The XX Factor

Buying Kids the “Big Guns”

My Super Soaker Scatter Blast should be here today. Also my Super Soaker Wars Rattler Water Blaster in both blue and red and, for good measure, my Super Soaker Tornado Strike , my Max Liquidator Eliminator and my Pumponator [Water] Balloon Pumping Station .

I will probably share these things with my children, although I plan to choose the best of the assorted weaponry and keep it loaded and ready any time I’m outside this summer. This year will mark our first family foray into the world of “Big Guns,” the popular toys that the WSJ says ” Get Kids Off the Couch and Wetter Than Ever. ” We’ve had those tiny little toy squirters, provided by well-meaning friends and the dentist’s treasure chest, that worked for three minutes and then failed forever after or (even worse) worked for one child but not another. Things that couldn’t be “loaded” without either adult assistance or the bathroom sink flooding and were anything but satisfying. Now that the youngest child is a dextrous 5 years old and highly motivated to compete, I think it’s high time we unleashed the real water wars. I chose based on reviews reporting easy loading and firing, eliminated anything that required batteries from our potential arsenal, and ordered enough to allow each of my four kids and whatever assorted friends are in the yard (and, of course, me) to be suitably armed.

I fully expect there to be ganging up, sneak attacks, torrents unleashed on unsuspecting victims innocently enjoying the tire swing, and unsportsmanlike firing on people who are struggling to load. I know the water guns will encourage precisely the kind of “gun play” and war games that the proper parent is supposed to frown upon. But not only am I not that parent, I suspect that when it comes to water guns, almost no one is. Even the Journal (which typically excels at finding off-the-wall parents willing to cop to all sorts of insanity) couldn’t find any helicopters that hovered low enough to be outraged by a Super Soaker. The positives (outdoor, active, interactive creative play) far outweigh any arguable negatives (OK, it is “shooting,” and we’re clearly gonna need some “not directly in the face” rules), and that’s even before we bring in the “I-wish-I-were-a-kid-again” factor: I would have loved sneaking around the neighborhood hunting down the aliens, bad guys, or stormtroopers with one of these.

Water guns may invite siblings to treat each other as targets, but that’s not a tendency that really needs an invitation. It’s more of a natural urge that needs an outlet. We love water guns because they not only invite but demand irresponsible behavior, the kind that embodies summer in all of our minds, no matter how old we are. I want to imagine that chasing each other around the yard with a “Water Blaster” will lead to family harmony, especially if it’s followed up by popsicles, just like I want to imagine that owning enough squirt guns for a small army will deliver us a summer filled with endless days of perfect sunshine and ample time for battle lines to form.  By September I’ll be wondering what led me to push “Buy Now with 1-Click” for these moldy hunks of plastic, but right now, I know exactly what I’m buying. It’s almost summer, and I’m hoping to live free and get soaked.