Hi, my name is Keir.
Thanks. I guess I’m here because, well, uhm, it’s just that. I don’t know how it started or when it started. But, uhm….
Come on, Keir, you can do it.
OK, well. Here it is: I’m a Nerf Gun-Nut.
There, I said it. What a relief.
As I’ve written before (on the topic of paintball), despite my best efforts to the contrary, I can’t help but be trigger-happy once my forefinger locks around a trigger. For a variety of presumably obvious reasons, I despise guns. Let me say that in a more accurate way: I despise real guns. And I have long thought that any kind of pretend gunplay around the house on the part of my kids could lead to nothing but dire consequences. In the short-term, you’ll shoot your eye out. In the long-term, you’ll become a gun-toting militia leader hunted down by the ATF, your final moments broadcast on CNN via grainy chopper footage.
Granted, I’ve been given to a bit of catastrophizing here. But I have rationalized it away by telling myself that anything gun-related is so inherently evil that no amount of catastrophizing is too catastrophic.
So imagine my chagrin when I found myself cruising Amazon the other morning in search of the perfect Nerf gun with which I planned to massacre my kids. And it was all I could do to resist the urge to have my weapon of choice delivered to my doorstep ASAP, the shipping expense outstripping the price of the Nerf N Strike Elite Strong Arm itself. But I’ve read the delayed gratification marshmallow studies, and so I decided I could wait a couple extra days before showing my boys who’s boss.
Once my Elite Strong Arm arrived, I ripped into the box with abandon, selfishly and loudly proclaiming, “This is Daddy’s gun, do not touch it under any circumstances!” as I clutched the barrel and grip overhead, making crazy-eyed eye contact with each of my sons, for emphasis. They have been raised appropriately with respect to this whole gun topic. So they were understandably vexed by this scene. They likely figured this was some sort of elaborate trap on my part, set to determine the strength of their jelly-headed grasp on our family’s stance regarding guns.
That’s precisely the state of confusion, uncertainty, disruption, lack of structure, that I had hoped for.
For the next couple days, we all partook in Nerf gun battles royale. The boys built massive forts out of foot stools, couch cushions, and afghan blankets. They horded styrofoam Nerf gun bullets into a massive cache. They peered at me and their mother–both of us armed, of course–from between pillows and around corners. They peppered our ribs and backs with unexpected attacks from all corners of the house. And Hilary and I gave as good as we got, triangulating on our targets, using unintelligible hand gestures we’d seen in one or another of the Rambo movies, storming the bastion.
It went on like this for days. One long series of spontaneous skirmishes. We only eased up when Max smashed his foot into the base of the couch at a full sprint into the living room, trying desperately to avoid the sniper (me) lying in wait. And when the dog, thoroughly confused, would bark, jump and snap at my Elite Strong Arm fired when out of ammo. Something about the unproductive “pfft! pfft!” sound that drove her into a maddened state.
And I think this is probably the whole point; the reason why I have been able to get past my general disgust for all things guns when it comes to Nerf. I’ve been reading and thinking a lot lately about unstructured play. How important it is for kids’ developing brains. A powerful ally for parents as an antidote for all the over-scheduling, Zombie-like screen-staring, and generally mind-numbing existence to which we’re all subscribing our children. I figure for every between-the-white-lines, managed by whistle-blowing referees game my boys play, they and we deserve an equal amount of time to cut loose with reckless abandon in a hail of styrofoam bullets.
Anyhow, I’ve got to run. I have a few dozen foam darts to scavenge and sock away in preparation for my next after-school battle.
Thanks for reading.