Nathalie's Notes

Raising the Hardy Boys

DEC 2, 2009 | COMMUNITY

New realities should play into decisions

Along with the joys and tidings of this time of year, there's no shortage of stress and potentially awkward moments. Like, say, when your kid gets a gift that makes you cringe.

When it comes to parenting, it's inevitable for values to collide. How you handle these occasions is key in maintaining healthy relationships with family and friends. 

Recently, Sam's Nana and Papa brought him the cutest pair of pajamas printed with little brown Labradors resembling our Lucy Brown. Sam calls them "Good Girl jammies."

He was especially excited about the matching fleece robe. He still strolls around the house, hands tucked casually into his pockets, like a little Hugh Hefner wannabe in search of an ascot. 

Nana and Papa also brought toy wooden guns for Sam. This created a different kind of excitement.

In their defense, Matt's parents meant to ask us how we felt about it in advance, but Sam saw them first. Matt managed the classic "hide and distract" maneuver and a conversation between the adults ensued.

My husband and I grew up with different ideas about a lot of things, including guns.

For him, rural life included a healthy respect for guns. For me, growing up in Tacoma, guns were something gang members had; I was terrified of them. 

Before I was a parent – cue laugh track – I was certain I'd be the "no guns for us" kind of mom. But the more I talk to people about guns, the more I realize it's important to me to teach my children what they are, how to use them and why I don't ever want them to have to pull a trigger in a hostile situation. I realize I can't ban guns completely. 

Although it's not unusual for me and my father-in-law to come at something from opposite points of view, we are getting better at finding the middle and lowering our voices along the way.

He mentioned that he grew up playing with all manner of toy guns, and he turned out fine.

But he grew up in a different setting. He grew up in a country that didn't have the phrases "school shootings," "went postal," and "Columbine" in its regular lexicon.

The reality today, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is that more than 40 percent of American homes with children in them include guns, many of which are kept loaded and unlocked. In a world where an American child under the age of 10 is killed or disabled by a gun every other day, according to the AAP, I think it's fair for a parent to be concerned about the issue. 

That being said, it's also necessary to keep the spirit of the gift-giver in mind and be tactful in handling gift situations.

If there's something you feel strongly about, I suggest you have a conversation in advance with potential gift-givers. Feel free to use our awkward moment as a segue to preventing your own. 

Ultimately, we decided to keep the toy guns. We agreed that a conversation prior to having them in the house would've been helpful, but we let Sam take a turn with them.

He thought they were "pretty cool" as he used them as makeshift hockey sticks. They are now tucked away until we've figured out how we want to handle gun-play. 

I'm not looking for Mayberry. I'm just saying that parents today can't make their decisions based on what our parents and grandparents did, simply because they turned out OK.

Using some of the common sense that seemed more prevalent in prior generations, however, isn't such a bad idea.

When someone gives us a gift, we say thank you. If the gift comes into conflict with our values, talk about it respectfully and see if you can't find a middle ground.

Isn't that, after all, what you're raising your kids to do? 

Nathalie Hardy is a local freelance writer who can be found at random hours, taking notes as she walks Sam in his stroller. She invites your feedback – provided it doesn't include the phrase "unfit mother" – at nathalie@nathaliesnotes.com.

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