While the Shooting was Happening in FL, We Were Buying LEGOs with Guns

My five-year-old son’s grandparents sent him a sweet Valentine’s Card with a generous insert of a $10 bill for him to spend on what he wanted. It came as no surprise that he wanted to purchase a new LEGO kit, since this has been his favorite toy for the last year, and really the only type of new toy we have purchased for him in the last year.

This was one of the first times he would use his own money to purchase something and he was even more pumped about this than the pile of treats he received as part of his school Valentines. He carefully rolled the bill up, secured it with a rubber band, and zipped it into a small pocket of his jacket so it would be safe.

We excitedly went to Toys R Us after I picked him up from preschool. I knew from previous trips to this store that this was going to be a lengthy process including lots of indecision, but I was prepared to take my time, and let him choose what he wanted.

While we wandered the aisles of the LEGO section in search of the perfect 9.99 option, I was saddened, once again, by what I saw: so many guns and other weapons. So many depictions of violence and fighting on those boxes.

I thought, this is one of the reasons we have a problem in this country. Of course I had no idea what was about to happen in FL approximately 1300 miles away. I’m frustrated by this every time I look at these and I think the same thing when I’m in the Transformer and the DC Comics section.

This is the kind of thing I wanted him to choose (after all, it was Valentines Day):

Here is what he chose, and it kind of pained me:

I said, “Well, that has a lot of guns. Are you sure you want that?” hoping that he might decide against it. “But they’re good guys,” he said. “It’s okay, Mom, it’s okay.” We’ve talked several times about how real guns actually hurt people, that they can be dangerous things.

Alas, this is what he wanted. And alas, it turned out to be 14.99 at the checkout…alas, I did make up the difference. So yes I let my son buy the LEGO with guns.

I realize I could have taken the hard line and insisted he get something without weapons, but, because we’ve tried to keep our purchases on the lower end of the price scale, there aren’t many options in the 9.99 price bracket in the less-violent CITY series that he hasn’t built yet. (And yes, I definitely hear and acknowledge the privilege in that statement.)

The truth is that I’ve recently eased up. I’ve unfortunately come to see that once kids know about guns, they can pretend to make a gun out of anything — a stick, and of course their hand. Pow pow pow, I killed you dead, I’ve overheard my sweet, polite, gentle five-year-old say while playing. And I’ve heard his playmates say the same types of things.

What’s the point of fully shielding him from guns when some kids at school are inevitably going to be talking about them anyway? What’s the point of making them so taboo that they’re actually more enticing when he encounters toy guns at someone else’s house anyway?

I don’t know if my son is going to own a real gun some day. I don’t think he’s going to be a violent adult. I don’t think he’s going to hurt people in the future. I bet that’s what most mothers would say.

I heard about the shootings in Florida a few hours after we got home, after the LEGO was built. Though I wanted to, I didn’t dismantle it. I didn’t take it away.

I mostly love LEGOs. They have been great for our son’s dexterity, patience, ability to follow directions, spatial intelligence, and attention to detail. He can build them on his own and concentrate on them for hours while I try to clean the house or get some work done. And they have been fun for all of us — we’ve built them together as a family. His five-year-old birthday party theme was LEGOs.

I actually think LEGOs are pretty amazing. I just wish LEGOs and so many other toys didn’t come with guns.

Here’s what I stand firm on: I don’t personally play with the guns. If he wants me to play with him, we have to play non-shooting games. My son is an only child, so I play with him a lot at home, and in order for me to play with him, he agrees to my terms with this. I attempt to show him all the different ways of playing creatively, trying to steer our games more toward shop-keeping, or restaurants, or parties.

So today these storm troopers had a party. The red pieces in their hands were not bullets in today’s game, but cookies my son named “redders.”

I obviously don’t have the answers. I’m really grappling with this. I don’t want kids to have easy access to real guns. And I wish toy stores weren’t overflowing with pretend ones either.

I realize that kids have been playing “cops and robbers” and playing with squirt guns etc for a long, long time. “And we turned out fine,” some people of my generation and generations before mine say. My answer, based on where we are as a country is: no, we apparently didn’t turn out fine.

It’s on us, as parents, to change the gun laws for our kids, and it’s on us too, to teach that they really hurt people, that they really kill people, and it’s not a game.

Jocelyn Jane Cox is a mother, humorist, freelance writer, figure skating coach and coffee spiller. Author of “First Day on the Ice” available on Amazon.