When I adopted my son, I vowed that we would have a pacifist house. He would learn all about peaceful resistance. Even when I would buy water pistols, I would seek out the animal-shaped ones that were really just whales and crocodiles squirting water out of their mouths. Ours would be a weapons-free home!
This all changed last year when Isaiah started making his own guns. He had been exposed to them in books. The beloved classic “Danny and the Dinosaur” has guns in the museum, for example, and Isaiah was fascinated from the start by the shape of these weapons. From memory, he started making guns, all kinds of guns, out of construction paper and tape. He had started his maker career with cardboard, but he quickly discovered that construction paper has much more malleability and with enough tape applied, you can still get solid structures. He begin churning out 3-D shapes by the dozens—blimps, airplanes, houses, hats, and, of course, guns. The handles of the guns were sometimes so beautifully curved, they looked like elaborate snail shells.
Our home is currently knee-deep in construction paper guns. I may have adopted a descendant of Samuel Colt.
I recognize that this assignment is about my son tinkering, not me. [I will belatedly start my own tinkering project this week when I begin a multi-week construction project for MIT’s Scratch Day! This will serve as my final project.] However, it still illustrates a type of kindergarten learning spiral, as I have needed to tinker with my own ideas about how to raise my child, and one thing has lead to another: For example, my son’s interest in the engineering aspect of guns lead to an interest in history. After we read “Sam the Minuteman,” he expressed a desire to see a re-enactment of battle that started the American Revolutionary War.
We live in the greater Boston area, and each year, on the same day as our famous marathon, we celebrate Patriot's Day, which was yesterday. The nearby towns of Concord and Lexington are filled with encampments and re-enactments of famous Revolutionary War battles. The first such battle begins each year at 5 am on the Lexington Battle Green. While I was dubious that this would actually happen, my 5-year-old easily bounced out of bed yesterday morning at 3:30 in order to get to the 5 am start of the battle.
Afterwards, he was fascinated by a little snippet from the battle recreation. Two Minutemen muskets pointed out of two tavern windows when the Red Coats approached. At some point, a shot was fired—a shot that hit no one—and this marked the beginning of war that would last 8 years.
No one knows who fired the first shot. When my little Minuteman is slightly older, this is just the sort of information that could open the door to conversations about the futility of war and peaceful resistance! We might just spiral our way back to pacifism.