Art Attack

I know it's what kids do, turn their toys, or their toast, into things.  At breakfast this morning Tolliver's waffle looked like it had teeth along one edge so it became a dinosaur.  They have such a way of seeing things, kids do, and such a way of helping me see things too.  
One son attaches a "lost toy locater" to his ankle while the other slides around with cardboard ice skates taped to his feet.  Paper towel tubes are mashed together and strung along so that ping pong balls can be pushed through them and caught in a basket.  Legos are arranged into shapes that shoot fire or that drop bombs and destroy cities. Targets are created with heavy stock paper and hung using eighteen rolls of washi tape.

I feel at once annoyed with the waste of perfectly good art supplies, and impressed with their ingenuity.  And also exasperated with their weapon focus.  Tree limbs become pistols, rolled up newspapers are swords.  They do not play cowboys and indians or cops and robbers, but they do go to war with each other with little more than popsicle sticks.

The boys engage in heavy battle and I duck and dodge and do not attempt to prohibit the way they pretend.  I watch them swing cheap plastic ninja swords at each other and I try to keep my disapproval, if that's what it is, somewhere across the room.  I don't ask them to stop.  There are legions of words behind that solitary syllable, and I'm not sure how to line them up.  And I'm not sure it's what I want for them, anyway.

They have slingshots and trebuchets, little wooden popguns and brightly colored foam dart shooters.  They know they are not allowed to point things at faces or at people who are not playing.  They only shoot bad guys anyway, they tell me.  There seems to be something about this age that needs the certainty of a binary world.  Everyone from Disney to heads of state tends to divide the world into "good guys" and "bad guys," so it's hard to expect more sophisticated reasoning from my preschooler.  But even bad guys have mothers who love them, I say, mothers who would be very, very sad if their child were killed.  I don't say much more than that though, because I struggle to find a way to say something hard and make it come out soft, because I'm not sure how deeply our discussions will penetrate at this point.

I hope that someday we can have a When might it be okay to kill? conversation, that we can ponder personhood and science and faith and figure things out together.  I know my boys are mild-mannered and empathetic, tolerant and gentle.  And I believe they are simply exploring power and exerting some control over the world, that nothing more than curiosity and vulnerability lie beneath all their bang-bang bravado.


Poppy John said...

Jenni Baby,
Do not worry!
As a kid, I also played cowboys and native Americans...and look how "normal" I turned out!


P.S. And to this day, no Indian tribes are located anywhere near where I live...just sayin'.

Sara said...

I taught Colin how to make a chain of rubber bands. When he visits we have a maze to duck undergo thru the house. It reaches two floors!