As a parent, I sometimes read other parents’ blog posts. I’m comforted by those posts when you have a parent who supports their child in whatever they choose to do and whoever they choose to be. I’m thinking of the dad who put on a dress to support his son wearing dresses. Or the mom who supports her young daughter who already knows she’s gay. I mean, these stories are INSPIRING. And to me, easy. If my kids come out or if they want to be artists or designers, philanthropists, missionaries, business execs, whatever, I’m on board. I’ll carry a flag. Or so I thought.
It reminds me of a woman I was a friend with once. She told me that she was ready to support her son in anything he chose. They’d sign him up for summer classes, they’d take him to institutes, whatever. She’d encourage and promote whatever he was interested in. Her test came when it was clear her son wasn’t interested in ANYTHING. Totally apathetic. He didn’t want to go to college. Didn’t want a job. Didn’t want to date. Just wanted to be home. How do you support THAT?
That’s the sort of thing I’m dealing with with my 8 year old. I could support anything, but how do I support and encourage his fascination with guns? Should I? This goes beyond the whole “he’s a boy and likes gun” stereotype. I mean, my 8 year old is OBSESSED with guns. He wants to be a policeman. He’s got a plan: first he’ll join the army, then he’ll become a police officer. He lifts hand weights while watching war documentaries. He plays army men and puts them into tactical formations. He’s started a folder where he draws guns, notes down their names and abilities. Last night he was working on a description of anthrax: what it does, how it affects people, and how to destroy it. (Apparently you heat it to 10,000 degrees.)
So. My dilemma. His interest in guns and war is the only thing that is getting him reading and writing and studying. But do I encourage this? I tried to get him to watch and be interested in kid shows, but put on the Wiggles and it’s like throwing acid on him. (I sorta get that.)
Instead I’m trying to teach Franz that the important thing about police and the army is that they PROTECT people. And I don’t want to go into the details with him about war, and death, and destruction. I try to support him and his interests and also humanize it.
But inside I want to say “Hell no! You are not playing with toy guns, or war scenarios! You are NOT going into the army. You are going to get an education and become a pharmacist. Or a fashionista. Whatever you want. Just not THAT!” And I refrain from telling him about all the school shooting tragedy, but as a parent, I worry about it. What if his fascination with violence is because he’s angry? What if he…
I can’t even finish that thought. The trouble sometimes with being a neurotic writer, is that your mind goes places you don’t want it to. I mean, what if these are BEHAVIORAL SIGNS? But what if they’re not? What if Franz will lose interest? What if this is totally normal? How do you know what normal IS?
I guess supporting your kid is a little harder than I thought. Why, why, why couldn’t Franz want to wear dresses?