Ages ago, in a blog entry in the old Metrophobic (when I was over at JournalSpace, which recently got eaten and then regurgitated, minus most of the journal data), I obsessed over New Jersey-based poet Ona Gritz, whose poetry captivated me from the first poem I read (“Last Tango in Paramus,” which originally appeared in Wicked Alice). I searched out some more of her work online, blogged about her, and ultimately struck up an occasional email correspondence with her. Since then, she’s given a reading for my old poetry group, and I’ve seen her around the NJ poetry scene on occasion (I’ll probably see her this weekend at Cape May, as I have every other year).
It wans’t long before I found that she was writing a regular column at Literary Mama called Doing It Differently. Her most recent column struck me as particularly relevant for my life right now – entitled “Happiness, Apparently, Is a Warm Gun” – it’s a reflection on her son’s desire to own and play the video game Halo, a first-person shooter game that involves assassinating aliens that are determined to exterminate the human race. The amount of violence in the game horrified Ona, and it horrifies me.
For the past six years, I’ve worked to teach Jacob specific values in life (tolerance, respect, acceptance of diversity), and while I work to help him understand and believe specific concepts (language is powerful, violence is never the right answer). All along, I’ve insisted that despite my desire that he learn these things, I understand that what I want for my child is irrelevant, because he will have his own desires and needs. He will be able to make his own decisions, and I will only be able to trust that I’ve done a good enough job in teaching him how.
So reading Ona’s column, in which she struggles with this very concept, really made me feel better – it’s not easy for any of us, something I rationally know but rarely remember in the mini-crisis moments when Jacob is snarking at me or refusing to eat the spaghetti tacos that he specifically requested for dinner.
So I think I’ll continue the “no weapons at Mom’s house” rule – that kind of imaginary play is not something I can get behind. But when the time comes and Jacob asks for the fighting game for his DS, I’m going to remember Ona’s column.