posted in Parenting
“Happy Holidays! Thank you for opening your home to my family. Before we can take you up on your generous offer to stay with you — for free — I first have a few questions. I need to know if you have guns in the house. And if so, are they unloaded and locked up?”
That’s just a snippet from the awkward conversation I’ve been preparing in my head. An awkward yet incredibly important conversation. One that concerns the safety of my child.
So why does it feel so weird and pushy?
I have to be honest, it wasn’t even a conversation I’d thought about. Yet I ensure my son’s food is cut into small pieces to prevent choking. I hold his hand when we walk near cars. And I slather him in sunscreen before we go outside.
Why then, did I not think to ask about guns in the home of our holiday hosts?
It started over breakfast. My husband and I were talking about fishing, or maybe he was talking. I was somewhat listening. He said his friend Ken goes camping and fishing, sometimes by himself. And in the middle of nowhere.
I commented how it sounded dangerous. My husband told me that he brings a small handgun along for safety.
“Wait, what?” I screeched in horror, suddenly paying the utmost attention to his words. And looking up from my phone for the first time. “Ken, as in your friend Ken who we’re staying with in two weeks? He has a gun?”
“Yes,” my husband replied. Suddenly the dots connected and the planets aligned. His face registered recognition, then his eyes grew wide with concern. “Yes!”
We have a very curious 14-month-old son. He listens as well as most toddlers his age, take that as you will. My husband and I are very much on top of him, especially when we are in someone else’s home. We don’t expect others to parent for us, or babyproof their home when we come over.
Except for guns. Guns are different.
Even with all eyes on him, my son is quick. He’s thrown things in the toilet. We’ve been missing a remote control for a week. These aren’t real issues for us. My husband got a new toothbrush after his swam in the toilet. We can buy a new remote.
A gun encounter is a real issue. A really huge issue. Given the severity, why does it feel so awkward to have the conversation? Perhaps because I’m asking someone questions about how they live. Putting demands on what goes on inside their own home. Delivering an ultimatum to a person kind enough to invite me and my family to stay.
It’s a no-brainer for me and my husband. We have questions that will need to be answered before we can stay. And let me make this perfectly clear: This is not a gun issue. This is a safety issue. I’m not saying Ken should or shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. I just want it far away from my child.
Given my propensity to make a verbal leap from quiet conversation to audible hurricane in under 5 seconds, my husband and I agreed he’d be the one to speak with Ken. When I think of my child’s safety possibly being jeopardized, my mama bear claws come out. My husband will handle it calmly yet effectively.
And we’ll stay with Ken. Or in a hotel. But we’ll be doing so with all the information needed to make that decision.
Which brings me back to my self-loathing for not asking in the first place. We’ve only ever stayed in my parents’ house and I know they don’t own guns. It was never in my realm of consciousness.
I can’t go back, but as I move forward things will be different. We can’t expect friends and family to offer us an itemized list of the items in the home. We’ll ask. We must ask for our son’s sake.
It might offend some people, no matter how gently we try to phrase our queries. There could be awkwardness. But my son’s safety matters most.
For more of my mom journey follow me on Instagram at Witty Otter.
Have you stayed with someone who keeps a gun in their home? How did you address the situation?
Images by Becky Vieira