Friday, 18 February 2011

Any Ideas, Internets?

Friday, 18 February 2011
Like any mother, I’m prodigiously proud of my kids. When they took their first steps, I just about lost my mind with excitement for them, for us: HE’S ON THE MOVE – WATCH OUT, NEWCASTLE! As they both made their way from the beginnings of language, from little nuggets of words, then sentences… and eventually reading? I’ve come to live for that familiar swelling of my heart, each time wondering if my chest cavity has sufficient capacity to contain my joy or is it just going to bust on outta there this time?

From a very early age, Ben demonstrated a fascination of all things mechanical. His collection of favourite machines started with fans – ceiling fans, pedestal fans, windmills – strange, but true. Then he moved onto gardening – lawn mowers, trimmers, edgers – he can retain information and statistics about anything mechanical; easily able to develop an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of engine sizes, rotations per minute, and could hold his own in any electric vs. petrol debate. We uncovered a world of ‘gardening equipment review’ videos on YouTube and Ben would happily sit and watch them after school. We even helped him make his own.

But lately, Ben’s penchant for mechanics has taken a turn that – I have to say – I’m not altogether comfortable with. He likes tanks. Yes, you read that right: tanks. A machine built for fighting. War. Guns. Armour. Missles. Explosions. Soldiers. Yowza.

Now, Jason and I are just about as non-violent as you can get. We have taken great pains to impress upon our kids that above all else, it is important to be kind. Jason is so inherently pacifist that he won’t even kill bugs. We don’t allow toy guns in our home, and I don’t even let Ben watch some cartoons – you know, the blowing up and blasting aliens Ben10 type of thing. So the fact that my 6-year old comes home with paintings of armoured killing machines from school? Doesn’t make me very happy.

I’m so conflicted: do I try and steer his preferences elsewhere; discourage this interest in these nasty big fat killing machines that make my skin crawl? Is it wrong to suppress this thirst for knowledge, just because I am uneasy about the subject matter? He wants to know about the World Wars, and even likes watching documentaries about it. But of course he’s too little to understand it completely – I ask him why he likes tanks and the war, etc. and he says, “I really like the parts where there are tracks instead of wheels.” He overhears someone talking about World War II and he’ll say, “Ah! World War II is my FAVOURITE war!” Don’t get me wrong; I like that he seems to be sucking up historical facts like a sponge – I guess the context will come later as he gets older – and it is kind of nice that he is interested, say, in the roles his great-great-grandfathers played in active service during the war… but on the other hand? [INSERT HEAVY SIGH HERE]

It’s his favourite item for discussion: he wants to tell me about how the turret on so-and-so tank is different from so-and-so tank, and how this German one was better than that Russian one… and I’ll admit, I’m quickly growing weary of the subject and often change it when it’s clear he’s got it on the conversation agenda. Is that awful? I’ve tried to explain to him about wars and guns and killing and the rest of it, but he’s just too fascinated with the actual vehicle that it just doesn’t sink in. And I’m glad, in a way, because I’d hate to live in a world where a 6-year-old actually had to comprehend those kinds of atrocities… ah, I just don’t know what to do. Any ideas, Internets?

6 people had something to say about this...:

Tanya said...

I'd my very green/ inexperienced/newer-at-kids-than-you/wisdom..he's liking tanks for all the right reasons. If there is such a thing. He's not a violent kid ~ but SO inquisitive and intrigued by the "how-it-works" not the "what-they're-used-for".
As with all things in this crazy kid experience...It's probably "just a phase".
You're a fantastic momma and you have a fantastic kid.
I let my kid watch too much TV...THE END

Maggie said...

Oh dear. It's a boy thing I'm afraid. My sister was similarly minded and she found her son using his sister's Barbie doll as a gun. She despaired and eventually he got a new interest. I suppose tanks are's just what they are used for that is a problem. Maybe he just needs a new interest. Helicopters are cool. Spaceships? And it's all completely normal...just wait until he discovers girls!


Anonymous said...

It seems his fascination is with the tank as an enigineering machine and not the devastation and destruction they can cause. History can show how we adapt our mistakes to shape our future. Its obvious you are a compasionate and loving parents that will set your kids on the right path.

Lynn said...

Yeah, I got nothing for you. Our kid spends half his time constructing guns/knives/light sabers out of lego so he can make wars/battles/sumo wrestling matches. We go back and forth constantly between "it's a normal boy thing" and "he will grow up to be a psychopath."

I guess time will tell.

In the meantime we try not to get too upset about it. It definitely sounds like you are setting a good example for Ben and talking to him about all the right things. It's going to be okay!

Mammy P said...

Thanks everyone, for your encouraging words... it's a big deal this shaping-another-human business! I sometimes feel wanting in qualifications!

Lis said...

Okay, completely agree with all of the above. My two cents:
We as parents are here to guide, to share our knowledge, pass on our genetics and hope that our children take up our causes. But the reality in all of that is they may not want anything to do with any of it. NOW that is not to say that a 6 year old fascination with tanks is the way that Ben is gaining his autonomy from his parents ideals, it just may be one of the many things that he will like that you will not. IN that guiding role you are absolutely responsible for sharing knowledge that you have on war, violence, destruction. You can even help shape his mindset on tanks (like someone said above) by focusing his understanding of tanks on the mechanics rather than the purpose. BUT the reality is that Ben will have his own ideas on why he likes tanks/cartoons/girls and as his parents you get to tell him that he is awesome and you love him because of who he is becoming! You my friend are anything but unqualified. You have a little boy who sounds brilliant and you must have had something to do with it.