Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bang Bang

This one's gonna make some of you mad at me.

Xavier, my 21 year son, recently brought home three of his regular friends and a brand new BB/CO2 gun. They each had new ones too.

We don't hardly live in the country. There are few squirrels and birds to shoot, not that I condone that, but the men in my fam have a long history of enjoying that kind of shit. My dad hunted for food in his youth; my brother to a much lesser extent and both for sport.

Xavier doesn't even know that, to my knowledge; must be some kind of Boys Club they're born into.

So, in the absence of small animals that are viewed as rats with wings or fluffy gray tails, they were shooting each other in the backyard. You know that game: bang-bang you're dead. With pellets.

"You don't have health insurance," I said after I found out. "And that thing looks real."

"Yeah, ain't it great?"

"You're an idiot. Keep it outta my sight."

You might wonder why I don't 'make' him keep it out of the house. I could tell him this, but experience proves that he'd lie and sneak it back in anyway.

You might wonder why I don't kick him out.

That answer is easy: he'd quickly become a menace to society. This may be one reason why so many young adult males live at home. I think some of their mothers have sized up the odds pretty well that their young, poorly paid or unemployed black son would have no recourse than turning to crime. A man has to eat, you know?

He did bring home a real gun once. This was maybe two years ago. He thought it was a good idea to have one "for protection". That was one of the biggest fights we ever had.

I had an idea who gave it to him too, and without even confirming this, called that nigga up and cussed him out. He fortunately has a lot of respect for me, and took his shit back promptly.

That man-child almost landed in jail a year later on a robbery charge - one of those "I was just with them, Your Honor, and didn't know it was gonna go down" scenarios. I know his mama lost her shirt for his high priced attorney.

Along with not doing bail nor feeding fat attorneys, that's one thing I have never done for Xavier and told him long, long ago I never would. That's actually a lie, but it has kept him fairly honest. If he became a true victim of a racist cop, and the free public defender was incompetent and could not be replaced, I might help him out, depending on the circumstances.

Ssshhh. Don't tell him that, though.

So now, he's got this BB gun. It also has something called CO2, which allows it to shoot out air when there are no pellets in it.

That was actually fun.

All three of us were in the kitchen last night, including my daughter. Well, make that four, the dog was there too. So Xavier was playing with this awful toy. I made him prove to us there were no pellets in it, so he removed some thingy in the gun.

"It's only air and doesn't hurt," he said, putting it back together. "See, watch."

He shot his hand. You could see the CO2 gas come out in a poof. When he shot "air" at me, I blinked in surprised. It didn't hurt at all.

The child in me can be a bitch, and so can my curiosity and human nature. Next thing I knew, I surprised our poodle by shooting air at his azz.

It was one of those you-had-to-be-there funny moments.

He didn't like the 'pop' noise, and was startled, but he didn't leave the kitchen, no matter how many times we did it to him or each other. It really was fun.

Well, I'm dead certain some of you are horrified. I am too, because reading about it gives it a distance, where I can see not just the trees, but the forest of that mistake and that of others.

In the forest of my childhood, I grew up with cap guns and water guns and toy machine guns in addition to the Barbie dolls. That shit was fun back then, playing cops and robbers and all that. So playing with Xavier's BB/CO2 gun was like revisiting a time of innocent play.

The story turns dark from here.

A few hours later, he was on the computer. His BB gun was on the bed next to him. I came in to see when he'd get off. Saw the gun on the bed, picked it up, and bang bang, playfully shot him in the back of the head.

No, Your Honor, it was an accident. I was just there, the gun was just there, and I didn't mean to paralyze him, really.

Air hit the back of his head, and he turned around and laughed. I was laughing too. It was like my golden cap gun days.

Then suddenly, it hit me. I was horrified.

"Xavier, what if you had loaded BB's in this thing since earlier? I could have really hurt you!"

"Pffft! I don't have any more pellets. I told you that. It wouldn't have happened."

"But what if you had???"

He still wasn't getting it.

"Ma, I said I'm out of pellets. It's fine."

"But what about the next time? With me, your sister, or your friends?"

He hates conceding a point. The best I got out of him was a hmmmm.

"I won't lie to you," I said. "It's fun, but it wouldn't be fun if we were on the way to the ER now to remove a pellet from your scalp, or if you or one of your friends got shot in the eye with it. Or worse, a cop saw you with it and shot and killed your black azz."

He was quiet. Quiet is good. It means he's thinking. When he ain't thinking, he's arguing against my point of view.

Then Casey walks in. We're all nosey as hell in my family. She's in on everything and heard the conversation.

She says to Xavier, "Me n' Tyrone and Jill saw it on the coffee table on Halloween. He thought it only had air in it. I told him it had pellets but he didn't believe me and fired it..."

"I'm so sorry, Mz. Kit. I didn't mean to shoot your daughter. At least she still has one good eye."

"Where?" I asked.

"He shot one of the living room pillows. He said he was sorry."

"Is there a hole in it now?", I ask.


We look at Xavier.

I say, "Could've been her eye, ya know."

He goes, "Hmmmm."

"Well," I say crisply, "Wouldn't that have been a memorable Halloween."

There's really nothing else to say without belaboring the point and beating a dead horse, but I do anyway.

"You really need to get rid of that thing, and until then, keep it locked away."


I do some things very, very well as a parent. Sometimes, however, I screw up badly or am a terrible role model. For all my training in the helping field, I don't always know what to do or not to do. Human nature is so unpredictable, and people - your kids - have a will of their own, which, short of kicking them out, must be negotiated with reason and diplomacy as they get older. Yelling only makes them stubborn, and threats make them sneaky.

To make it worse, the values I grew up with don't apply for this generation, and haven't for a long time. Not to make excuses, but sometimes I feel like I'm trapped in a time warp. For example:

My mother smoked through her pregnancies and throughout my childhood.

Seat belts were non-existent.

You could buy paddles just for beating your kids. The word child abuse did not exist.

My daddy taught me how to drive long before it was legal.

As a kid, when I went to the grown up parties with the folks, it was common to hear one adult tell another, "Jack, before you go, take one for the road!", and if Jack wasn't "too drunk", he just might take that beer or cup as he walked out the door with his wife and kids.

In my late teens, I had several boyfriends who routinely smoked weed while driving, and one who always had a beer nestled in his crotch. All but one, by the way, turned out to be suit n' tie successful in life.

And everybody had guns, including the kids, many like myself, who had an arsenal of toy weapons.

Oh but how the game has changed.

Parenting is like a war game. You battle for their safety and often their souls, and you battle to adapt to the changes from your childhood where the rules were different, but now there's more to lose.

I don't know if or how I'm gonna get that damned BB gun from Xavier, but at least I got some hmmms' out of him. It may not be enough, and may be our next battle ground.

While part of me doesn't want to overreact to a BB/CO2-Air gun, the larger part worries more about under-reacting. What if he and a friend play in a park at night (which is illegal, it can only be used on private property), or it became visible in his coat pocket, and a cop sees this and blows him away?

I'm sorry Mz. Kit, we tend to shoot first in these situations and ask questions later.

I hope I win on this one, because there's one post I never wanna write: My Son Is Dead.


  1. Whoo...

    I'm applying for grad school to get into a school counseling program. It's a passion I have -- working with teens, that is -- but some days I really stop and ask myself if I really do know what I'm getting into...

    I don't know how parents do it. Seriously.

  2. Kit I love your writing! "You might wonder why I don't kick him out" I love your answer because it describes my situation with my son to a "T"...Now the gun thing is so scary!WOW!

    Kit, if I was granted one do-over in life it would be concerning my son...Believe me I understand what you are saying been-there done that and I pray you and I never have to write that post.

  3. JJBrock, Thank you. I had no idea you had a hellcat too. I think a lot of women do, but keep it to themselves because it's so damn embarrassing to feel out of control. Well, don't. Control is two-way street, and most boys will be boyz, but if they get through that stage, turn out just fine.

    A.Smith, I hope it's for a master's degree in clinical psychology, not just school counseling. With the first, you nearly learn all the same things and a school will hire you anyway. More importantly, you will learn how to run tests on kids and adults that pay big bucks - and collect insurance.

    You can also collect insurance for providing family, individual or group therapy in a part or full time private practice in addition to your school counseling and testing gig.

    I strongly suspect that with "a school counseling program degree", your career will be limited to working only for schools at the salary they offer.

    If I had to do it over again, I'd have gotten my masters in clinical psych instead of social work if for no other reason than testing is so easy and incredibly lucrative. Masters degreed social workers cannot collect $$$ for specific kinds of testing, namely IQ, nor do they officially learn how to do it, only how to interpret it. It's a shame, 'cause the shit is easy.

    Call some insurance companies to find out which kind of degreed professionals they pay for therapy (none pay for "counseling", to my knowledge) and testing. You will be amazed at how limited they are in this, and then you'll be pissed off at the college for not telling you that dirty little secret - that an extra year in a combined Masters/Ph.D clinical psych program will triple to quadruple your income. Check it out and think about it, okay?

  4. I feel you on this post. It's a confusing world. Gotta find some core values and find a way to fit them into every situation. That's all I can see.

  5. I feel you on this one...i took my son's bebe gun away 2 years ago when i found it and hid it...i was so afraid of him being out somewhere with his friends the police thinking it's a real gun...man i tell you, if it aint' one thing, it's another, but i love how you weave the real in with the funny...now i can laugh at some of my own sordid adventures in raising Cain.

  6. Hello Kit, I agree with jjbrock, your writing holds me.

    Gun stories and parents, they seem to go together. Of course I have one but you know the story. The trip to school to be met by that stupid look on my son's face. Yeah, it was a toy gun but all those things you mentioned are so true..... what if?

    But don't tell my son this, I have a pellet gun. But you know what, I think he already knows, because I've seen a few strange holes in my walls and of course "he" doesn't know how they got there.

    Kit please, stop telling these kind of stories. I am trying not to think about what my son may be doing at this very moment - yicks.

    But see, at least you have yours close by. I think that's something to shout about? On the other hand... maybe it isn't *lol*

  7. Carey Carey, Lotsa a luck. Word on the street is yo' kid skipped school today to play bang bang with mine.

    Lol. Just messing with ya. But... he probably does know.

    Mizrepresent, Thank you! And yeah, it feels we're like raising Cain sometimes.

    Big Man, You just gave me an idea, to try to find a watermelon, draw some eyes on it, and have him do target practice from various distances.

  8. My father grew up in Mississippi and my mother grew up in Alabama. It wasn't uncommon for either of them to get their dinner from a hunting trip. My father hunted as well as I was growing up and more than a few times I ate what he bought home from a hunting trip.

    In the south we're taught to respect guns, for what they do and can do. If you're used to being around weapons and practicing weapons safety, it's not a big deal. But there is nothing funny or entertaining about pointing a weapon at someone and discharging it. IF you don't believe me, ask Dick Cheney.

  9. Kit, As a country gent I have always had guns in the house. Along with those guns are simple but serious rules.
    1. Never ever under any circumstances is a gun of any sort (pellet, bb, high powered rifle or even toy gun) to be point in the direction of any human being. A gun, any gun, is only to be pointed at something that is intended to be shot. Otherwise it should be pointed into the ground or up into the air.
    2. Before inserting finger into trigger guard or releasing the safety, the gun (again, any gun) is to be pointed using the gun sights directly at the target you intend to shoot.
    3. Reread rules 1 & 2 and know that if you break either you will be dely with quickly and forcefully.

  10. Reggie, Somehow I missed the the lessons in gun safety. I only got to go on one bird hunting trip and was too much of a crybaby. I still wonder how Cheney, a supposed avid hunter, got in that situation... and,

    Sagacious, thank you so much for the specific instruction, particularly about pointing it toward the target (or even up in the air) when releasing the safety of any gun, including a BB/CO2-Air gun. I didn't know that.

    Between the advice from the two of you, I think this month is the perfect time to get my whole family in a gun safety class. I think of a lot of stuff but surprisingly missed that because "it's only a BB gun".

    Thank you again.

  11. For the sake of safety ALWAYS ASSUME a gun (any gun) is loaded!! ...especially when/if you "think" or "believe" it isn't.

  12. I met Sean Bell's father recently. He is living life and smiling and working to educate people on being polite and looking out for each other. He's warm and wonderful, though I got the feeling he drinks a little--nothing in his behaviour just something in his jaw--and Lord knows he's entitled.

    His pain was palpable, the sadness always just behind his smile.

    I spoke to him about my 10 year old boy; how even though he's young I try to teach him how to be aware, stay out of trouble; I spoke to him about my freind's wonderfully polite and sweet 15 year old, who's only crime so far is to look very Hispanic and sort of like a gangbanger. And how that kid is hassled every day by the cops on his way home from school.

    We try to keep them safe, we pray. We keep them close. And they are still at the mercy of the world, can still be shot to death on their wedding day.

    My kid is obsessed with Nerf guns right now. Luckily they're bright orange. But even he knows, at 10, that in NYC having any kind of a real-looking gun is a very bad idea for a child of color to have.

    I too, pray that "My son is dead" is a post I will never write...

  13. Parenting is hands down the hardest job you will ever do. Like you I deal with the fact that the world I am raising my kids in is different than the world I grew up in...hell the 14 years between my two kids makes it different.

    The reason that your son is still there is just that, he is your boy and like you said, you know the alternative might not be pretty. There is no shame in that at all, Mama's look out for their babies.

  14. Fan Friend, True.

    Bear Maiden, Really? You met Sean Bell's dad? If you see him again, give him a hug for me. That poor man. What a tragedy. I know what you mean too, about how a lot of good boys just don't have that nerdy look to keep the cops off their azz. It's like masculinity plus youth fashion style provokes... I don't know... jealousy?

    BGIM, Yep, parenting is most def the toughest job I had, at least with one of them. They say God never gives you more than you can handle. Not sure if I truly believe that in this evil world, but I know for certain I'd be nuts if both kids were so "labor intensive" at the same time.


Hi, this is Kit.

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