During the summer before I went to kindergarten, part of my daily routine involved meeting my best friend Phoebe Azar in John Sain’s front yard. This being South Carolina in the sunshine, I wore nothing but shorts, usually a pair of Toughskins that mom had cut off just above the knees.
Phoebe was a year older, a year more sophisticated, and the only girl I knew. She always greeted me, “Hey Tarzan,” which I took as a high compliment.
We would then round up the other kids we could find, which might include our younger brothers or the Beale boys, then set about playing army. As I mentioned in the post from a few days ago, “Playing Guns," I spent a lot of my childhood playing army, but this was my first foray into the world of guns and it was unlike any other that followed.
Phoebe took the role of “general.” She would line us up according to seniority (which meant I was first in the line) then march us around the neighborhood with our stick rifles on our shoulder. “Hut two three four, Hut two three four . . .”
We carried guns every day for months, but I don’t remember ever once firing them. That was the game of army with a girl in charge. The Azar family moved away before the following summer, I got to know some of the older boys, and from then on it was a blood bath in which death lasted until the count of 10.
I have no memory of adults being a part of any of this other than the time Mrs. Sain scolded us from her bedroom window for peeing in her rose bed. (Yes, Phoebe just "stood guard.")
I completely support any parent or teacher who wants to ban violent dramatic play, just as I support anyone who allows it. What I don’t support are adults who encourage it, especially in an educational setting. That’s not just giving children the chance to explore the real and imaginary violence they see around them, that’s actively teaching children how to be violent.
That’s why I was shocked when I read former Crown Hill Co-op parent Katy’s post that was accompanied by this photo of an officially sanctioned art project from a summer camp her 5-year-old attended in Luxembourg:
In the comments, Katy wrote:
It was an eerie feeling to see all the colored guns lined up in the cubbies ready to be taken home.
It’s an eerie feeling just thinking about it.