Enough of the Dad-bashing already…please!

As a Stay At Home Dad over the last 15 years I’ve seen and heard a lot from others as I’ve been out and about with my crew. Over time I’ve grown accustomed to old ladies telling me how nice it is to see a dad out with his kids. I’ve been asked countless times if I’m giving Mom the day off or if I’m babysitting. I don’t get mad about it or reply with some snarky comment that’s equally ignorant. My normal response is to simply smile, look the other person in the eyes, and tell them that this is my job. All day. Every day. And I love it! My kids are old enough now that they even respond for me sometimes. I suppose that it also helps that I have three t-shirts that proudly proclaim, “Dads don’t babysit. (It’s called ‘parenting’)”. Somehow I end up wearing one of them nearly every time we go out.

I’d like to think that I have a pretty good sense of humor about my career choice as a SAHD and that I’ve developed pretty thick skin about it all. But lately I’ve been seeing a spike in people – moms especially – complaining about their husbands being so incompetent when it comes to caring for their own children. While I’m not personally offended or hurt by such comments, it got me to thinking a lot about how such comments, even when made in jest, are hurtful to our sons and daughters. First of all, it shows our kids that moms are the only ones who know how to properly care for children. One mom posted this in a group that’s supposed to be for “families”:

Trying to sleep train my husband. As in training him to put baby to bed. Oye. Men really don’t have instincts on how to soothe a baby. No advice please just needed a place to get that out.

Really? No instincts? I’ve done that for all six of my children over the last 20 years. What was more disappointing was the fact that 97 people “liked” that post and roughly 85% of the comments were from moms who agreed with the original post. I thought about posting something snarky but instead waited a few days and started a different post in that same group.

I know it’s not diaper-related, but I really enjoyed reading (someone’s) post the other day bragging about her husband’s military award. As one of the few guys in this group (thanks to my wife for adding me a long time ago) I would love to start a “Spouse Brag” thread to combat a lot of the “ranting” that I read on this page, particularly that’s directed at the dads.

I’ll start. I appreciate how hard my wife works every day to provide financially for our family so that I can be a SAHD. I know that she misses out on a lot while she’s at work…

Amazingly, over 200 people liked that positive post and 45 moms commented something positive in response. I’m not sharing this to show how popular I am, but rather to illustrate that there are plenty of men who are stepping up and partnering with their wives. Sometimes what you’re looking for determines what you’re going to find.

papa-bioSecond, this dad-bashing comes from places that seem to promote family values. As a teenager I read the stories of the Berenstain Bears to my younger siblings. Most of them have some sort of lesson to be learned and they’re meant to promote good values. Once I became a dad I slowly began to realize how Papa Bear was marginalized in almost every single story as this incompetent man-child who was just as childish and immature as his cubs. And, thank God for Mama, who had to swoop in nearly every time to extract Papa and the cubs from their mess. Those stories perpetuate this myth that dads can’t possibly care for their own children without the ever-watchful eye of a mother. It’s almost as creepy as Big Brother from 1984. Except that these are passed off as cherished family books. While we still have most of our Berenstain Bears books on our bookshelf, I make sure to discuss with my kids some of the errors contained within the stories. We know, Dad. You told us this same thing last time we read this book. (At least I’m consistent!)

Third, if my daughters should choose to get married and have children I would hope that they would choose men who are willing and able to share the joy and responsibility of parenting in an equal partnership. I don’t want them to be the only care-givers to my grandchildren. Or to view their husbands as children. Yet, social media is littered with memes and comics which portray exactly this message. I hope that I’m modeling for them that it is, indeed, possible for a man to be nurturing, loving and competent in what’s been a traditionally female role. Heck, hopefully they’ve learned from my SAHD career choice that being a true partner in a marriage means sacrificing of yourself for the good of the family. While it was never my goal in high school or college to be a SAHD, I’ve come to realize that this is something that I love doing and that I’m pretty good at…and that it’s what’s best for my family.

Helping little sisters climb up the play structure near the Space Needle in Seattle.

Helping little sisters climb up the play structure near the Space Needle in Seattle.

Fourth, I’m trying to raise my son to be prepared to be a good father someday. Even though, at age 11, he swears that he’s never going to have kids and girls are still mostly gross. (He has three older sisters…so I can’t blame him!) Even if he never has kids of his own, he’s going to be an awesome uncle! While he’s far from perfect and gets frustrated at times, I also see a tender side of him with my younger girls, ages 5 and 2. (Sometimes.) I’ve been teaching him how to be a dad: change diapers (cloth even!), warm and give a bottle (not any longer, but in the past), prepare meals, and so on. It’s not easy. In fact, at times it can be downright frustrating when he doesn’t do what I’m asking of him. In those moments of frustration, I need to remind myself to show him the love, patience and understanding that he will need to have for his own kids in the future. I don’t want him to become one of those guys that the moms complain about, whether in person or on whatever social media platform will exist in the future. I want to equip him with the best skills to succeed in this important area: being a dad.

Ultimately, it’s up to all of us what we choose to promote. Dads and moms, are you listening to what your words and actions are teaching your children? My children? Our children? I’m trying to focus my time and energy on being the change that I want to see in the world. If I want the world to be more inclusive of all parents then that needs to start by teaching my own children and everyone else in my sphere of influence. While I will still make mistakes in this effort I know that, in the long run, it’s all going to be worth it. After all, the future well-being of my children is priceless!

Five Photos, Five Stories. Day Three: Kissing Daddy

I was recently nominated by my fellow Stay At Home Dad and Dad Blogger friend R.C., who writes at Going Dad, to participate in a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories, in which I post a photo and story (fiction or non-fiction) daily for five consecutive days. (Note: I had good intentions to do a post on five consecutive days but I chose time with my kids and sleep over blogging. And I’m okay with that.) It sounded like something that would be a fun to share with my loyal readers here on my blog. Today I nominate my friend and fellow SAHD Chris, who blogs at DadNCharge. 

Day Three: Kissing Daddy

KissingDaddy

Butterfly Kisses

This picture is just over two years old and I chose it for today because that lovely little girl giving her daddy (ME!) is celebrating her fifth birthday today. There really is no story behind this picture other than my daughter decided to plant a kiss on my cheek when we were at Titlow Beach on Puget Sound in Tacoma, just south of the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge. My mom happened to be visiting from out of town and thankfully had her camera at the ready. This wasn’t a staged shot and I didn’t even know that this picture existed until months later when I happened to see it on my mom’s Facebook page. All I can say is that I love everything about this picture. In fact, I’m going to simply let this picture carry its weight in words (it’s worth a thousand of them, right?) and gracefully bow out by wishing my sweet and sassy little girl a happy birthday. I love you with all of my heart, for ever and ever.

I Beat My Kids…and they like it!

RELAX. I’m talking about beating my kids at board games. H-O-R-S-E. Cards. Footraces. Arm wrestling.

Still smiling even after a massive defeat

Still smiling even after a massive defeat

While I was playing my son, C, (age 10) tonight in a couple of games of Carcassonne,I asked him if he wanted me to take it easy on him. He looked at me kind of funny, with a weird expression on his face, not understanding what I was asking. So I rephrased it, “Do you want me to play nice so that you’ll have a better chance to win?”. His response? “NO! I don’t need you to go easy on me. I can win on my own.” Bingo! I couldn’t have said it better myself. We played two games tonight. I won them both. He has yet to beat me in this particular game and we’ve been playing it for quite a while now. He doesn’t complain. In fact, it drives him to get better. The margin of victory was a lot less in the second game. His strategy improved along with his score.

I’ve been a parent now for nearly twenty years, but I’ve been a competitive game-player for as long as I can remember. I can recall long games of Monopoly with my older brother that maybe got a little bit over the top competitive. One in particular, in which I had him basically beaten, so he said he “died” and flipped the game board over and huffed away. I’m especially fond of that win. While my parents didn’t really play a lot of board games with us I have a lot of very fond memories of playing games with both sets of grandparents. My dad’s parents taught us how to play Sheepshead (although they called it the German name). I routinely lost but as time went on I learned the game and became a decent player. Same for my other set of grandparents who taught me all sorts of card, dice and board games: cribbage, backgammon, chess, checkers, king’s corners, sollitare, burn, acey-deucy and pinochle. I grew to cherish the times that we would spend playing those games, often for hours at a time. Never once do I remember them letting me win. If they did, they did a great job of hiding it. What I do remember, though, is learning to win and lose with grace and humility. There was no dancing and hooting and hollering. Maybe a tiny hooray but nothing extraordinary. Of course, whenever I would beat my grandpa in a game head-to-head I got a certain sense of accomplishment, knowing that I had beaten someone who I considered a really good player.

With our oldest child, I remember when she was maybe four years old, letting her beat me in a foot race across the front yard. The next day her best friend was at our house and my daughter challenged her to a race, boasting about how she had beaten me every single time the day before. Her friend roasted her every single time because my daughter was so slow. I realized that maybe letting her win all the time wasn’t the best idea. It would be okay for her to learn that she wouldn’t always win and that losing might just fuel her to do better the next time. Right now, my fifth child is almost five years old. She likes to play card games like UNO and Spot-It and even Dutch Blitz (with some help). In some of those games where speed is an important factor, I take it easy on her to level the playing field a bit. After all, no kid wants to lose all the time. That’s not fun and would just turn her off to games completely. Yet, at the same time, I don’t go so easy on her that she wins every time. She’s learning how to win and how to lose.

Proud winner of his first game of Monopoly

Proud winner of his first-ever game of Monopoly

Three years ago I took my son, C, then age 7, on a week-long cruise to Alaska. Since we were “at sea” the entire first day of the trip we spent some time in the game room, where I taught him how to play Monopoly.I warned him that it was a game that would eventually bankrupt one of us, and it would likely be him since he was just learning the game. As it turned out, he had lucky dice like I did when I was a kid (see board-flipping story above) and won his debut Monopoly game. When I asked him tonight if he remembered that game, he beamed, proudly recalling a lot of details, including the fact that he ended up with $4400 to my ZERO!

My older kids, three girls that are all teenagers (for another week until one becomes 20, yikes!) all enjoy playing various games with me, despite my competitive nature. I have not taken it easy on any of them when we’ve played H-O-R-S-E or “Around the World” in the backyard. Or bocce ball. Or Dutch Blitz (a fast-paced card game). Or board games like Ticket to Ride or even Disney Trivia Pursuit. I’m scary good at the Princess movie questions. Don’t judge. In fact, a few years ago, my oldest and I had a running competition in which we played Dutch Blitz for money, a penny a point. Talk about a way to motivate my daughter for pennies. It was so much fun. I think I might have made $5 off her that summer. But, the point is, she didn’t suffer emotional trauma because I beat her (and maybe taunted her, but, in my defense, she was a teenager at the time) and took her money. It was a valuable, if not cheap, lesson in not running your mouth about how good you are in a game if you can’t back it up. To this day we still joke about that competition.

IMG_6038Last summer we managed to clean up our Rec Room enough to actually use the air hockey table. The kids had fun playing it together and my son made the mistake of challenging me to play against him. I told him I wouldn’t take it easy on him, that I would play to win. If memory serves me correctly, it took him 18 games (over several days) to finally beat his old man. But when he finally broke through, the excited hooting and hollering were music to my ears. He knew that he had earned that hard-fought victory on his own accord. We all had so much fun playing king-of-the-table tournaments. I think the longest streak was five wins in a row for one person. We also figured out that it was pretty fun to put all five air hockey pucks on the table at the same time and play.

I’m currently the household king of Trivia Crack and am proud of my trivial knowledge. I love nothing more than to accept the game challenges from my kids, only to crush them swiftly in one or two rounds. Except for that one game last week in which my 13 year old beat me. I ran into some questions about TV shows and movies that I’ve never seen and, obviously, don’t know. After she beat me she told my 15 year old about it. “You beat Dad?! No way! Prove it!” Sure enough, she had the proof on her device. Let’s just say that the games between us have been decidedly one-sided since that blemish on my record.

My ten year old just came near the computer and saw what I’m writing about and smiled. He told me, “It’s okay to go easy on your kids until they’re about six or seven. Once they’re that old you have to go hard on them!” Bring it…and let the games begin!

I’m not babysitting…I’m parenting!

While watching the last few minutes of a lopsided victory by the Green Bay Packers over the Minnesota Vikings I heard the announcers talking about the short break the players were going to have this coming weekend since their game was played on a Thursday instead of the usual Sunday or Monday. One of the guys, Phil Simms, a former quarterback for the New York Giants, mentioned that the Vikings’ QB, Christian Ponder, was going to be “babysitting” his daughter, Bowden, since his wife, Samantha Ponder, is a host for ESPN College Gameday every Saturday. The banter between Simms and his broadcast partner, Jim Nantz, continued as they enjoyed a little chuckle discussing Mr. Ponder babysitting his 12-week old daughter. Did you catch what they did there? While trying to sort of compliment him for caring for his own child they made a little bit of a dig at fathers, even if it wasn’t intentional or malicious. Dads and moms don’t babysit their own children. Never. What they do has a term already. Yeah, you guessed it. PARENTING!

christian-ponder-wife-samantha-ponder-pic

Samantha and Christian Ponder and their infant daughter. She’s an ESPN reporter/host and he’s an NFL QB for the Minnesota Vikings.

Some of you more cynical types might be wondering why this is an issue to me. After all, who really cares? Glad you wondered. What Simms and Nantz basically did was further the stereotype that dads who care for their own children are nothing more than babysitters. It’s an insult for any parent to be called a babysitter when he or she is actually being a parent. I did enough babysitting in junior high and high school to know the difference. Based on the reactions I saw on Twitter after the game finished I wasn’t the only one who noticed the babysitting comment. Other people were quick to point out the poor word choice by Mr. Simms. On a personal level, this is important to me because for the last 14 years I have chosen to be a full-time Stay At Home Dad for my children. I’m not a babysitter. I’m their dad. I “retired” from my teaching career after six years to move into an even more challenging career as a SAHD. Yes, I said career. This isn’t some part-time gig I do to make extra money to go out with my friends. I don’t get paid. At least not in cash. This is what I do. What I choose to do. What I get to do. I parent. All day. Every day. 24/7/365. Even when I’m not physically with my family I still parent through the wonders of modern technology like texting and FaceTime. Yet, I continue to love my career choice and thank God every day for the opportunity I have to be at home with my children. It’s not a chore. It’s my choice and my passion.

Yet, I’m not offended by what they said. I’m a pretty laid back guy. This wasn’t offensive. Offensive is using derogatory terms that I’m not comfortable saying or typing. What I’m feeling is disappointed. I’m disappointed that these guys chose to use that term to describe something that is so near and dear to me. About the only good thing is that they stopped short of using that hilarious term “Mr. Mom”. When they had the opportunity to recognize and applaud Mr. Ponder for spending his upcoming days off with his infant daughter they instead diminished it with a single ignorant word. I’m not demanding or expecting an apology from those announcers. That would be ridiculous. But I am calling them out on their choice of words. Such ignorant comments are way beneath them. This is, however, an opportunity to educate them and everyone else about the difference between babysitting and parenting. Babysitting has an end point. The parents come home, you get paid, and then you go home. It’s not parenting. Parenting starts the moment you first realize that you’re going to become a parent and then it never ends. Once a parent, always a parent. To paraphrase my fellow SAHD, blogger and friend Doug French, We still have much work to do. We need to get the message out that being an active and involved parent is a good thing. It’s what should be the norm. It should be celebrated and not mocked. Being a parent is the most rewarding and frustrating and exhilarating and awesome and terrible and joyous experience all in one. Keep calm and Daddy on!

Fight Like A Girl: Rest In Peace, Frehley

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Even though I knew this news was coming, when I read the update from Frehley’s family on Sunday evening I paused and wept. Tears for the pain of the finality of their loss. Tears for the dreams for their daughter that will go unfulfilled. But, also, tears for the peace that their precious daughter now feels in Heaven, in a new body that is cancer-free.

It is with a broken heart that we make this post, Frehley has received her wings as she left us this evening and went to Heaven. She has been such a strong spirit to us and everyone who she met. She faced her opposition and fought it tooth and nail, and truly “Stayed Strong” until the very end! Though we are very sad right now, we take comfort knowing that she is at peace and her fight is over. We thank every one of you who have prayed for, loved, and supported Frehley.

There really are no words to express the emotions most of us parents feel when reading about the death of a child, especially when you know the people involved. Please, keep Frehley’s family in your thoughts and prayers, now and in the weeks and months to come. Their need for love, support and encouragement has not ended. Indeed, a hug or kind word or note is going to be just as important for them as they go through their grieving process. To leave an encouraging word for the Gilmore family you can go to the Stay Strong Frehley Facebook page.

 

In case you are new to my blog and didn’t read the previous posts about Frehley here are the links.

1. Fight Like A Girl: A Matter of Perspective

2. Fight Like A Girl: Update on Frehley

Wait…I’m a Feminist?

like-a-girl-2

I had this interesting thought when I was in the shower this morning. It occurred to me that I might just be a feminist. I’d never really thought of myself like that before, but, as I was contemplating my roles as husband and father, it dawned on me that I’m a feminist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. According to the World English Dictionary a feminist is “a person who advocates equal rights for women”. I’ve tried to live my life in a way that treats all people with the same kindness and compassion, regardless of their gender. But, it’s more than just kindness and compassion toward women. It’s also about changing the way that women are treated and perceived by society. I would guess that most of us would say that women should be given the same social, political, legal and economic rights as men. While much progress has been made, there is still more work to be done to truly level the playing field. One area that has recently been getting a lot of attention on social media platforms is the use of the phrase “like a girl”. There’s an ad by Always which beautifully illustrates how many of us, often unknowingly, contribute to the negative connotation of doing something like a girl. (Click here to view the ad.

As a dad of five daughters I don’t ever use that phrase. I want my daughters to believe that they can do anything they choose however they want to do it. And I will support them 100%. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t always have such an enlightened view. Growing up as a teenager in the 80s it was common for boys to throw around the phrase like a girl as an insult when someone did something “weak”. For example, “Billy, you throw like a girl” or “Phil, you run like a girl“. It was mean-spirited teasing that implied that doing something, anything,  like a girl was inherently inferior to the way that a boy would do it. I even complained to my mom one time that my little sister, who was probably 6 or 7 at the time, was throwing the football like a girl. Instead of lecturing me, my mom stated the obvious that she IS a girl, and that if it bothered me that much I could teach her how to throw the ball better. So I did. My sister still throws (and catches) like a girl BOSS! She throws a better ball, with a tighter spiral and greater accuracy, than most guys I know. 

I’ll admit that first gender-equity lesson from my mom didn’t penetrate my thick teenage skull very deeply. A few years later, at age 22, I was excited to become a father for the first time, as my wife was pregnant with our first daughter. Only, we didn’t know her gender until she was born. So, in the months leading up to her due date many people asked me if I thought we were having a boy or a girl. Without hesitation I always answered that I was hoping for a boy, since I was under the impression that boys were better. That I would be more fulfilled as a father if I had a son. I couldn’t have been more misguided. Thankfully, my wife, the oldest of four girls, kindly pointed out that girls could play sports and do pretty much anything that boys could do…and that I was being a sexist jerk for thinking like that. Which was totally true. Thankfully, pregnancies are nine months long, so I was able to realize before our daughter was born that praying and hoping for a healthy baby of either gender was the correct way of thinking. 

Still, I hadn’t fully let go of the phrase “like a girl“, even though I had a daughter of my own. That moment arrived a couple of years after the birth of my daughter, when I was teaching 7th grade and coaching the 7th grade girls basketball team. During one of the practices the girls did something (I don’t recall specifically what it was since this happened in 1997) that frustrated me and I blew my whistle to get their attention and started to tell them that they needed to throw better passes, to stop throwing it like a ________ . And I caught myself before I said it. That last word on the tip of my tongue. All 15 of the girls looking at me, waiting for me to finish. And then it dawned on me just how much of a male chauvinist pig I was going to be if I said that last word as girl. So I said baby. And right then, and there, I promised myself that I would never, ever, use the phrase like a girl to put someone down. I also started getting on people who used that phrase as a pejorative. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I’ve been blessed with five daughters…to show them and others that it’s great to live like a girl.

When my second daughter was born in 1999 we found out her gender before she was born. I was excited to have another daughter. There was not a shred of disappointment in my being. Sadly, though, many people assumed that I would want a boy and even had the audacity to suggest that I would be disappointed to have another daughter. The sexist comments were even worse when we found out we were expecting a third daughter in 2001. I was completely satisfied with being a DODO (Dad Of Daughters Only). I felt that God had truly blessed me with three daughters and I was excited to be their dad. In 2004, when our fourth child was born we didn’t reveal his gender to anyone else until he was born, although we knew. Once he was born, pretty much every friend and family member commented that I must be so relieved to finally have a boy. And, “are you done having kids now that you got your boy?”. Again, why would I be more or less fulfilled as a parent or man if I had only daughters or only sons? I was appalled by the overarching sexism that was so predominant in people’s well-meaning comments. And most people never even realized how awful the message was that they were conveying even if it wasn’t intended. I made a mental note to never make such a sexist comment to any parent. Ever. 

While I’ve never attended any political rallies for women’s rights or done anything like that, I have tried to instill in each of my kids (including my son) that all people deserve equal rights and equal treatment not only under that law, but also socially. And that starts with my own attitudes and those of my children. I even had to reprimand my own daughter (I won’t name which one) for using the phrase like a girl to try to insult her brother. I pointed out that she was actually insulting both him and herself (and her gender) at the same time. And that there was no room for that kind of attitude in our family. It’s a tough battle sometimes, but I believe it’s worth it. And as a Stay At Home Dad, I get the opportunity to reinforce the gender comments while correcting any negative ones that might slip out of my kids’ mouths. It’s a role that I embrace. Literally and figuratively. So, does that make me a feminist? You make the call.

Guns For My Kids

When my wife and I had our first child back in 1995 we agreed that our kids wouldn’t have guns. Toy guns or real guns. In fact, we agreed that our house would be gun-free. It wasn’t that big of a deal to me, even though I grew up in a house with cap guns, BB and pellet guns, and larger guns locked away somewhere. Both of my grandpas had guns and so did my uncle. I passed the Hunter Safety course in 6th grade and knew how to handle a gun and how to shoot it. Interestingly enough, with all that exposure to guns during my childhood, I managed to never shoot anyone with anything worse than a squirt gun. Reality is that guns really didn’t play a huge role in my life. I didn’t grow up hunting although my dad did allow me to shoot those pesky starlings in our backyard, even though we lived in the city. I became a pretty good shot with my pump-action BB/pellet gun. But that was the extent of my “hunting” experiences until I shot my first (and only) deer in 2005. The following few hunting seasons provided good exercise but no deer. 

 

So, fast forward to now, May of 2014. My son is 9. Up to this point he’s had an assortment of water guns, Nerf guns, marshmallow guns and other toys like that. But not a real-looking toy gun like my cap pistol from childhood. As fate would have it, two boys are moving in the house across the street from us and my son has become good friends with them. These boys have cap guns and my son requested that we get him one so he could play along with them. After a brief conversation, my wife and I agreed and I bought them for him at the store yesterday. First of all, I didn’t even know that they still made cap guns, so it was a total flashback to my childhood to find them again. And that smell…same as it was 30+ years ago. Ha. My older girls, especially my oldest, was somewhat stunned that we’d “caved” and allowed guns in our house after so many years of not allowing it. (Although, it’s not like my older three girls asked for them at all.) What was especially interesting for me was how important this was for my son to be allowed to have a toy gun. I guess he didn’t expect that we’d agree to it. 

Last night, as he was getting ready for sleep, we were talking about guns since I told him that I would show him how to load and use the cap gun after school the next day (today). I used it as an opportunity to begin to teach him about gun safety and that even though it was a toy, it looked real. So, he needed to only play with it at home and never take it to the store or out in public because someone might see it and call the police and he could get shot if the police thought it was real. I hope I scared him straight with that. I followed that up with a conversation about the importance of NEVER touching or looking at a gun that a friend might try to show him if he’s a friend’s house. Instead, I told him to run away screaming for help to get the attention of an adult so that no one would get hurt. We’ve all read far too many headlines about kids that get shot when they’re just “looking” at their parents’ gun. 

When my wife and I were first married, before we had kids and while still in college, we earned extra income by staying with some kids while their parents went on vacation to places like Cancun or the Bahamas. It was good money and we got to stay in some really nice houses. One family that we stayed with had three boys. The middle boy, Lucas, was the “curious” one, always pushing the limits, checking to see where his boundaries were with us. So, it came as no surprise when Bryant, the older brother, told me that Lucas was climbing in the closet that was supposed to be off limits. When I checked it out, sure enough, Lucas had crawled up to the top shelf and was digging through the boxes up there. Why? He was looking for a key. Not just any key, the key to his dad’s gun safe. And he found that key pretty quickly. Thankfully, I was there to confiscate the key and keep it out of Lucas’s hands, but that really made an impression on me about keeping kids safe from guns. The dad has assured us before their trip that the guns were safely locked away and that the kids had no idea about how to get inside it. Which was why he thought it was fine to keep several boxes of ammo on that top shelf near the key. UGH! 

Now, I don’t begrudge anyone their Second Amendment right to bear arms, but with that right comes a lot responsibility. Chief among that is that safety is the top priority. It was pretty clear that the dad was out of touch when it came to his son’s curiosity about guns and his son’s ability to access the weapons. My buddy who took me deer hunting back in 2005 has two daughters in high school now. He has always had guns in his house. Locked safely away from his kids. But what he did differently with his girls was to teach them how to handle and use guns, starting when they were very little. When I asked him why he did that, his response was so that they would learn to respect the power of the gun while not being afraid of it. So that they could safely handle and dismantle any gun that they might encounter in their lives. In essence, he was empowering them with knowledge that could save their lives. 

I’m not delusional enough to think that getting a toy cap gun is going to change my children into psychopathic monsters as adults. However, I’m kind of glad that they have them to play with. Not because I love the smell of the burnt cap shot (I do, but that’s not the point) or the time they spend chasing each other around with that loud “bang-bang” filling the air as they pretend to shoot each other. It’s because I can use it as a chance to teach my kids some important life lessons that should serve them well as they grow.