After the tragic massacre at a King Soopers in Boulder, CO, I’m reminded of the myriad times I’ve danced around conversations about mass shootings with my toddler. Pathetically, it’s happened their entire lives. Maybe I should just be more direct? Like this:
What’s up, Buddy?
Did you know some guy killed a bunch of people who were just grocery shopping?
Yes, I did know that.
Does this happen a lot?
Totally, Buddy! It happens all the time! Last time, there were some people at a Christmas party, the time before that were some people at a movie, then there were some kids at a school…
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Kids?
Heh-heh! Why, sure, Buddy!
You mean I could be playing on my school playground, some day, and my little 4-year-old friends and I could be mowed down while hanging on monkey bars and sliding down slides?
That’s why we have to hide in our cubbies, sometimes, and pretend bad guys are coming?
Sounds about right, to me.
The teachers don’t tell us it’s because of shooters.
What do you think?
I think it’s because of shooters.
Would you be sad?
If I got shot up?
Yes. I would be very sad.
Would you come take me home, anyway?
Well, your clothes would be bloody and your shoes might have bullet holes in them, so they wouldn’t be any use, anymore, and I don’t think I would want to have your pants sprinkled with bone tissue.
That’s yucky. Can I have some fruit snacks?
You just had breakfast.
Here ya go.
Would you forget about me if I were blown to bits on the monkey bars?
No. I’d scream and scream and make sure that everyone knew politicians and a paranoid culture killed you.
The leaders who are too afraid of their puppet-masters to change any laws in our country.
Paranoid culture – our country’s mentality that we need to carry guns around to protect us from the imaginary bad guys.
Bad guys are bad.
Yeah. But for paranoid people, they’re in our imaginations. Like monsters.
Oh. Would those polish-, poly-poly-
Yeah. Would they come get my blood-splattered shoes and clothing?
Because they’re afraid of yucky stuff?
What would they do, instead?
They’d probably stand quietly for one minute, make automaton overtures to pray, pretend to be angry, and then go have an orgy with the people who pay for them to be re-elected.
What’s an orgy?
Would they try to change things so my body wouldn’t look like it went through a meat grinder?
Even if they saw my brains on the hop-scotch paint?
Nope. They care more about being re-elected than keeping little kids safe.
Huh. That’s weird. Can I have a fruit snack?
Shark Bites or Disney Fairies?
Like you need to ask.
Here’s the fairies.
What is a politician’s job?
To enforce and pass laws to maintain our life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But they don’t care if I get blown to smithereens on a playground?
No. Lots of them don’t. Especially these guys.
So they’re not doing their jobs.
But they should just do their work. And tell the truth. Like my teacher teaches me in preschool.
They’re more little than me. They’re little, scared babies.
Wow. Harsh words.
Public school, Daddy.
Can I have more fruit snacks?
Yeah. I want to see if they taste the same.
Pretty sure those little processed shit drops taste the same.
Can I get a gun?
I hope not.
In the mail?
Anyone can get a gun?
But guns are for grown-ups. Like wine.
Right. But when people are messed-up, they shouldn’t have either.
Wait, Daddy. Don’t you say everyone is a little messed-up?
Uh…did I say that?
Yes. I remember everything. So if everyone’s a little messed-up, then nobody should have a gun.
Pretty sound logic, Buddy. But also some people like shooting animals.
Whoa, hold up!
Now, Buddy. It’s important you realize that all your hot dogs and chicken fingers were once walking around in inhumane pens of industrial, unsanitary suffering.
That’s a downer, Daddy.
So people with guns are hunters.
A very few of them are, yes.
And the rest?
Because cable news tells them to be.
What’s cable news?
A lowest-common-denominator brothel of corporate greed. How about a third fruit snack?
Here ya go.
Do you have a gun?
Because I’m not paranoid. And I don’t want to hunt.
But are you afraid?
But you don’t want a gun?
So you’re brave. That’s what Thomas the Train says – when you do something even though you’re afraid.
Thanks. I’ve never appreciated Thomas so much.
Buddy, I’m right here. You don’t have to keep saying my name.
Will grown-ups try to keep me safe?
Well, most grown-ups want to keep you safe and keep guns out of bad guys and keep machine guns out of everyone’s hands.
Yep. Take a look at the statistics, here.
I can’t read.
What are they teaching you in that school?
Anyway, Daddy, some people want to keep their guns no matter what?
Okay. We don’t need to hear that, again. Ever.
But they think everyone should have lots of guns?
Well, the people who pay the politicians think there should be no limits.
You always say limits are good.
Yes, I do.
Like when I want more fruit snacks.
So those people with lots of guns like to kill people?
What else do you do with lots of guns?
Well, they often say, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
But without guns, people just hit each other and say mean things.
But when they have guns they can kill.
So the guns kill.
Wow. What’s in these fruit snacks?
Rainbows and brain cells.
Huh. Can I try one?
Not the Fairies.
Daddy? Can we go to the playground, now?
Do you think we’ll get shot to shit?
Well, nothing’s changed since the last time, so I guess there’s always a chance.
Well, we’ll be brave. Like Merida.
I see what you did there.
Bring more fruit snacks.
*Fear not: this is a fabricated version about conversations about mass shootings with my toddler. But ain’t it absurd that having direct conversations about mass shootings with my toddler is a reality?
Gavin Lodge is a father, writer, pandemic survivor, and mad as hell about having conversations about mass shootings wtih my toddler. He’s also founder of ECKnox making baby gear for stylish dads, particularly the coolest diaper bags for dads. Feel free to follow the gear and the missives on Insta and the like. ECKnox is expanding beyond beyond just the best diaper bags for dads. Stay tuned.