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It’s Just Tommy being Tommy!

group of people eating together

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Imagine for a moment that you pack your family into your car and drive to your in-laws for the holidays. Of course, the traffic is horrendous. When you arrive at the nicely decorated house, a few snowflakes waft through the air. You and your family walk up the flagstone walk to the wreathed door and you’re greeted warmly. In you go, all five of you, each carrying a nicely wrapped present or two. Christmas music plays in the background and the smell of turkey with all the trimmings is in the air. Your mouth is watering! Your tempted to to short-circuit the introductory phase and head straight to the buffet — just for a taste. But that would be impolite. 

Yet, something seems amiss. What is that noise? Their spoiled little brat, Tommy is running amok in the living room shooting the loudest cap guns you’ve ever heard in your life. It slowly dawns on you that no cap gun makes that kind of noise. Those are actual bullets! They must have given their ten-year old who mistreats pets, bikes, and toys actual working guns for early Christmas presents. 

two men standing beside brown wooden cabinet

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What do you do now? I mean, on the one hand, your in-laws have prepared a wonderful Christmas Dinner. Your stomach is growling. Besides, it will be embarrassing to just walk out. 

On the other hand, you don’t want your kids to be accidentally killed or maimed for the rest of their life. You don’t really want yourself or your spouse to be killed either. 

Sounds like a pretty absurd scenario, doesn’t it? 

But polls indicate that many Americans are just fine sitting down to dinner in this scenario. 


If you are one of those folks, you don’t even insist that the guns be taken away from Tommy. In fact, many of you even encourage the parents. “It’s great that you’ve finally found something Tommy can feel responsible for.” Or, “Oh, well, that’s just Tommy being Tommy! After all, no-one’s perfect!” Or, “Well, yes, Tommy might hurt someone, but that’s true of all kids.” 

And that weekend, assuming there are no casualties at dinner, you are happy to send your kids over for a playdate. And there’s Tommy with his real guns loaded with real bullets putting real lives at danger. But I guess you wouldn’t want to embarrass your in-laws. And, who doesn’t like a free meal or free baby-sitting?


It’s just Tommy being Tommy! 


My first experience with real guns could well have been my last. Free chapter 

from “Tales from an American Childhood” 

Author Page on Amazon. 

A Pattern Language for Collaboration and Teamwork. 

The Myths of the Veritas.