My wife and I raised three children to adulthood. Today they are healthy, happy, productive members of society. Good parenting? Yes, there was some of that, but there was also a degree of luck.
You see, while my children were growing up, my wife and I never once popped the question. We should have.
As parents, we do everything to keep our children safe. We make sure they eat balanced meals. We teach them to look both ways before crossing the street. We take them to the doctor for regular checkups. We tell them not to talk to strangers, and to never get into a car with someone they don’t know.
Modern moms and dads think nothing of telling the parents of their child’s friend that Little Johnny should only be served gluten-free snacks when he comes to visit, but those same moms and dads wouldn’t dream of popping the question, because, well, popping the question might offend.
Unfortunately, in today’s United States of America, failure to pop the question means that as a parent, you’re just not doing your job. In a week that featured another mass shooting on a college campus, two other incidents made smaller, but equally lethal blips on my radar screen:
Oct. 5, 2015 — An 11-year-old boy in Tennessee shot and killed his next door neighbor, an 8-year-old girl, over an argument about a puppy Saturday, police said. The young killer, a fifth-grade student at White Pine Elementary School, used his father’s 12-gauge shotgun to fire at Maykayla Dyer from inside his home around 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 9, 2015 — A 13-year-old boy appears to have deliberately shot and killed a 12-year-old girl outside a home in rural southwest Missouri with a gun that came from the house, the local sheriff said Friday. Officers tried to revive the girl, Teresa J. Potts, but she died Thursday evening near the town of Jasper in front of a foster home, Jasper County Sheriff Randee Kaiser said.
Moms and dads, if you’re not asking other parents whether they keep guns in their house, why not? If Little Johnny has a peanut allergy, you’d make sure there are no goobers in the pantry, but you won’t ask about the Glock in the closet or the shotgun under the bed?
“Oh, but we keep our guns locked up,” they’ll say. Really? Are you really going to risk it? Little Johnny’s friend probably doesn’t know where his parents keep the key to the gun cabinet, right? And Little Johnny’s friend’s father would never come home from the shooting range, get distracted by Muffy the Cat, set his gun down and forget about it, would he? That would be inconceivable! Just an innocent mistake, right? Just a momentary lapse that gets Little Johnny’s head blown off, is all.
But what if it’s not just friends, what if the gun nut is a relative? With hindsight squarely in my rearview mirror, I’d say I’ve been lucky there, too, and if I had to do it all over again, I might very well risk becoming estranged from my gun-nut relatives, because the safety of children should come before the hurt feelings of Uncle Corky and Aunt Pearl. Besides, if you’ve broached the subject with them and they’re still holding on to their arsenal, it should be pretty clear that their love for their guns outweighs their love for you. Tell ’em goodbye. Being estranged is a whole lot better than being dead.
As parents, it’s impossible to keep our children safe from everything, but that doesn’t keep us from trying. So please, pop the question. Don’t wait for Congress to act, because Congress never will.
Pop the question.
Do it before it’s Little Johnny who gets popped.
* Image stolen from another web site, which probably stole it from somewhere else.