How Can I Stop Children From Bringing Toy Guns to the Playground?

I bring my children to our neighborhood playground every afternoon. It’s a wonderful community of parents and kids. Occasionally, one family lets their children bring toy guns from home — life-size, realistic-looking pistols and machine guns. I don’t want my young children exposed to guns or to see their usage normalized. The problem: My kids spend the whole playground visit trying to take turns shooting the guns; they are too little to understand my child-friendly warnings about them. And the parents of the children with toy guns don’t seem to care: They see me pulling my kids away but do nothing. How should I handle this? There are no rules about toy guns on the playground.


My first (alarming) thought here was of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was fatally shot by the police while playing with a replica toy gun in a public park. If your neighbors’ toy guns are indeed “realistic-looking” enough to be mistaken for true firearms, stop waiting for these other parents to read your body language. Warn them directly about the danger — to everyone on the playground — of someone’s confusing a replica for a real gun.

Now, if these guns are obviously toys — brightly colored or cartoonish — some data may persuade you to feel differently. Many studies have found no correlation between playing with toy guns as children and criminal behavior and violence later in life. Some of that play may even enhance creativity and help with childhood development. And as you know firsthand: Toy guns are like catnip to some kids.

Still, this is your call as a parent. If you don’t want your children playing with toy guns, try to redirect their attention. This will not be easy in our culture, and even harder with kids running around with toy pistols. But the ship has sailed, I’m afraid, on normalizing guns and gun violence in the United States: We have more guns than people. As a survivor of gun violence with some experience here, I am not optimistic about asking parents to stow toy guns in public. “It’s just a toy!” (Yes, and candy cigarettes are just candy.) I urge you to speak up anyway. Who knows? These parents may go along with you. Or another parent may second your concerns.

Credit…Miguel Porlan

Some Cuts Are Deeper Than Others

I had dinner with my friend of 15 years. Her daughter is getting married. She said: “This is awkward, but we can’t invite you to the wedding. We want to keep the numbers down.” I understood. I asked how many people they are inviting, and she told me: 150. (“But we hope that 50 say no.”) I was crushed! How could I not make the cut of 150 people? She doesn’t have a big family, and the groom is inviting only a few guests. It’s mostly friends. Thoughts?


First, let’s acknowledge your hurt feelings. I know they’re real! Still, I encourage you to revisit them. Your friend feels close enough to you to be candid: She is hoping that one-third of the invitees to the wedding say no. Do you really want to add to her troubles by putting your name on that guest list?

Here’s how I (try to) look at slights: If I see a friend regularly, if she is responsive to me and we’re supportive of each other, it’s all good! I don’t expect to be part of everything in her life. What’s more, this is not your friend’s wedding, and you don’t mention any relationship with the bridal couple. Try to respect your friend for being straight with you.

What Is an Ex Owed? Distance.

My ex-wife has been in emotional and physical decline for the past six months, but she and my adult children have excluded me from any involvement. My daughter texts me frequently to say how hard the situation is for her. My ex-wife, with whom I was on decent terms, refuses to speak to me. I advised my daughter to find professional, family-based support, but she seems determined to find her own solution. What recourse do I have?


You get what divorced means, right? You no longer have any say in your ex-wife’s life (no matter how sensible your suggestions). She doesn’t want your help. So, turn your energy to supporting your adult children, instead — but not by telling them what to do.

When your daughter texts about her difficulties, encourage her to vent. If she and her siblings are the caretakers for your ex-wife, they may need help keeping their own lives in order, whether it’s food shopping or possible child care. Offer to pitch in. Be generous with your children and respect your ex-wife’s decision.

Season’s Griftings

My mother has a large jar of pot gummies that she uses as a sleep aid. She doesn’t know that I know about them. She told a friend, whose daughter told me. I have been keeping an eye on the jar. She doesn’t seem to use many of them. Can I take a few gummies to sell to school friends (over-18 only) to pay for Hanukkah gifts for my family?


Nice try with the Hanukkah gifts, but absolutely not! Keep your mitts off your mother’s gummies. Even if recreational use is legal where you live, selling pot gummies requires a license.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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