I've started thinking about how I'd like to talk to Claire about guns. The issue is a difficult but important one to confront -- up there with don't talk to strangers, where do babies come from and, down the road, don't have unprotected sex.
My parents weren't much for communication, and were silent on all of the aforementioned big topics. But guns were an every day event during hunting season.
I remember admiring the colorful orange and shiny gold shotgun shells. I remember dead ducks being stripped of their feathers in paraffin. And the deer, how could I forget the deer with limp bodies, glazed eyes and tongues hanging out of their mouth. The gaping hole in their blood spattered sides.
Guns killed, that's for sure. No denying this gory reality.
Hunting mostly disabused me of any fantastic notion I might have had about guns. But, when I was about four, I begged for the best black and white cowhide Annie Oakley outfit. I was so proud of that getup, complete with red cowgirl hat. The shiny silver pistol with holster was basically an accessory to me. But, in case I had any doubt about its function, every time I picked up it up, I was told to NEVER, EVER point a gun -- real or fake -- at another human being.
My brother begged for a BB gun at around age seven. That conversation was short…BB guns in the hands of small children do nothing but damage, either to humans, small animals or objects such as windows. End of story.
Because I was around guns and instructed about them, I learned just how seriously they were to be taken. I learned that guns had their place for some, and that there was zero negotiation about their use.
It's a different world for Claire growing up than it was for me. We live in Manhattan: no deer here (even if we did want to hunt). The stakes have risen so that assault weapons are a gruesome reality sitting alongside shotguns. My Annie Oakley fancy is being replaced by the fantasy of violent video games and movies. It's such a complicated mix of issues that even our sharpest pundits are struggling with the scope of influences contributing to senseless gun violence.
But I know that I want Claire to learn some of the lessons that my family taught me about guns. I want her to know that human beings are responsible for how they are used, and that this responsibility is not to be taken lightly. I want her to know that, while you can take back words and some actions, the damage that guns cause is swift, dangerous and, too often, irreparable.
I haven't figured out how the conversation should go after that. I would love to open up this discussion amongst mothers. In light of the recent tragedy in Newtown, I think it's important one to have. It's a dialogue in which moms can and should be taking the lead, for all of our children.