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Archive for September, 2012

The object of my son’s desire was tall, thin, sleek, robed in black and nothing if not dangerous. “It’s so sexy,” he said.

This was no 9th grade femme fatale he was describing. It was his new airsoft gun. A sniper.

As I watched my 14-year-old son gazing at his beloved, I flashed back to the day when he was three and pretending to be an armed robber. Like any well-intentioned, politically-correct and completely naive young mother, I said, “no, sweetie, we don’t play with guns. Guns hurt people.” My son stopped, looked at me with withering condescension and said “Mommy, it’s pretend.”

He had a point, and one that was hard to argue with. I decided to give his imagination free reign. My hunch was confirmed by a book I reviewed that argued that playing cops and robbers, and even violent video games, allows children to safely explore frightening emotions. I would not put a damper on my son’s pretend play just because I didn’t like the content. Besides, I’d heard enough about boys working around bans on toy weapons to think it was a losing battle; my favorite was the one about a toddler in a Jewish pre-school who was so determined to arm himself that he chewed his matzoh into the shape of a pistol.

Having surrendered in the weapon war, I then had the pleasure of watching my boys move from pretend guns to light sabers, pirate swords, water pistols, nerf guns, archery and riflery at camp, and paintball, a progression culminating in my first born using his bar mitzvah money (!) to buy an airsoft gun and a bucket of ammunition. (more…)

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My husband missed his train today. It was there when we drove into the station, but pulled away as he stepped out of the car. He didn’t seem too bothered; another train would come in 12 minutes and he’d only be a few minutes late to his meeting.

Eleven years ago this morning, my husband overslept and missed another train.  One that would have gotten him into the city in time to catch the subway downtown, to a conference in the Marriott beneath the World Trade Center.

That same morning, my brother-in-law decided to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks before taking the subway down to his job on the 84th floor of the South Tower. The express train came and it was crowded; he didn’t feel like standing, so he took the local. By the time he was climbing the stairs out of the station, the towers were burning.

Random minutes mattered that day. Unpredictably, unreasonably, and for so many people with unfathomable cruelty, the minutes made a difference.

For months after September 11, it was hard not to think that small decisions could have big consequences. If one of my boys lagged on the way to school and I realized I might miss the 8:17 train to Grand Central, I’d wonder if that was going to be the best delay of my life or the worst. Living with that kind of anxiety was exhausting. It would be months before I stopped flinching every time a plane passed over the house, before I could put the fresh, raw awareness that awful things can happen to anyone at anytime, back into a deep, neglected corner of my mind.

When my boys were in elementary school, each went through a period of extreme anxiety. When my older son was in fourth grade, he worried about getting sick. Every cut or scrape sent him into a panic. For a few weeks, he was hyper-aware of his body, afraid of every unfamiliar feeling or flicker of discomfort. A year later, my younger son suddenly became anxious about going to school; for a month or so, it was like there was a force field preventing him from crossing the door into his third-grade classroom. (more…)

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