Since I quit my full-time job (for reasons I shall not discuss here) and decided to work from home, I have been spending a lot more time on my own, but have also been able to observe what the two children, two boys, I have left, do. What I find interesting is the extremely different sounds I now find myself listening to. These are very different sounds from those we were all able to hear in this same house about three to four years ago, when we first moved to this northern suburb of the ACT.
And I don’t mean their voices. The difference is that boys enjoy playing war games: my twin boys like playing war games, too. Mind you, I hate the idea of war. So I secretly despaired when they were given toy guns for their 8th birthday. Yet the twins are also imaginative (that’s a positive, yes?), so they are capable of making up soldiers, devising state-of-the-art weaponry and even building spaceships with their Lego blocks.
The sounds I can these days hear resemble those of fights, or of action movies as they see them on TV: powerful laser beam discharges, machine gun bursts, brutal car or plane crashes, or who knows exactly what it is that ignites their imagination. It is fantastic that they’re so imaginative, but the sounds they make while playing are of violence, of wanton destruction.
Now, don’t get me wrong: as a child I was exactly like that. I will not lay any claims to any sort of purity or a higher moral ground in that regard. To give an example of what I mean: even when we did not have any toy guns at home, my brother and I would construct guns with wooden pegs. We could shoot peg pieces at each other and drove our poor mum insane whenever she needed to hang out the clothes. So I still see there is fun in playing war games.
The boys’ 8th birthday party was held at a place called Zone 3, where we made up two teams of 7 and then entered a dimly-lit maze toting laser guns that we had to use to annihilate the other team and score as many points as possible. I came second last, I think. I had never played this sort of game before, and frankly, it felt almost like fun for a while. What I did enjoy was to see their big excitement whenever they shot me; that I liked quite a lot more than the game itself.
Yet I will sit in my study of an afternoon and recall the times when there were gentler sounds, and the games played were of a different kind. They were games about putting up and opening a shop, for instance – and then I would get called to urgently go and ‘do my shopping’ there; I would be given some ‘money’ to spend, and it was fun to engage in discussions about the quality of their products! Or also other times when their whole afternoon would be spent on organising a fashion parade, and those two little boys obediently followed the parade manager’s highly creative instructions, sometimes in a rather shrill tone when her instructions were not duly observed.