I am going to ignore the big ugly fact that I NEVER keep up on this blog anymore. A whole summer has gone by...and it was a busy one. Wedding after wedding, working in the park (sooo fun) and a marriage that has been steadily rebuilding after surviving a near divorce. Very VERY close call and I am still not sure I want to discuss it. I think it may be too fragile still, but just know that we are invested, it is getting better, and progress, while slow, is evident. Sooo...enough of that. There HAD to have been something that prompted me to park myself at the computer and log onto blogspot.com after all this time, right? Wrong. Unless you count 3 glasses of wine and a Husband who tends to fall asleep EVERY time he puts Eldon to bed. I'm bored. Boredom prompted me to post a picture from our day on Facebook though, and it wasn't until I posted it that I realized how many people on my friends list might not understand or might even disapprove. Many of the people that I know on Facebook live in Seattle or neighboring areas. Not many of the graduating seniors from my 2005 class ventured out to live life in the slow lane. I doubt that most of them own guns...at least legally anyway.
This is the picture. My 3 year-old and I...both toting guns on our nature walk today.
At first, I thought it was adorable. Then-the me from three years ago came back to haunt my slightly altered (red wine...Cabernet Sauvignon to be exact) mind. You know the "me" I am talking about...that crazy girl who was a MUCH better Mom before she actually had kids. (I'm sure you know a few of those.) The "me" who was sticking to her guns about never letting her child actually play with a pretend one. As you can see from the picture, I lost that argument, and this doesn't happen often, but Nate was right. Shhhh...pretend like you didn't see that. Yes, it said that Nate was right. Ok, Ok. NATE WAS RIGHT. Kids can and SHOULD play with guns when they are growing up in households like ours, and most other Montana families.
Eldon is at this glorious age where he actually gets it. Ahhh...the neverending "whys" of a three year old. It.is.constant. The good part? You answer the "Why" and he understands the answer and remembers. He proudly boasts at night time that the moon comes out at night because the earth is moving around the sun. All because one night, the "why" game continued....and continued...and continued...until I finally explained to him why it was actually getting dark out, resulting in bedtime. I knew it would give him something to ponder for a moment, and buy me some breath. Likewise, he is finally at an age where we can not only allow him to play with guns, but use them as a training tool. We are gun owners. We have been since he was born, and have taken necessary precautions to keep him safe, both from the guns and the dangers we use the guns to protect us from. We keep the majority of our guns unloaded and locked up. I keep a pistol by my bedside to protect from intruders and wear it when we hike or go a long distance into the woods to protect us from bears, wolves, mountain lions or other Montana neighbors. As a result of the loaded gun, Eldon has never been allowed in our room alone and the door is locked when nobody is in it. We are very carefully trying to encourage proper gun use, as well as instilling a respect and fear (for now) of guns into our son.
We have established rules. He is three, of course, and these rules get broken on occasion but each time they do, there is an opportunity for discussion opening up and we are jumping in there to take advantage of it. If Eldon points his gun at a person, his gun gets taken away. In keeping with his daily rythmn, he asks a question along the lines of "Why can't I point it at people?" and so our son has learned that guns hurt people and that they can go off on accident, which is why we don't touch them unless we absolutely need to. Along with this comes some tricky tip-toeing and lessons that are questionable for a three year old to be learning. Eldon, like Nate and I, has been witness to every hunting season. Last year he sat in the garage watching as we cut and packaged the deer and elk that Nate had killed. This year he learned that to get the deer into our freezer, it must be shot. He also learned that shooting a deer hurts it. I haven't quite venutred into the "killing" territory, partly because I don't have the words and partly because I don't think he would understand it even if I did. I think it can wait. For now, we are educating our son about the simple fact that guns are dangerous. So far, it's working. While on that walk today, Eldon was carrying his toy gun back to the truck when he accidentally hit the trigger. His gun makes a pretend noise that made him jump back and look to me with worry written all over his face. Good. It sounds tough and harsh, but good.
Not only is this preparing our beautifully fearless and naive child, but it is preparing me. As he grows, he will become less fearless and less naive. I want my son to stay innocent as long as he can, but he will start to fear. He will start to worry and grasp that there are dangers in the world. Is it a bad thing? I don't know...and I don't really think so. I watch the Mama deer tread carefully around here with their vulnerable spotted fawns and think of how helpless they must feel. Predators are everywhere, but their instincts are strong, both doe and fawn alike. The fawns jump and run away when they hear us crunching leaves and snapping twigs. They wait patiently for their Mama to catch up. They know. The same fawns we caught first glimpse of this last Spring and they already know. My son was brought into the world over three years ago and is just NOW grasping the fact that there are things in this world that can hurt him. Why? Because he asks. Because I answer somewhat truthfully. "A bear might think you are food, so stay close to Mom."
So now he knows...guns are dangerous. They require proper storage and careful carrying to work for us, instead of against us. Even his play guns require permission to use. Nate is waiting patiently to buy Eldon his first BB Gun and although he wanted to before he was even born, we know that this way-it will be special. An earned right of passage for an 8....or 10...or 15 year old Montana boy. Until then, we are basking in the magic that is three years old and working carefully to shape the responsible adolescent gun owner that is waiting for us in the future.