Gay Dad Life

Putting an End to My Son's Obsession With Toy Weapons

The One Thing Max Won't Find Under the Hanukkah Bush This Year


Like a Donald Trump tweet, what I am about to say is probably going to piss off a lot of people. But if the recent election results have taught me one thing, it’s to own your feelings. Have a point of view. And always keep fighting for what you believe in.

That said, I hate guns.

I hate that bullets kill so many innocent people every single day in America. I hate that money and greed is why so many people that shouldn’t have guns, do. And I hate that people are more worried about their Second Amendment rights than they are about the fact that children are dying. (You can call me a tree-hugging, bleeding-heart liberal because when it comes to keeping our kids safe — and alive — I give zero f*cks about the government having more control over our lives.) But this article isn’t about that. It’s about a father who doesn’t know how to stop his son from obsessing over guns.

Spoiler alert. I’m talking about me.

My son Max started gravitating towards military toys, particularly guns, around the age of 4. He’s 6 now. And in the past two years, his interest in weapons has intensified significantly. At first, my husband, Alex, and I had a strict no-toy-gun policy. We didn’t allow any toy guns in the house, not even water pistols. But it seemed like the more we fought against it, the more his interest and curiosity grew.

Friends of ours tell us that violent toys won’t do him any harm. “It’s what boys do,” they say. They suggest, “Guns aren’t the problem, people are.” But I don’t get that logic. Folks would have a much harder time killing people without guns. Sure, it’s possible. But no other means is as quick and deliberate. (There’s a reason the armed forces use them.)

Personally, I’m a bit baffled by parents who consciously buy their sons toy rifles and machine guns. Just because kids want or ask for certain things doesn’t mean we as parents have to acquiesce. Isn’t it our job to teach them right from wrong? Isn’t it our job to make decisions in their best interest — decisions that they’re too immature to make on their own? If your child asks you for a 10-pound bag of Skittles, you’d most likely say no, right? Why doesn’t the same go for guns? Candy just rots your teeth. Guns rot your soul.

Yet, guns are inescapable.

When I’m at CVS with Max, he, like most kids, goes straight to the toy section. Right there, between Play-Doh and Transformers are guns. Several different types. Guns with toy bullets, no less. Why? Because American parents keep buying them.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not judging parents who let their kids play with toys. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. And it doesn't mean your child is destined for a life of crime. I just find it disappointing. Especially when my kid comes over for a playdate and your son introduces him to his excessive toy gun collection. All it takes is one boy who’s very into guns to influence an entire group of boys. And this is nothing new. Kids have always played with toy guns. But the world is different now. Today there are social media and 24-hour news. What we were once shielded from is now in our face every time we glance at our phones.

Children are dying from guns. Every. Single. Day.

Just as I’m writing this article I received a notification on my phone that said a Florida man fired a gun at a woman because “she was typing too loudly.” And I read headlines like this on a daily basis. Then there’s the other issue. One that puts into the question the safety of our children. A young child in California was recently killed by a police officer after mistakenly identifying the pellet gun he was carrying as an AK-47.

The list of incidents in which police have shot kids who turned out to be wielding toys is happening so often that California has put into effect a new law that requires all toy guns to be manufactured in bright colors to instantly read “IT’S A TOY. DON’T SHOOT.” Has it come to this? Really? How about instead we simply stop making, selling and marketing them?

Toy guns seem to be a no-win situation. So when will enough be enough?

In order to truly understand both sides of the argument, I talked to other parents. Lots of them, in fact. Some who encourage gun play and others who forbid it. I learned a lot. And I entered into a fascinating debate as to whether imaginative play and allowing children to play with toy guns in a play setting encourages violence or allows children to role play and develop important skills.

ARGUMENT #1: Toy guns are part of being a kid. Moreover, part of being a little boy. It’s important to encourage dramatic play as it plays a crucial role in a child’s development.

MY REACTION: Can’t little boys imagine Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers with bows-and-arrows and handcuffs? Is the gun part necessary?

* * *

ARGUMENT #2: Many child experts agree that forbidding gun play only gives pretend guns more power.

MY REACTION: I think it’s less about “power” and more about clarifying the values for you and your family. Think about how you can promote a more peaceful culture at home rather than allowing “Bang Bang” to be the only thing that empowers your child.

* * *

ARGUMENT #3: Toy gun play isn’t about violence as much as it is about symbols. Toy weapons symbolize power, leadership, authority, strength and control.

MY REACTION: Bullshit, party of one. We need to teach our kids what to do when they’re angry and how to stand up for themselves and others and speak up when they don’t like something. We should be teaching them how to set limits for themselves and others. And we need to show them how to recover from rejection. (I’m still learning this one.) But most importantly, we must teach them how to resolve conflict and express their emotions in appropriate ways. These are the life skills and symbols that matter most — and none of them can be learned from a toy gun.

* * *

ARGUMENT #4: If we outlaw toy guns, every other object — from cheese sticks to pencils to paper towel rolls — will become guns. And just because parents don't buy their children toy guns doesn't mean they won't play with them. It can be a losing battle.

MY REACTION: I don’t believe in the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. There are so many things in life that we, as parents, can’t control. What we permit our children to do and not do in our homes is the one thing we do have control over. Finger and cheese-stick-shaped guns, in my opinion, carry less of a negative connotation that a toy gun. And it sets a precedent. It draws a very clear boundary. In reading up on the topic I found zero data to indicate that a child who plays with toy guns will grow up to be violent. But that’s not my fear. My fear is that my son grows up not understanding how dangerous guns are and how precious life is. My fear is that he becomes desensitized to violence. My fear is that he enjoys the pretend act of taking a life away. I know, it’s my job to teach him the dangers. It’s my job to teach him to respect the lives of others. But that’s hard for a child his age to comprehend.

* * *

While I clearly see where both sides are coming from, my mind has not changed.

I really wish this wasn’t a conversation we have to have. But it is. And we should have it. At the end of the day, I am well aware that toy guns aren’t the same as real guns. But the way I see it — they both kill people, even if it’s only in our imagination. And I’m not OK with that. Not on my watch.

And that’s why — despite Max’s long wish list of violent toys — Santa will be checking his list twice to find out which toys are naughty or nice before visiting our chimney.

Show Comments ()
Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Need a Sitter for Your Kids? Gays With Kids Reviews UrbanSitter

Back-to-school is already here for some of us, and if you're looking for a sitter to help out with school runs, after-school pick-ups, and the occasional date night, check out our review of UrbanSitter.

Instagram @davidcblacker

We moved from New York to Boston the summer of 2017. Along with the Manhattan skyline, our beloved Broadway, and late-night cookie deliveries, we also left behind our sitters — two sisters who had become more like family.

After settling for several months into our new home and neighborhood, we realized we hadn't had a dads' night out since our move. Our kids were still too young to leave alone at night, so I began what I presumed would be the tedious task of finding a sitter.

The first thing I did was to leave a post on our local parents' Facebook group. The dad of one of our daughters' classmates told me about UrbanSitter, a website and mobile app that he'd had success using to find last-minute sitters a few times. He also mentioned that within the app, I could see see babysitters and nannies recommended by parents at our kids' school in addition to local parenting groups.

While I appreciated the tip, I let him know that I was really hoping for a direct referral. But when none others came from the — other than a couple of middle schoolers looking for their first sitting jobs — I decided to give it a try.

Keep reading... Show less

Move over Modern Family, there are some new gay dads taking over the small screen! Big Bad Boo Studios is bringing their animated series The Bravest Knight to Hulu. The series is based upon a children's book called "The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived" by Daniel Errico, and it follows the life of Sir Cedric - now grown and married to Prince Andrew - as he regales their adopted daughter Nia with tales of his knighthood journey as she trains to become a knight herself.

"We are so excited about The Bravest Knight, its values and our partnership with Hulu," said Shabnam Rezaei, the director of the series and co-founder of Big Bad Boo Studios. "They understand how to push the envelope with authentic storytelling."

"I immediately fell in love with the idea of a girl wanting to work hard and make something of herself," Rezaei continued. "I also have a nephew who has two dads, so it's a very personal issue for me. I want him to have role models when he's watching TV. I want him to feel like having two dads is completely normal. That's what this show is going to do for him."

Errico's book was first realized as an animation when Hulu created a short film based upon his writing and were interested in exploring the concept of a full series. "I watched the eight minutes on Hulu and at the end the prince and the knight get married and I was in tears," says Rezaei. Rezaei then stepped in to create all new art work including new character design by Tim Linklater and backgrounds by Sarita Kolhatra. Together, they created a kickass bible and pitched the series to Hulu and were successful.

Diversity and inclusivity is celebrated throughout The Bravest Knight, reflected by its casting choices. Nia is played by Storm Reid, from "A Wrinkle in Time," and her dads Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew are voiced by T.R. Knight and Wilson Cruz respectively. The star studded cast also includes Wanda Sykes, Bobby Moynihan, RuPaul, Steven Weber, Teri Polo, AJ McLean, Jazz Jennings, Maz Jobrani and Christine Baranski as the formidable Red Dragon.

"With so many wonderful stories yet to be told, we hope that The Bravest Knight stands as an example of the undeniable strength in inclusivity, and the inherent joy in all forms of love and identity," said Errico, the author of the original book.

The first 5 episodes were released on June 21, and there are 8 more planned for release before the end of the year. Be sure to tune in!

This is the Main Title Song for Big Bad Boo's Hulu Original Series "The Bravest Knight". The song is performed by Justin Tranter and composed by Michael Plow...

Entertainment

Single Gay Dad Featured on Season Three of GLOW

Actor Kevin Cahoon joins the Gorgeous Ladies of Wresting in Vegas as a single gay dad — and drag queen — on Season Three of the hit Netflix show

For a couple of years now, Hollywood has been obsessed with gay dad characters (and who can blame them?) But the latest show to get hip to a story line featuring gay man raising kids is Netflix's GLOW, which explores a female wresting troop in the late 1980s.

But GLOW is helping represent a gay character that rarely gets time in the limelight:the single gay dad. In Season three of the hit comedy — which stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron — actor Kevin Cahoon joins the case as Bobby Barnes, a single gay father who plays a female impersonator. (80s divas only, of course — Joan Collins and Babs among them)


"I've never done female impersonation," the openly gay actor told OutSmart Magazine, "so I tried to learn really quick. You will know them all; I was very familiar with all of them. There were plenty of talk shows and performances on YouTube to study. I learned that their breathing was very informative."

A single gay dad AND drag queen on television? It's about damn time if you ask us.

Read the full interview with Cahoon here.

Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Working:​ One Father's Plea for Gun Reform

One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control

My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.

Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.

How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics

Gay Russian Dads Forced to Flee Moscow

Fearing the Russian government might take their adopted kids into custody because of their sexual orientation, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev fled Moscow

A married couple in Russia, with two adopted children, were just forced the flee their home in Moscow for fear that the authorities would take their children away, according to German news site Deutsche Welle.

Trouble started last month after investigators in Russia opened a criminal inquiry into the proceedings that had allowed the gay couple, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, to legally adopt the two boys —adoption by LGBTQ people in Russia has typically not been recognized. The government became aware of the adoption proceedings after the gay couple brought their 12-year-old son to the hospital, who was complaining of a stomachache. The boy was fine, but after he mentioned offhand that he was adopted and lived with two fathers, the doctor called the police.

Andrei and Yevgeny granted an interview with Deutsche Welle after escaping Moscow, but on the advice of their lawyers have yet to disclose where they are currently located. Here is a quick recap of that conversation:

"In connection with the 'propaganda of non-traditional values,' the state representatives are accused of having neglected their duty of supervision," Andrei said, when asked to explain on what basis the Russian government might take his children into custody. "This means that lesbian couples could even have their biological children taken away because, through their lifestyle choices, they propagate "certain values."

Yevgeny also explained the events that led to the couple's harrowing escape "I was alone in Moscow at that time. A week after Andrei and the children had left the country, there was a knock on my door, but nobody called 'police, open up.' After half an hour the violent knocking stopped. My parents' home was searched. They were looking for the children and our Danish marriage certificate because we got married in Denmark in 2016. My friends then got me out of the country."

Read the full interview here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse