Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Yeah, we shoot!"

I took Liam to preschool the other day as usual. We got there a bit late and many of his friends were already there. He saw a boy he has become particularly friendly with and ran up to him. This was when I first saw a new game they had invented:

"Yeah, we shoot!"

Liam and the other boy ran into the corner and each grabbed two, long cardboard cylinders that slid all the way over their arms. Then they started pointing their arms at each other and yelling, "Yeah, we shoot!" The scene filled me all sorts of feelings that all seemed to be in conflict.

Liam has had a challenging time connecting with the other kids in his class. In part, he's just the new guy. And then there's his speech challenges, which can make it tough at times. So on one level, it was great that he seemed to have this connection with this other boy, that they invented their own game, and they really seemed to have bonded over it.

But did it have to be guns? As I talk to other parents and teachers out here about it, they are probably right in pointing out that this sort of thing is just part of being a four year old boy. In the past few months, Liam has suddenly become interested in things like superheroes (Superman! Spiderman!) even though those things are never in our house. Okay, I watched Superman Returns one night after he went to bed, but still...

Earlier this week, Liam had a play date at this same boys house. Now don't get me wrong. This is a wonderful little boy. And Liam is clearly quite fond of him. The boy's nanny occasionally hosts this "boys play dates" at their house. The boys from Liam's preschool room go and play trucks, firefighters, and construction. Liam couldn't be happier. Still, I went to pick up Liam at the end, and he was standing on a mound of dirt with this other boy. The boy was digging away with a shovel. Liam had a shovel in one hand, and a toy sword in the other. I'm not sure he knew exactly what it was, because I think he thought it was some sort of construction tool. And yet, part of me couldn't help but be a pit, well depressed.

I had no illusion that I would shield him from guns and swords and all that stuff for his entire life. At the same time, it's made me appreciate our little Oakland-Berkeley hippie cocoon that we live in. Both Liam's former preschool, but also our general group of friends and community. I feel confident in saying that I can't picture the kids and families we knew letting their kids play with that stuff. Again, that's not a judgment against the folks here. It's just to say, I guess, that I realize more than ever how fortunate we were with our friends back home.