It was bound to be bad. The gun in the trunk. The toy gun I mean. That Star Wars-branded, two-foot-long bastard of a “blaster.” Unopened, it remained in its disintegrating Target bag since Christmas. It was a moral issue, a parenting issue, a marital issue…and just a hunk of molded plastic. But by leaving it there, I was not just tempting fate. I was baiting it.
I’d posted the question on Facebook: “Should Santa bring weapons? Specifically toy guns.” The conversation with friends and family was great. It ranged from “Boys will be boys, no big deal as long as you’re teaching him to be nice” to “No way, you’re teaching him the most violent weapon is okay” to my second cousin’s comment that her boys hunted, and had been taught from an early age about respect for the gun and for the animals. Of course here in Oakland, the closest we come to hunting is going to the Farmer’s Market and handing over a debit card in exchange for a humanely raised hunk of cow. I don’t have the option of teaching Ali to hunt. So what, then, with the toy gun?
Rafael-as-Santa bought it, he said, “so we could talk about it.” We did, and decided not to give it to Ali. I definitely had a moral objection to it, namely WHY? He’s not lacking for means of entertainment. Or toy weapons, for that matter. He could, and did, make guns out of blocks whenever he wanted. My objection was also selfish. “I don’t want the thing pointed at ME,” I said.”Not to mention the annoying noise. And why is there only one? I can’t even fight back!” Therein lay the second moral dilemma: if you have one toy gun, shouldn’t you really have two?
Lastly, the third morale issue: what to do with the damn thing? We lost the receipt. I thought of donating it to charity. And then I was thinking, in the worst example of class-ism yet: “So I’m going to arm the less fortunate?” Not only did I not feel good about any kid having it, maybe I fear an apocalypse, just a little bit. In which case I want MY kid to be comfortable with firearms. So f’ed up.
Of course, Ali found it. I was packing up both kids to take them, and myself, for a sleepover at Raf’s parents’. Rafael had been out of town for more than a week. Maybe it was my first foray into solo parenting for two? Anyway, I was exhausted. I’d been up all night and since 6:00am, juggling. Ali deconstructed my kinda-organized piles of crap as quickly as I was losing my mind. I was almost done packing the car when I heard a squeal. I saw Alejandro’s feet sticking out of the open trunk. My heart sank. Acute anger at my loving, gift-giving and absent husband spiked with a rush of adrenaline. Ali’s head emerged with a face-splitting grin.
“IS THIS FOR ME???” he shouted, brandishing the box.
“Yes.” I said with all of the enthusiasm of a cyborg. “It is.”
“WHO is it from?”
“Your daddy. It’s a surprise. Let’s go.”
“I can keep it???????” He is high with delight now. He’s pressing buttons. Pew! Pew! Pew! Tattatattatattattata. “Can you open it??”
“I’ll open it when we get to Gigi’s.” His cousin Jack will be there, and I am now anticipating listening to them fight over it for the next 20 hours. I send a bitchy text message to Raf, load the kids, and start driving.
I look up the address of a Target on the way. I think I have to stop to buy Jack a Star Wars blaster of his own. I am seething with the idea of walking into a Target with the two kids. I can almost smell it, and I hate it. And how, I angrily think, do I find myself buying a toy gun? Because there is only one? I’m so occupied with the internal debate that I miss the exit. I turn the car around to go back. Pew! Pew! Pew! I hear from the backseat.
“You can press that ONE more time, Ali.”
“Because Mommy’s going crazy.”
“Okay.” He’s not sleeping, of course, and I’d been counting on the drive to make him nap. I’m crying behind my sunglasses, and I realize I’m quite unstable. To my credit, I pull over. I get my shit together. I fake a call:
“Oh, so you don’t have a Star Wars blaster? Are you sure? Okay, well thank you!” I explain to Ali that he will have to share his gun with Jack. They will have to trade off shooting one another. And if I hear them arguing about it, I’m going to take it away.
Pew pew pew! “Okay, Mommy.” he sweetly replies. “I will share.”
I drive to Grandma’s. The boys share pretty well. Grandpa runs to Target and returns with new guns for both of them. They are happy. I go upstairs and lie down with Story while they run around like violent beasts in the backyard. I’ve given up. I must do that earlier, next time.
The blaster now sits in a broken laundry basket in our bedroom. Ali couldn’t care less about it.