10.04.2005

What Is a Pacifist Mother To Do?

What am I supposed to do when my sons are wearing feathers in their hair and hunting antelope in the living room with highly inaccurate bows and arrows they made out of K’nex(TM) and rubber bands?

My first instinct is to say, “That’s not what a bow looks like. Here, let me make you a better one.” But then I worry maybe I’m stifling their creativity.

My second thought is to say, “No shooting in the living room!” But I’m not actually opposed to hunting for food, any more than I’m opposed to farming. So that feels hypocritical.

My third idea is to tell them they have to say a prayer for the spirit of every animal they kill. But then I roll my eyes. I can just hear them now, “Can it be a pretend prayer since it’s just pretend killing?”

But really, what’s a pacifist mother to do?

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13 Comments:

Blogger Amanda said...

Demand that they dress and cook everything they kill? Do they have a toy kitchen?

*evil grin*

10/04/2005 4:30 PM  
Blogger Aj Schwanz said...

Man, that's a tough one. After much begging, my brother finally got his much desired Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle . . . but with the weapons removed, because somehow Mom thought that justified it. And yet that didn't stop him as an adult from purchasing and beating three out of the four most violent video games last year. :) If you get any good answers, send them my way: I'm not looking forward to that day.

10/05/2005 12:56 AM  
Anonymous Alice M. said...

Do you know anyone who is spiritually sound that you would be happy for them to take you and the kids stalking/bow hunting?

10/05/2005 2:35 AM  
Anonymous Chris M. said...

Distract them! Tell them to clean up the playroom! Put away the K'nex[TM], Legos[TM], Playmobil[TM], plastic animals, doll clothes, and plastic animals! Tell them to go read a book by Jane Yolen, prolific children's book author and Quaker! ;-)

10/05/2005 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer C. said...

Yeah, this is a REALLY tough decision. I've done the nude Ninja Turtle thing. The "Too Small Fairy" has come to take some of the toys I disapprove of. Some of them have been shunted off Grandma's house. I've ignored the stuff that goes on in the plastic gun-toting homes of school friends. I've pulled the hard-line, "It's my house, I don't like it, and you're not bringing that into my home."
Mostly though, I talk to Will about why I don't like it. Killing is a serious thing. I don't like to make it a game or something to pretend to do for fun. I think it is better to pretend to do things that are good to do, like play cooking or caring for stuffed animals. And then I let him choose what he wants to do. Sometimes I cringe (and turn a blind eye) at the inevitable toast square bitten into the shape of a gun, but other times...I get surprised. Like Will's recent explanation that it probably isn't okay to pretend to hurt people or animals, but it is okay to pretend to hurt invading robots from outer space, because those are not real.

10/05/2005 2:49 PM  
Blogger Paul L said...

Someone said the other day that the pacifist's calling is not to rid the world of war but to learn how to live with it.

How likely is it that the kids will make the leap from "my mom doesn't freak out when we play bows-and-arrows" to "it must be OK to invade other countries & take their stuff?" Not very, especially if mom shows that she knows the difference between make-believe and real life.

10/05/2005 5:13 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

I have a vague but broad memory of watching this sort of play go on with kids... and then my joining in as a hurt person or a hurt animal who needed and wanted help, hoping they would make a connection between their violence, the pain they caused, and the responsibility they bore as a result. But by joining in the play, I participate in the problem and in the solution. And I am doing it while spending quality time with them, too.

Other times I share my feelings (but I'm usually on the floor with the kids), to model the language that can be used when these kids get older and see others "doing" harm:

"I feel hurt and sad and angry when I see this sort of killing, real or pretend. I want to spend my time helping people instead. What do you each think; how do you feel...?"

Of course, I don't have kids of my own, so I don't know what I would do with "repeat offenders." I've heard it reported that if you want a moral or teaching or behavior to stick, it has to be consistently taught, modeled, and talked about at home, community, and school. Home and [Quaker] community is probably pretty easy; school, with all sorts of peers from all sorts of households, is tricky, though.

And I don't know what to do about The Media. sigh

But mostly, Robin, I would encourage you to continue to hold this question in worship and prayer, and let God speak to you about how to respond...

Blessings,
Liz, The Good Raised Up

10/06/2005 7:29 PM  
Anonymous Chris M. said...

Our solution about The Media is to exclude it from our home! We don't have a TV. We now have a computer with a DVD player. We have watched videos with the kids all of three times since January. The most recent time I got a Thomas the Tank Engine dvd from the library, and Son #2 got bored about 3/4 of the way through it and asked to turn it off and go play. It didn't help that he couldn't hear the dialogue because he was so busy asking, "What did he say? What's he doing? Choo choo! Look at Thomas! What did he say?"

10/07/2005 12:53 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I think I still like Amanda's suggestion best.

10/07/2005 1:38 AM  
Blogger Joe G. said...

I'm not a parent either, but I think I like Amanda's suggestion because it involves play, but consequences for what they do, too.

Depending on how old your kids are, having serious discussions about violence is always a good thing.

Kis need time to play and be rumbuctious (sp?), although I suppose diverting to less violet-oriented themes is an option.

I think we do have aggressive impulses (some of us more than others). What's the difference between imaginary play and say a game of soccer?

I suspect that if the overall tone of the family and larger community that the family "travels in" will have at least as much of an influence as the violence that can permeate our U.S. culture.

Am I over-thinking this? :)

10/08/2005 2:15 AM  
Anonymous Hannah Powers said...

My first thought was: wow, she's lucky, the Justice League hasn't landed at her house ;)....
You know, I've noticed the same discomfort in myself when my 6 yr old and 3 yr old are playing that sort of game (involving killing animals). But, I don't think it has to do with pacifism. I think it has to do with my disconnection from the real sources of our livelihood. We're trying to come a little closer: we buy our meat straight from the farm instead of at the grocery aisle. But I've never come even close to personally slaughtering my food-- I even tend to delegate clubbing the catfish to dh. And then there's the whole cutesy animals as people thing. I mean, we read _The Mouse and the Motorcycle_ just weeks before we ended up setting out mouse poison. That was *not* a fun conversation with my kids. (wry grin)

My own personal take on things (right now) is that it is more important to make sure that they are acting with kindness, respect, and love in their actual life than it is to direct their play. I do have one ultimatum: only pretend 'bad guys' are allowed. But I see it as more harmful to allow them to, say, exclude a child, or, get into a physical fight, than any amount of pretend swordplay in which all the actual people present are being treated in friendship....
And at the same time I personally have to be ever wary of the danger of bringing emotional violence to bear when a *game* pushes my buttons-- ah, the constant practice of self-discipline provided by our littluns-- amazing.

10/14/2005 2:15 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Beppe, there is an endless amount of thinking that goes into this. Welcome to the club.

Thanks Hannah, this really gets to the heart of my issues.

I'm not opposed to eating meat - I think we are animals too, and we all eat and are eaten. I realize I don't have any of the same qualms when they pretend endlessly to be fishing.

We have talked about the difference between killing ants when they are invading our home and killing ants that are out where they belong. I have used the analogy that mother tigers are fierce to protect their babies, and I am sometimes fierce to protect my family.

Taking responsibility for what we use, that is important to me. Being aware of where food comes from is important to me. We live in a big city, and my children's grandparents are not farmers the way mine were. I don't know "anyone who is spiritually sound that [I] would be happy for them to take [me] and the kids stalking/bow hunting" And while my children's schools have done an exceptional job of helping our city kids learn where apples and vegetables come from, they have shied away from where meat and leather come from. I think the closest my kids have come is helping a friend who does live in the country to collect chicken eggs from the nests.

"But I see it as more harmful to allow them to, say, exclude a child, or, get into a physical fight, than any amount of pretend swordplay in which all the actual people present are being treated in friendship...."

This speaks to me, and in a way it connects to my current questions about how we can enable and allow our children to feel powerful against the "bad guys" that even my sheltered children know exist. Am I engaged enough in what they are doing to offer them acceptable alternatives to killing that work in the moment, as part of the game? Or can I just keep the line at the difference between real life and make-believe?

One of our favorite parenting books, "Everyday Blessings" by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, talks of children as our Zen masters, providing koans enough for a lifetime.

10/14/2005 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see why it should effect the mother wether the children play bow and arrow as it is the children that are doing the "fighting" not you. Leave them to grow up and make there own decitions about it.

10/08/2007 7:45 AM  

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