I am a father of three and have one on the way. My oldest is now almost 20 years old. One thing I have learned over the years as a father is not to underestimate children and young adults.
I am pretty blunt and a straightforward guy, if anyone gets anything from what I share it is this….if you love your children then do not shelter them, prepare them!
Let’s tackle the big one first, children and gun’s. When my oldest was around four years of age he had a rare opportunity for someone so young, he got to see first-hand what guns do. We were elk hunting and a friend of the family had the good fortune to take a bull elk very close to the cabin. We had just sent our friend on his way after breakfast and not even four minutes out the door we heard the shot. We came right away to see if help was needed and arrived at the downed bull just as our friend did. We got to watch as this magnificent animal drew its last few breaths of life. At this point in his life my son had seen guns being fired and he had also seen the animals we harvested and had even seen us butcher them, but at this moment you could see the understanding click behind this child’s eyes, even at age four he got the connection between guns and what they could do. I knew right there and then I would never have issues with him being safe with guns.
Eight years later a couple of friends and I were asked to take a large group of “Gun Virgins” to a rock quarry and give them an introduction to guns and let them try to do some shooting. It was interesting to see the reaction to some in the group when I arrived at the quarry with my twelve year old son. I learned something that day and so did they. See even though these people had an interest in shooting guns they had still been brainwashed by pop culture and lack of education from their own parents about guns. They were taught that guns were evil and wanting to shoot them was practically a sin that they as adults had a right to partake in even though it is basically wrong, like pornography, alcohol, or adultery. Not all them thought this way but it was disturbing learn that some did. To them shooting a gun was something they would like to experience but never would involve a “child” because a child automatically did not know as much as an adult and could not possibly know all the evils of guns as they did as an adult. I was beside myself at the thought and was reminded of the experience of the Elk and I decided right then and there who was going to conduct the review of basics in gun safety for the group of 20 plus people before they got to shoot! My two friends that knew my son and myself thought that this was a great idea, but there was much grumbling from the group of the idea of being taught by a twelve year old. I pointed out that I trusted my son more than any adult I knew on this earth, because I knew what he was taught and what he wasn’t first hand. There is no room for pride in gun safety, even if the president of the NRA himself was there that day and he did something wrong I would call him on it and so would my son (of course we would do so respectfully). By the time my son was done and they were given the okay to shoot they were starting to understand also. To my son guns were not evil and wanting to shoot them was just plain fun, nothing to feel guilty about. He also demonstrated that he knew they could be dangerous and that he was taught how to properly handle them and he was teaching them.
I could go on about how guns are not evil but that would digress my own point which is that they are not unlike any other tool, they have a use and a function, and the biggest factor in safety of any tool is knowledge of how the tool works and should be properly used. Your kids probably know more than you do about how to use your computer or DVD player, and most likely no one showed them how to use these things. They can figure out how to load and use a gun on their own, you can’t rely on keeping children safe from the dangers of guns by keeping them away from guns, they need to learn and you need to be involved in that learning so you know what they know. Heaven forbid that my life or the life of my wife would someday depend on our children knowing how to properly use a gun, but if that they day ever comes we are as prepared as we can be.
I met an elderly man one day that told me that in Physical Education when he was a young school boy they could sign up for a segment to learn things like knife safety. As a father the thought made me smile as I had just learned from my youngest son that it was mandatory that he learn dancing in PE, could you imagine if I went to the school board and asked them to replace dancing with knife safety! The same thought also saddened me, to think that our society has gotten to the point that knife safety would never ever be considered for topic related to our schools again. Let the children learn how to put a condom on but heaven forbid they learn how to properly handle the most basic of tools in human history. Look on any emergency preparedness list and you will most likely find a knife near the top of the list. It is the most basics of tools and yes it can be dangerous if handled improperly so why not start learning to use one when you are young. Earlier I stated that knowledge is safety but so is experience. I have been carrying a pocket knife for as long as I can remember. My knife gets used almost every day, and yes even the most experienced knife user may cut themselves every once in a while, but the fact that I have never seriously cut myself as an adult I attribute to the fact that as a child I was taught to properly handle a knife and was allowed to carry and use one every day.
During the summer months my children usually carry their knives. But during the school year since they cannot carry even a little gentlemen’s blade in their pocket during school without fear of being expelled they end up forgetting it even on the weekends when not in school. This gets explained to me often by my children as I always ask where their knife is when they ask to borrow mine. This bothers me because being prepared means more than knowing how to use your tools but having them available when you need them. This is one of the reasons I keep asking “where is your knife?” even though I know and understand the answer, so maybe they will remember to keep it with them when not at school. As a side note my fourteen year old daughter seems to remember more often than the boys to carry her knife, I think this is because she likes to shock people when there is a rope or something to be cut and she is the one that produces the right tool for the job!
I believe that our society is doing a disservice to our up and coming generations, by teaching them that they do not have to think for themselves and that if they just follow simple rules like do not touch knives and do not touch guns they will be magically be safe. We are also creating an environment where parents are afraid to teach their children certain things. I was sitting at the table with my father and my four year old grand niece, my father had a package that he needed to be cut open, and he handed it to me and asked me to open it. When I took out my knife to do so, my grand niece looked like she was going to have a heart attack. She looks at my father and states “your kid has a knife” as she pointed at me accusingly. You never have seen the old man so confused. It was really cute the way she referred to her Great Uncle as “your kid” but really disturbing that she was already brainwashed into believing that knives are evil weapons. She is a smart four year old, so I asked her what else was I supposed to use to open the package. I got two rounds of the answer “knives are naughty and bad” before she gave it some thought. She finally got the message that they are not naughty and they are not bad but can be dangerous and therefore she is not to touch one until her parents are ready to teach her how to properly use it. Both her parents are hard working ranchers and use knives every day. The answer of “knives are naughty and bad” came from her less than one year experience at pre-school. I thought about this the other day at my work when a similar situation came up when a Design Engineer asked me if I had something to open up a blister package with. I pulled out my pocket knife and handed it to him. Should have seen the look on his face it scared him to death. Now here is a grown man who you know has had to have used knives in the kitchen before but was scared to death of the one I pulled from my pocket. All because he probably was never taught how to properly use one and was probably brainwashed as a child that “knives are naughty and bad”.
I am not advocating that it is blindly okay to go give your children knives or let them shoot guns. Just like I do not think there is something magical about the age eighteen or twenty-one that all of a sudden enables a person to know how to handle guns or knives I also do not think there is a certain age to start children. You are their parents if you work with them (and that is the key, to work with them) you will find out how much responsibility they can handle and understanding they can absorb. I think you will learn if you challenge them they will surprise you, my four year old grand niece understood the why knives are dangerous when I explained it to her but not all four year olds would. But she is safer now because someone took the time to explain it to her. She will grow up better able to handle a knife than that Design Engineer. One of the things I have learned as a father is that all children are different. My oldest son started shooting when he was five, my youngest when he was eleven. It wasn’t that one was more mature than the other at five it was that he was mature in different ways. Kids respond to being given responsibility, the key is to challenge them but only put on them what they can handle. I have only written of Guns and Knives so far but I testify that letting my children learn responsibility in areas that society has deemed adult only has had many positive side effects. In many ways my children are better suited than many adults I know to tackle what life throws at them, and it is not just father’s pride that makes me say that. I have had many experiences where my children were willing and able to tackle learning new things that seem to intimidate many adults.
When the world comes crashing down, I would rather rely on my own children than most adults that I know. And they are still very happy and well adjusted children none the less! This is because I love them and therefore have prepared them by teaching them all that I know.