The other
men agree, they clear their throats,
like Generals, they relax and get down to
playing war, celebrating my son's life.

Sharon Olds

36 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

This is priceless. You have so captured the oldest child thing, and the anti-gun thing. I too was theoretically. opposed. But it got soooooo embarrassing at the park when my boys would salivate over, and covet the other boys' guns, I finally gave up. Now I'm just opposed to real guns!

liv said...

ooh! heavens! we're not even allowed to have birthday parties in our montessori.... instead we "celebrate life" by singing and reading stories and eating organic miniature muffins...

heh.

Cheri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheri said...

I'm feelin' ya.

That was too funny.

Karen said...

Oh god, Matron, just when I'm feeling good about my blog, I come over to YOUR blog and am blown away by your writing. Absolutely hilarious!

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Hey, give a boy a Barbie instead of a gun, and he pretends to shoot bullets out of its head. I never bought toy guns (except for water guns - can't go without those on a hot summer day!), but the kids just make guns out of Duplos, or sticks, or whatever else is handy.

And cops and robbers is a time-honored game; really a good-v-evil motif, isn't it? Unless these children's parents don't believe in evil. Then I guess they could think of it as good-v-less-good.

Melissa said...

Your observations and commentary are soooo funny and sharp and dead on. My husband often reminds me of when I was opposed to toy weaponry and like you I have 3 sons and an arsenal of plastic and foam. If you get any flack, you HAVE to post it. But this? Was the richest post I've read in eons.

Anonymous said...

I think the suburbancorrespondent is talking about my children.


The day I surrendered was the day I witnessed one of my little men take a bite out of a piece of American cheese and proudly announce... "Look Mom, I made a gun!"

Slow Panic said...

you can't stop them from wanting to point things at each other and shoot. hmmm...

Lisa Milton said...

Oh dear. You are so busted.

(And I want a public school like that, hippy-dippy and all.)

Peggy Sez.. said...

Sandwiches and bananas make great guns too...LOL...If you do it right you can combine murderous playtime with excellent nutrition!

She She said...

I LOVE this. You made me laugh out loud.

I have an over-attended first born son, and now have a PofLR (that's Path of Least Resistance) third child. I think my youngest boy is going to be a lot healthier without the laser beam attention from mom!

Ree said...

It's embedded in there someplace. You do realize, those, that you will be completely ostracized until those people have more kids. ;-)

Mrs. G. said...

Having spent the last eleven years dodging just about every variation of light saber made, I am in no position to judge. As I watch my son swinging them every which way and jumping around the yard battling blackberry bushes, I just file it under PE and drama and call it a day.

Heather said...

That's too funny. Yeah, if they didn't have toy guns they'd just make them out of straws or something.

JCK said...

This is GREAT! I hate guns, but have been reading a ton of stuff on boys and have been learning how healthy and NECESSARY it is for boys to play like that. Kind of counter intuitive, isn't it. It really does sound like the best party ever! Happy Birthday to your boy. Oh, and VERY funny on the school & kids' descriptions.

hippyhappyhay said...

rotflmao Freakin Hippies. Peace MM...

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I also was (am) opposed to guns. But boys will find a way. They always do. I had to tell my 8 year old to stop drawing pictures of guns on the back of his classwork. LOL!

laurie said...

this made me laugh and laugh. my nephew used to make guns out of bananas.

and you want PC? send your kids to Waldorf. oh golly.

Domestically Challenged said...

Hurrah!
One in the eye for the P.C. brigade -
Boys will be boys - thank goodness!

Mary Alice said...

That is so darned funny, am really am laughing out loud....I bet some first time parents will have their righteous panties in a wad.

Laura said...

Love this. :)

We used to be Gun Free, limit TV, vegetarian, etc. Left all that behind. At unschool gatherings here, the kids who had the most restrictions at home were the ones who went the craziest with Unhealthy Food, Guns, TV/Gaming.

Hey -- my boys loved potato guns! Not those spud launchers, but the ones that shot bits of potato. "Shoot-at-the-target-not-at-each-other-someone-will-lose-an-eye!"

Miss Grace said...

I love it.

Beth said...

Sounds like a great party! I think instead of planning games and all that other party stuff parents normally sweat over, I'm just going to let my son and his friends go wild with guns! They would have a 'blast'! tee hee...

katydidnot said...

i'm a good peace loving hippie dippy who gave up the no guns deal when my nephew chewed his toast into a gun shape and shot me. awesome party.

Nora Bee said...

I want to send my baby to that school, and to your son's birthday party.

the new girl said...

I just found your blog through the 'new from Blogher' thing and I LOVE this post!

Hilarious and too. true.

I bet it was the best party ever.

Hooray for play violence and mayhem. May the force be with you.

Tracy said...

too funny...love this...it's so true, that no matter how peace loving the parents are, kids love guns, they love pretend, and your description of how parents can be, pretty funny.
thanks for my morning laugh, it went well with my tea.

Angie said...

laughed until i cried on this one. we too are in the 'hippie' group of people, being organic-granola-tree-hugging-csa-owners, and have many friends with the same thoughts on child-rearing. we too are also in the closet about my youngest daughter's love of anything that shoots. at her
6th birthday, she was so happy to get a pack of army men from a little boy, only to find that his mother had cut off all the hands of the army men that were holding a gun. in front of everyone she said, "oh, these men a ruined, they are missing the best part - their guns!"

i can't wait to hear the fall-out of probably one of the most fun days those kids have ever had. you know at least one set of parents will say something!

bipolarlawyercook said...

I can hear the screaming from here. Too funny.

Fairlie said...

I love your post title! And I wonder, how often was that statement uttered that night?!

Too funny.

kate5kiwis said...

well funnily enough, i didn't read this as funny.
powerful.
poignant.
loved the *path of least resistance* phrase, that's me with all five kiddos now.
gosh i love your poem,
fabulous X

Jody said...

I'm a year too late to raise the question: Why didn't any of the folks talking about boys and guns notice all those happy little girls, shooting away with glee themselves?

Don't ALL of us want to exercise a little power, and make delightful kablooey noises?

Minnesota Matron said...

You're right, Jody! See the Matron, still checking her comments?

MJ said...

As a tv-limiting, granola-crunching ( ~ had homemade granola with 0% milk this morning), mother of 2, I saw the slippery slope to the path of least resistance and stopped at 2. In some ways, I'm so lucky to have girls so guns aren't usually an issue for this theoretically-opposed-to-guns mom!

allisonm said...

Gave into my sons desire for toy guns. I even signed him up to make a wooden rubber band gun at Wonderment. I figured he would be learning all kinds of skills in cutting it from a piece of wood and putting on the finishing touches.