October 3, 2012

Owen, Nature, Nurture, and Forever

Owen is so typically boy.

Owen has expressed an interest in all things boy. As luck would have it, many of these things are frowned upon in our house. Owen loves guns, swords, knives, bows and arrows. We’ve told him that guns are off the table until he’s 18. After which he told us that when we die he’s going to live in our house and make weapons. I’m well aware of the fact that this sounds vaguely psychopathic but if you know Owen, you know it totally isn’t. In the absence of firearms, he’s trained his sights (so to speak) on archery. Channeling his inner Katniss, Owen wants a bow and arrow to help him shoot meat. Truth be told, he’d probably be happier hunting chickens with a fully functional lightsaber.

Before I met Owen, I was never entirely sure where I came down on the whole nature/nurture thing. I’ve been forced to give nature a bit more credit than I might have previously. But none of this worries me at all. First, because it’s natural and, second, because Owen is the most empathetic, kind child I’ve ever met. Death helped me see this.

When my uncle Dick died, we saw just how empathetic and sensitive Owen was. Driving away from Arlington Cemetery, confronted by the idea of death in a very real, tangible way for the first time, Owen fell apart. The sudden realization that he and everyone around him was mortal hit him and he crumbled. It was hard to watch. He got over it and remains far from obsessed with death but he does revisit the topic occasionally.

So I wasn’t at all surprised when I was tucking Owen into bed the other night and, instead of a mere goodnight, Owen told me:

Daddy, I love you so much. When we both get old I want to die in a box together so we can always be with each other.

There are times when this boy drives me crazy. And other times I go out of my mind with love for this kind little boy trying to figure out the world.

Posted by Chris at October 3, 2012 7:41 AM

My son is the same way regarding weapons, as long as they are just ideas or toys. He's actually somewhat terrified of the real things, which pleases me to no end. He is fascinated by all things military and he has a passion for history (especially military history) that seems out of place at times on an 8 year old. He draws battle scenes all the time and a camp counselor drew me aside over the summer because she was concerned. I scoffed at her (not really) and told her it was nothing to worry about because Elliot a sweet, nonviolent kid. Sigh, it sucks having to explain things that seem hard-wired in some boys (and girls too, I'm sure!).

Posted by: Elizabeth at October 3, 2012 9:20 AM

A cautionary tale about parents and gun control:

My mother in law was and remains a committed pacifist. She was determined that her children would NEVER play with guns. Whenever someone gave her son a GI Joe or some other toy for Christmas that had a gun with it, she made him toss the gun in the trash, accompanied with a lecture about how guns are evil and kill people. That boy never had a gun ever. She had her dream, gun-free household.

About nine years ago I helped my brother-in-law move, and part of that was helping him move his gun safe. The count? He had THIRTY-THREE rifles. Complete with perfectly plausible reasonable explanations for each one -- this is my bird gun, this is my elk rifle, this is my new shotgun, this is my wife's shotgun, my old black powder rifles, I got a good deal on this gun so I couldn't pass it up, etc, etc etc.

Posted by: Aaron at October 3, 2012 11:02 AM

What a sweet moment. I'm gonna go tell my wife right now that I want to die in a box together. We'll see how she takes it.

But I hope my toddler lives long after we die in the box, heartwarming as the sentiment is.

Posted by: neal at October 3, 2012 1:20 PM

Geez. I think I got something in my eye.

My boy is very much the same way. He wants to be close to me and he tells me he loves me every night. As a result of his boyish ways, I've learned to let go of so much more, and as a result I have a little daredevil. Yeah, he falls down and gets hurt but that's part of life too.

Posted by: Brad at October 3, 2012 2:49 PM

What a touching post about a sweet boy. After watching "We Need to Talk About Kevin," the idea of archery as a hobby freaks me out!

Posted by: Beth at October 3, 2012 3:17 PM

makes my little heart ache! what a sweet boy. and sounds like he and muller fall on the same side of the nature/nurture debate. my ultrafeminist old neighbor who used to tell me that there is only .0000001% genetic differences between boys and girls can, ahem, suck it ;)

Posted by: kati at October 3, 2012 4:51 PM

Awww. Sniff. Sniff. Makes my cynical little heart a little warm. (Actually - I'm a total mush-heart over kids. It's just this election season that is killing me.)

Posted by: Mindy at October 3, 2012 6:21 PM

Just too sweet...

Posted by: Theresa at October 3, 2012 6:50 PM

Meh, I wanted to shoot guns and made sticks swords. If it's nature/nurture, it might not be dependent on gender, but other genetic factors.

Had SO much fun playing Star Wars and battling with the kids, after all. ;)

Posted by: alektra at October 4, 2012 4:18 PM

And JUST saw this: http://imgur.com/iO2jz

Posted by: alektra at October 4, 2012 4:19 PM

I was the same way about guns for as long as I could be. I didn't even like water guns. So he made guns out of paper and bazookas out of toilet paper tubes and pistols out of Legos and used his fingers and made "pew, pew" noises everywhere and all the time. Finally we gave in and got him the Nerf gun he was begging for. Then one day we went to see my dad and he brought out his original Red Rider. It was strangely heartwarming to see the sober expression on my son's face listening to Papa explain gun safety. They now shoot the B.B. gun together regularly. Nobody's shot their eye out yet. I still don't love it, but the boy is obsessed with the things and he made a way to play with them out of nothing. He had a Nerf war for his 9th birthday. It was amazing to watch those boys. It still scares me, but we had to find a happy medium. At least I'm confident he's knowledgable and safe. And if he isn't, he knows the consequences.

Posted by: Amanda L at October 4, 2012 10:17 PM

My nephew was not allowed to have guns. As early as two, he would bite his toast into the shape of a gun and shoot people at the breakfast table.

Posted by: Leilani at October 5, 2012 12:46 PM