by Julia Buckley
I live with a man and two boys (but in some ways three boys). Each day they spend a good half hour mimicking scenes of extreme violence just for the fun of it. There are lots of gun sounds (really elaborate ones that I can't make, and couldn't make when I was a kid, either); there are long periods of wrestling on the floor, during which they yell things like, "You're already dead! I killed you when you walked in the room!" and "No way--I deflected it with the pillow" or, alternately, "I jumped out of the way and it ricocheted off the wall!"
Today while I was trying to have a serious adult conversation with my husband Jeff, my ten-year-old ran in the room, touched his father, and then left again, closing the door behind him. Jeff started laughing. "What was that?" I asked, my mind still on the bills.
"He put a grenade in my pocket and locked us in," he said proudly.
We could hear my son giggling in the living room.
Still other times they like to call out movie cliches while they practice their stylized violence. Today my oldest son, grappling with his father, yelled, "Why kill me? It will be pointless once the Wisnewski files come out!"
Their dad tried to escape into the bathroom, but I heard our youngest opening the door of that once-private place. "Graham!" I yelled. "Leave your father alone while he's in there."
Graham peeked into my office, all innocence. "I was just shooting a couple of poisoned darts into him," he said, shrugging.
Geez. Why can't a girl understand? My sons think I am a major square with no sense of humor, especially when I call a halt to the violent play. My oldest has already informed me that not only am I not cool, but I am "meaner" than the other mothers he has observed.
Even if I wanted to join in their manly fun, I wouldn't be able to, because I just don't get it. This is a club to which I don't have membership. I'm mostly content to watch them from the sidelines the way I would watch a strange animal behavior at the zoo.
Their need for violent play is entirely separate from violence itself. My sons are still shocked by real violence, but this false stuff is as old as the hills. The reason their fantasies must include elaborate weaponry and faux wrestling might just be wired into their brains, and it's as difficult for them to explain as it is for me to comprehend.
I just think of the way rams slam into each other, locking horns for no apparent reason, and assume that there is a parallel in the human world.