In come the fire blasters.

“Mumma, for my birthday, when I turn four, I’m gonna want, I’m gonna, I want, a, uh, a, a – a flame-throwing-gun-shooting video game!”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yah! Like the ones Daddy plays! Where you get to fix the gun, and buy new ones, and shoot out fire and fire bullets, and find ammo everywhere, and make things explode, and the little people all go Aaarghhaaaahhhhhaaaaaahahaha!”
“You know, Mommy doesn’t like those games very much. Do you really think that something like that’s an appropriate birthday present for a four-year-old?”
“But Daddy likes them!”
“Yes, I know.”
“And he plays them all the time, and even goes over to Economicus’s house for playdates to play them!”
“Yes. I know.”
“I saw him playing them when we went for a sleepover to play with the girls!”
“Yes. I know.”
“And when I grow up, I’m going to play them all the time!”
“Mmmhmm.”
“So why don’t you like them, Mommy?”
“Well, what happens to the people in the video game in those kinds of games?”
“They die, and then explode, and then they spray out blood all over the place!”
“Yes.”
“So, why don’t you like them, then?”
“Well, you know, I know that they’re just a game, and that the people in them aren’t really real people, and they aren’t really dying, but, when I see that, and when I hear the noises they make, it makes me think about real people getting hurt. And thinking about that makes me feel all the same things that I feel when a real person gets hurt. You know, when you bump your toe, and you cry, and I hug you and help you feel better, how sometimes you being hurt makes my heart hurt too, even though I didn’t bump myself?”
“Yeah.”
“Well, those video games kind of make me feel like that too.”
“But… but – you don’t have to watch, Mommy! You could go to another room!”
“Well, that’s very thoughtful of you. But it doesn’t solve the problem of you watching and hearing all those video game people get hurt while you’re playing it.”
“But Mommy, but – but it doesn’t bother me!”
“Yes, that’s what I’m worried about.”
“Why?”
“Because I don’t think that that’s a good thing. I don’t think that it’s healthy for you to not be bothered by people exploding and spraying blood out and making those sounds. And I most certainly don’t think it’s healthy for you to be making that happen to them.”
“Why?”
“Well, you know, the human brain is a wonderful, mysterious, miraculous thing. And we don’t really understand everything about how it works yet. Like, Mommy and Daddy, and even you, sometimes don’t understand how you work and think and do things – what makes you tick. But we do know that sometimes, especially in impressionable people, which four-year-olds can be, sometimes the brain can have a hard time differentiating fantasy from reality. And that sometimes we don’t always just play pretend things we experience in the real world – like when you pretend Penguinny has a sore tummy and you give him pretend medicine. Sometimes we do it the other way around and we transfer things to the real world that we were playing in pretend.”
“Huh?”
“So, if you were playing a video game where you got to shoot people and think that it’s funny when they get hurt, that you might also think it’s funny in the real world when someone gets hurt for real. And unfortunately, in the real world, people really do have guns, even sometimes ones that shoot out fire.”
“They do? Can I see one?”
“OK, Love. It’s time for bed. No more stalling. I think we’ve exhausted this topic for tonight – we’ve certainly exhausted me.”
“Why?”
“Well, because, sometimes it’s a little hard to keep up with you, Love.”
“Oh.”
“Now, sweet dreams – ”
“No! Mommy! Stay and cuddle with me! If you go, I’ll be scared of the dark!”
“Sweetheart, I think you are a big, brave, grown-up boy, and that you have lots of strategies for dealing with darkness.”
“Nooooooo! I don’t have any strategies! I need you to sing me a song, and stay and stay and stay until I’m asleeeeeeeep!”
“I think that if you snuggle with Penguinny, and think about your birthday coming up, and think about what kind of party you might like to have, you could fall asleep very nicely.”
“Mommy, can we have a rocket-launching party? With fire blasters? And the rockets will blast off, and go high high high into the sky, and go into outer space, and go fffhshfhfhhzhjzooooOOOOM, and the fire will go EVERYWHERE?”
“We’ll see. We can talk to Daddy and see what we can come up with. Maybe he could find a small rocket kit that we could try, in a big field, and invite some of your friends. And maybe fly some kites.”
“Mumma, I love you! You’re my best friend.”
“I love you too, Darling. Sweet dreams.”

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