Last week I finally gave up on a twelve-and-a-half year gun ban in our family.
Obviously I’m not talking about real guns; we live in the UK, not the USA, after all. But since our children have had been old enough to express an opinion about what kind of toys they’d like to play with, I’ve laid down a strict ‘no guns’ rule. No water pistols or toy guns of any type, for Xmas or birthdays, not ever. Since DS started school, we’ve had a few given as presents from his party, which I found kind of presumptive. They got ‘lost’ immediately.
Yes, the kids sometimes picked up sticks and pretended they were guns, or made weapons out of lego, or while junk modelling, but their creations were never kept as guns for long. They were dismantled and made into something else pretty quickly. My reasoning was that toy guns would stay toy guns for ever.
A couple of weeks ago our primary school held their summer fair and for the first time, we allowed all three girls to free range with a small amount of money. DD3 eventually demonstrated why this was a bad idea by returning with a cheap and nasty bow and arrow, and DS was consumed with furious jealousy. He ended up with a cross bow and the kids spent a happy afternoon in the garden ‘hunting’ each other. The quality of the weapons was so bad that there was no danger whatsoever of them hitting, let alone injuring, each other but this blood lust escalated into more frequent requests for nerf guns than usual.
Because there is nothing so coveted by a child as something that has been deemed ‘forbidden’, is there? In the end, I gave in. They promised me they would not shoot each other, or the pets, and they understood that when the darts were gone, they were gone. I bought 4 of the cheapest guns available on Amazon and a pack of extra darts, and handed them over to the kids last Thursday, when the three youngest were off as their school was being used as a polling station.
I thought the guns would encourage the kids to come out walking the dogs with me, and had visions of them playing a lovely game of hiding behind trees in the woods and shooting at tree trunks etc. The weather was not great and up until that point they had spent too much time on screens.
Of course it didn’t work out like that.
Two things about nerf guns; the little darts travel quite a long way, very quickly and you need to keep your eye on them if you want to be able to retrieve them later. Secondly, they actually sting quite a bit when they hit you, especially from a couple of metres away. Despite their promises, the first thing each child did, when they had removed their gun from the packaging, was shoot each other. So 2 minutes after I had handed the guns out, I was surrounded by 3 sobbing children, all clutching various parts of their anatomy and wailing ‘ he/she shot me’. Yes, yes he/she did.
Lesson learned, shoes and coats on and off we went to nearby woods. DD2 lost her first dart in our front yard as the thrill of ownership overtook her and she fired a dart straight up in the air. Of course it landed on the roof and she was down to 2 darts for the rest of the outing. ( The guns only come with three each and I kept the extra darts at home).
A couple of darts ‘accidentally’ went off in the car, so all guns were collected and rode shotgun ( see what I did there?) until we got to our destination. And once out of the car DS discharged his weapon unwisely twice in quick succession; once over a wall where it was never seen again, and once into a huge patch of nettles where no one wanted to go and retrieve it. He was now down to only one dart and was very upset. Gun ownership sure is a learning curve!
I suggested everyone hold fire ( ha!) until we got to a clearing at the bottom of the hill we were on. Once there, they spent 10 minutes running around, shooting various targets and losing, finding and fighting over the ownership of darts. DS lost his final dart in a blackberry bush and there was a brief tantrum when he couldn’t persuade his sisters to hand over any of theirs, but soon they’d all had enough, and went off to make a den instead.
And that was pretty much it for the nerf guns in this house.
They had a brief resurgence in popularity when DD1 got home from school; she wanted to know if it was possible to fire the darts over the house and have them land in the back garden. It isn’t, so she lost all three of her darts this way. But we found that if you wait long enough , the wind blows them down into the front garden eventually.
Since then, the guns have hardly been touched. I have three lined up beside me, fully armed with replacement darts and ready for action. DD3 has hers in her room, beside her bed. And the best thing is that when the adverts come on TV, there is no more nagging or promises to put them on their birthday/ Christmas lists. Bliss.
In this house, the nerf phrase was short and sweet and the kids seem to be over them for now.
I, on the other hand, have enjoyed firing off a few rounds at Nigel Farage’s face every time it has appeared on the TV over the last few days. I like to think I am now a pretty good shot.