Saturday, September 19, 2009

Don't Sell Guns in School

It started out as a rant. This story has been told and retold in our family for many years, and the time has come to write it down while the images and details of the event remain vivid.

Picture the early morning bedroom of two working parents of three small children. The radio blares over the shower’s white noise. The seemingly mandatory periodic news interruption of the usual musical accompaniment of our morning ablutions coincides with the end of the second parental shower. The children have been awakened in the next rooms, but are only beginning to stir.

“In other news, two Morris Township teenagers, 16 and 17 years old have been arrested for selling guns at Morris High School. The boys’ names have been withheld because of their age. The guns seem to have come . . .”

“What were they thinking?” Laura screams at the radio. Rants happen, despite the inconvenient, busy time of day. Sometimes you just need to get it out of your system. The radio, used to being yelled at, resumed the music programming we both really wanted to hear.

“What made them think it was a good idea to sell guns in school?” Laura continues at high volume.

“Who told them it was OK to sell guns in school?” Crescendo. “Didn’t their mothers ever tell them. ‘Don’t sell guns in school!’?”

With that, our still sleepy, bleary-eyed, nine year old daughter wanders through the bedroom door. Laura turns around and lectures sternly, “Sarah, don’t sell guns in school!”

“OK Mom, but why are you telling me this?”

“Some children in Morris County were arrested for selling guns in school. If you are ever arrested for selling a gun in school, and the police ask you, ‘Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to sell guns in school!?’ you can tell them, ‘As a matter of fact, my mother did her job and DID tell me never to sell guns in school’” “Now go get dressed.”

Bemused, but wise to her parents’ various quirks, as nine year olds tend to be, she gets a hug and goes back to her room to select her outfit for the day.

After packing the 9 year old and 6 year old off to school, taking the one year old to day care and driving to work, it occurred to each of us that there were many things we needed to teach our children explicitly. It was not enough to assume that general good values common sense would not suffice. The daily news broadcasts and newspapers provided a wealth of teaching opportunities. It’s not enough to ‘tsk tsk’ the missteps of well-reared children from good families. It is necessary to tell your children explicitly, “Don’t sell guns in school.”

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