This morning, I took the gradlings to McDonald's. Don't judge: I needed some place for them to play, and they have good playscapes. There were a few other kids, and mine were (miraculously) making good choices. One of them was a pretty tall older kid who came in with (I'm guessing) his mom and grandmother. They were Sypeing with someone (this doesn't really impact the story). I'm keeping an eye on everything and I see this kid go into the play area with A TOY SHOTGUN. He proceeds to walk around in it, pretending to shoot. Oh, and did I mention that this shotgun didn't have one of those orange caps: Anyone who looked at it would be able to tell it was a toy, but still: a fairly realistic shotgun. I was uneasy from the get go, but not quite ready to speak up. So when he came out, I think that was the first time his supervisors noticed what he was playing with. At this point, I found my spine and said that I would really rather he didn't play with the shotgun. Another parent said she didn't mind, and I spoke up again to say that I was not okay with it. I got the impression that they were going to ask him to put the shotgun away in any case, but me asking them to seemed to piss them off. The mom took the gun back out to the truck, and they spent several minutes TALKING ABOUT ME IN A LOUD VOICE without directing any comments at the person who they were talking about. I heard the words "free country" at one point.
If they had opened a dialogue with me, I would point out that
a) while this is a free country, this is a private play area.
b) this is a shared space, and it's important that you are respectful of those sharing the space.
c) my 3yo imitates everything he sees, and the 18mo imitates everything his brother does. This is not behavior I want modeled in front of my kids.
d) on the sign, it says clearly not to bring toys onto the playscape (I didn't want to resort to that one, since it sounds real rules-lawyer-ly and my own kids were in violation of the rule that said to take their shoes off)
of course, what I really wanted to say is
f) it is fucking irresponsible parenting to let a kid walk around with anything that looks that much like a real gun, particularly not around kids, in an environment where school shootings have become media wallpaper, and in a gun-happy state like Texas. Someone might get the wrong idea and play big damn hero one of these days.
I am not anti-toy gun. I played with toy guns as a kid (including those Duck-Hunt guns. Remember Duck-Hunt?). I play with toy guns now (sanded, painted in metallic colors, and dressed up with various jiggery-pokery). You want your kid to play with a toy shotgun? Go for it: on your own property, or on the property of someone who doesn't mind the liability of what could happen in a worst case scenario. I've been second-guessing myself about speaking up because I'm me (or am I? It's so hard to be sure. Maybe I should take a second guess?) but I feel like I did the Good Parent thing to do and spoke up in a situation in which I felt uncomfortable for my kids.