“The places change, the numbers change, but the choice of weapon remains the same. In the United States, people who want to kill a lot of other people most often do it with guns.” –The Washington Post, November 9, 2018.
I went postal at a kids’ birthday party. Fortunately, I didn’t have a gun. That wasn’t the case in the 316 mass shootings the U.S. suffered in 2018.
Three kids celebrated their tenth birthday, so all the 4th grade boys were invited. The party was held at All Star Sports, which is where my son, Sebastian, celebrated his party last year. The place has bounce houses, ping-pong, and a blow-up wall made out of Velcro. The kids put on a Velcro suit, jump onto the wall, and stick in some crazy position. This is my kind of fun.
I chatted with one of the host moms about an exchange program she’s organizing with our kids’ basketball league, which is mostly Jewish, and a league that’s mostly black. I chatted with the father of one of the birthday boys about the beauty of vaginas versus the ugliness of penises. That’s where our conversations go. I love these parents.
Then the party moved into another room. When Sebastian had his party there, this room was a mini soccer field. Now, it was filled with blow up boulders, sewage tunnels, cargo boxes, and a camouflage tank. There on a table, was a pile of toy guns that looked like AK 47s.
I said. “What are we doing?”
The dad said, “Boys love this stuff.”
“They love eating candy all day too.”
I got furious immediately — hot in the face furious. I said, “What the hell?”
He said, “Take it up with the moms,” who apparently planned the party.
I got in the mom’s face. She was sitting and I stood over her. I said, “Why did you plan a gun party?”
She said, “This is what the boys love to do.”
I don’t know what I said next. She said, “I’m not having this conversation right now.”
Sebastian was holding a gun at this point. I got crazed. I told him to point it at the dad. He did.
The dad said, “Not at my face, that’s dangerous.”
Sebastian knows I don’t like guns. Three days after the Parkland shooting, another one of Sebastian’s friends hosted a laser tag party, which was clear in the invitation, so I called the boy’s mother to ask why. She said, “The guns aren’t real.”
Luckily, we were on the phone, because I may have punched her in the face. Of course, the guns aren’t real.
Sebastian did NOT go to that party.
Two summers ago, my daughter’s sleepaway camp in Maine took the kids to a fake military base. They posted pictures on the camp’s Facebook page showing the kids in camouflage. The guns were black and as real looking as I’ve seen in the movies. When I commented on Facebook that I didn’t think we should normalize violence by encouraging kids to play realistic war games, a few people responded with, “Hahaha, this is all in fun.” And “Oh, please, this is America.”
One of my friends, whose daughter was in my daughter’s cabin, texted me to say she agreed with me. The text was private.
Except for her, why am I alone in this?
The mom said, “You can take Sebastian home.”
I said, “I don’t want to deprive my kid of a party.”
The dad walked me out, or more like followed me out. I was moving quickly. He said, “Kids need to channel their anger.”
I said, “Let’s try sports.”
Even football is better. The men who play can get damaged for life, but kids don’t have to do lockdown drills in school as a result of football.
There is a mass shooting in the United States almost every day. Some have been perpetrated by children. And we let our kids play guns. Is there a correlation? Why chance it?
At the door, I pretended to punch the dad. He wore a pink Polo shirt. I stopped my fist three times right at his pink shoulder. I really wanted to punch him hard.
I drove home fuming, but by the time I got home, I regretted how I acted. How can I hope to reduce violence when I stormed out of the party like a crazy-bat?
I texted the parents: “I’m so sorry I threw a temper tantrum during your kid’s party. I’d love to talk more.”
After the party, Sebastian said he understood my point, but he would have been pissed if I made him leave. He said, “For one, there was pizza.”
I wished I had taken him home, but I was no different than the other parents. I gave my kid what he wanted.
“The problem,” he said, “you can’t really change people.”
I told him I think we can change people. And if we believe in something we have to speak up. I told him when I was a kid, people smoked everywhere: in schools, restaurants, on planes. Now, no one smokes indoors, and so few people smoke at all. “We can change this,” I said. “We have to.”
Later that night, the dad called to see if I was okay. We talked about how kids need to work out aggression and we laughed about how I clearly need to work out mine.
He said that if he and the other parents had thought more about it, maybe the gun game wouldn’t have been part of the party. He said, “Your message may have been on point, but your delivery was off.”
This is №30 of my #weeklyessaychallenge. I started this challenge 30 weeks ago when I turned 50. Twenty essays to go. #JointheChallenge!