“Put your hands in the air,” he demanded, hands firmly clasped, fingers tightly intertwined, and pointers leveled directly at me.
He pulls the hammer back with the click of his tongue. The true danger revealed.
“I said: Put yer hands in the ai-yerrrr!”
My heart drops.
It's only been a moment, but I have already seen glimpses of where this will lead. His imaginary gun is loaded. The blast will echo like a holler into a canyon, and forever until bedtime he will jump out of dark corners shooting.
This moment magnifies almost every single insecurity I have harbored as a parent. The kids watch too much TV. Violence pervades every video game. And worst of all we only half-heartedly try to regulate any of this imaginary aggression.
I turn the thoughts over and over in my mind. Composting the sticky remnants of modern parenthood, hoping to make rich and fertile soil. We are hovering and absent. Cling-y and ineffective. We are distant and still controlling. We organize chaos because we are afraid of the consequences we have to mete out to our kids.
Oxymorons everywhere, and they call the shots. It all seems so hopeless.
More images of failure come at me now in rapid fire. Time seems suspended as I try to hone in on my options.
Do I act offended and explain the gravity of guns? How people should NEVER, under any circumstances, point a gun – even the literal hand gun -- at another human being?
Do I pretend to be an outlaw, surrender willingly, and suggest a rousing game of Chutes and Ladders to pass the time instead?
Do I ignore him in the hopes this will all go away and he'll forget he ever wanted to fake kill me? I can always search for a child psychologist later.
I can't decide.
Only seconds have elapsed and yet it feels as if when I blink, I'll snap out of this daze and realize my boy is a grown man … with a real gun, facial hair and a tattoo of someone who doesn't look quite so matronly on his arm.
That moment passes, too.
He's still staring at me, his pistol hands pointed just above my chin. His eyes are relaxed, despite his smile being so tightly drawn across his face. He looks happy: all smudge and spit and boy, for sure, but hints of his desire to cuddle and nap equally apparent through the rough and tumble. He is waiting for my response.
“What's it gonna be, Pilgrim?
“Are ya gonna … Put. Yer. Hands. Up. In. Tha. Ayrrrrrrrr?”
That's when I decide. I am exhausted.
From fighting traffic to fighting the weeds in my unwanted garden, I have been battling things I love to hate all day. As I look into his giddy face now, all I can think is that if he were to shoot his imaginary bullet anywhere near my direction it would break my heart.
But I would survive.
I take a deep breath and hold it as I raise my arms overhead.
And just as I reach for the sky, he utters his final command:
“Now wave 'em like you just don't care!”
He drops his weapon and it floats this way and that as he joins me in celebration.
And for the next infinitely suspended moment, we wave them like we just don't care.