In a recent tattling torrent, I was told that Charlie had tried his hand at shooting a BB gun (belonging to a neighborhood friend)…and maybe the gun had been aimed at the branches of a nearby apple tree that stands between our neighbor’s and our yard…because on those branches were some squirrels, it was explained, who were chucking hard green apples onto the boys’ unprotected heads. It is true that apples from the one fruit bearing tree that stands tall but crooked in our unkempt back yard, have been dropping for days now and it probably does hurt to get hit in the head by one of them, but Scott and I (of course I tattled to Scott about our son’s BB gun-attempting-to-shoot squirrel activities) ran through a litany of reasons why all of this bad gun/apple/squirrel business was never to be repeated:
– No one your age, Charlie, shoots a BB gun or any gun, ever!
– If anything about guns with friends comes up again, you must, Charlie, come to us first or to a nearby adult. You don’t touch a gun, any gun without us knowing about it. If no adult is around, leave the scene quickly, especially if the toy gun doesn’t look like a cap gun or a BB gun, but rather a REAL gun. And if the the gun is found (let’s say) hidden away in some closet…if a situation like that occurs, run….run for help! Get out of the house or wherever you are! Get away from the gun!
– Yes, it’s true Charlie, that your older brother was allowed to purchase a BB gun, but he was twelve years old at the time and if you’ll remember, we forced him to wear safety goggles while he shot at his homemade paper targets. You are eight years old…okay, that’s true, almost nine, but certainly not twelve.
– Besides, Charlie, if that’s what really happened, that you shot at a squirrel…a living creature…don’t you feel just horrible? What if you had killed the squirrel? You love animals. You must have at least seven different stuffed animal squirrels resting on your bed right now. You don’t shoot at defenseless animals. No….no…no a squirrel does not purposely wing apples down at you and your friend. The frisky squirrels were probably just scurrying around in the branches at such a frantic pace that they caused some apples to fall. Wear your bike helmets next time you’re under the tree…or play somewhere else.
Charlie took our speech in, weighing the thrust of the arguments, attempting to counter here and there but for the most part he just listened, eyes squinted and lips clamped tight, while we lobbed our words at him over and over and over. We could see that the point about hurting a living creature hit home because his eyes welled up with tears for a few seconds. But he needed to be alone to digest it all and so he heatedly announced that he would be going up to his boring room for the rest of his life. As he spun on his heels to head out of our bedroom (where the serious talk about guns and killing and the ability to make judgment calls when hanging out with your friends had taken place) he blared, “It doesn’t matter Mom and Dad. I’m too young for juvie anyway!”
Oh boy. Scott and I hung back in our bedroom after Charlie’s abrupt departure. We replayed our parental approach in this most recent Charlie incident. (There are maybe two or three big “Charlie Incidents” a month. Minor ones occur daily.)
Cassie: That was a good point you made about hurting living creatures, hon. “Wear your bike helmets…” He, he, he. Did you see him roll his eyes on that one?
Scott: Thanks. You may have been over the top, though, about finding guns in closets at friends’ homes.
Cassie: Yea…well…you know me…that’s one of my buttons…guns in homes. You hear all these stories about kids finding guns – boys especially – and playing with them until someone gets shot because there was no safety lock in place…and with an inquisitive kid like Charlie…
Scott: Hmm….”I’m too young for juvie!” How does he even know something like that?!
Cassie: Jesus…I know…that kid…it’s going to be a tricky path with him.
Scott: I’m not afraid of him, though.
Cassie: Nah. Me neither..not in the least.