Asking this question before letting your kids play at someone else’s house could save their lives
Parenting forces us to do a lot of things that might be a bit uncomfortable in the name of caring for our children. From early morning little league games to inconvenient parent-teacher conferences, we’re forced out of our comfort zones every day. Making strange requests – please don’t bring nuts to the cafeteria – and asking awkward questions – “Has he been vaccinated?” – simply becomes a part of your life.
As your kids get older and start hanging out at their friends’ houses without you, there’s one question that may be the most important, and awkward (given the climate in this country) of all.
“Are there guns in the house?”
Ashlyn Melton explains, in a heart-wrenching piece from Today, how a day doesn’t go by when she doesn’t wish she’d asked that question of her son’s best friends’ parents, before he spent the night at their house.
Noah Daigle, 13, was at his best friend’s house in December of 2011, when the other boy picked up one of the four guns in his bedroom, guns that weren’t locked up, and “playfully” pulled the trigger. Tragically, that gun was loaded and Noah was killed.
“In all those years of playdates and sleepovers, I never had anyone ask me about my guns, and I never asked anyone else about theirs. I didn’t think to ask. I would have never let my child go there if I had known they had guns lying around unsecured. That’s something I live with for the rest of my life. If I would have known, if I would have asked the question and maybe if they had told me the truth, I wouldn’t have let him go.”
This isn’t about politics. Melton admits in the piece that she is not anti-gun. Her son was familiar with them himself, having been raised around them – had gone hunting as early as three years old – and she had guns in her own house. Locked up of course, and certainly not in Noah’s bedroom. Melton and her family followed strict gun safety procedures, and simply assumed everyone else did the same. After all, these were guns.
But not everyone does, and that allows tragedies like this – and countless others around this increasingly fragile country – to happen. It’s a scary thing, watching your kids grow up and gain independence. They’re not always going to be under your lock and key, and we can’t count on other people to take care of them for us. But there are things we can do to make things a little safer, things as simple as asking those awkward questions.
Maybe tragedies like the Meltons’ would be avoided if more parents swallowed their pride and asked if there are guns in any house their kids are going to be spending time in. And, if so, ask if they’re properly locked away, unloaded, and out of reach of children.
Yes, it’s an awkward question, and not an easy thing to ask, whether you’re a pacifist or a card-carrying member of the NRA. It carries with it the risk of offending someone – someone you’ll probably be seeing more of, since your kids are friends.
But it has to be asked. Because it also carries with it the potential reward of saving your child’s life.