Know how your audience will react to your saying something and go through with saying it only if it will bring about the reaction you're shooting for.

If you want to piss someone off, know how to push their buttons.

If you want people to like you, don't say something that will piss them off.

The latter is a good tactic to generally be a more well-liked person, as employed by politicians everywhere.

Far be it from me to criticize or offer up any unsolicited advice when it comes to the subject of how people raise their kids. That’s usually a very personal decision and what works for one kid or parent might not work for another. I think a lot of the times you have to play things by ear and let circumstances dictate whatever action you might or might not take. If you ask me, too many books have been authored on the topic with too many varying positions that at times parents seem to be caught in a whirlwind of advice and wind up feeling lost out at sea with no life preserver on hand.

But then again, sometimes a parent will do something so out of character with their surroundings that it leaves me scratching my head in amazement and gets me to wondering just what the hell was she thinking?.

This be one of those times.

The school that my daughter attends and has attended since she’s been in kindergarten (she’s in sixth grade now) is a rather small one. The total student enrollment is maybe four hundred or so and her grade has maybe fifty kids in it if it’s lucky. To top it off the teaching methods differ from those one might find in a traditional Catholic school setting or from those one might find in the public school system. She goes to one of those Montessori Schools where they seem to take a different approach to learning and how to be an involved law abiding member of society. While the approach might not be for many kids who require a more structured environment, it seems to be working well for her.

Maybe I’m just lucky.

Anyway, you can tell a lot about the kids by just looking at their parents. Most of them are a bit older and even though the scent of patchouli oil has long since faded, they are for the most part, aging hippies. I guess it’s something one can surmise just by glancing at their worn Birkenstocks and total disregard for current fashion that these people are now and will always be liberals in their thoughts and on their outlook towards the world.

Since the parents are a close knit group, I always seem to be getting invitations to birthday parties either in my inbox or at home via snail mail. Most of theses parties usually invoke some kind of theme. You know, go make some pottery, do some beading, write some collaborative stories, go roller skating or a trip to the local indoor swimming pool. Maybe one of the parents will score some tickets to a movie or a local sporting event and they'll enlist some volunteers to chauffer the kids back and forth. If it’s a “girls only party”, a slumber party is usually in order and the good time that they had is well worth the bleary eyes and cranky attitude that awaits the me the next day.

So it came as no surprise when yet another invitation graced my mailbox the other day. At first I thought to myself, “Good, soccer season is over, she’s getting bored and she’d rather be off with her friends than stuck with her Pops any day off the week” I can’t say I blame her.

Imagine my surprise when we opened the invitation and there, in full glory was a picture of a rifle and a bulls eye. It’s at this point that yours truly begins thinking to himself that some strange offerings are afoot.

Sure enough, on the inside of the invitation there was a request asking that my daughter please join little Jimmy (not his real name) in sharing his love of target shooting at one of the local ranges. To sweeten the pot, it further went on to reveal that each kid in attendance was to be given a safety lesson by a “trained instructor” and that they would be under adult supervision the entire time. If that wasn’t good enough, each parent was invited to attend and take part in the festivities should they so desire.

After scraping my jaw off the kitchen table, me and my daughter both looked at each other with a look that bordered somewhere between shock and dismay. I didn’t even have to ask if she wanted to go, the look on her face said it all.

Shortly afterwards, the phone started ringing from some other parents who seem to hold more deep seated concerns about the whole thing than I did. They ranted and raved and were threatening to inform the school about the proposed party and wanted to know my thoughts on the matter.

In a nutshell, here’s what I told them.

I’m a strong disbeliever in guns. I haven’t fired one since I got out of the Marines and have no desire to ever discharge a weapon again. The very thought of it appalls me. On the other side of the coin, what goes on under somebody else’s roof is none of my goddamn business as long as they’re not breaking any laws or hurting anybody or anything. It’s probably not the answer they were looking for.

Here’s what I didn’t tell them.

In these days of ever increasing incidents of school violence and deadly shootings, the very thought of having fifteen or twenty eleven year olds running around and getting taste of what it’s like to fire a weapon is repugnant. Who knows how it easy it is for little Johnny or little Susie to get their hands on weapon at home if they aren’t safeguarded properly? Besides intentional acts of violence, accidents do happen. This is especially true when kids are at that age that they think they know everything there is to know on a given subject and fear and respect are both novel concepts.

I don’t know what the general consensus amongst the parents will be. I don’t know how many will let their kids attend the birthday bash or how many will keep them at home. I don’t know how many parents will raise the matter with the school or for that matter, how the kids that got the invitations will react amongst themselves.

What I do know is this.

The holiday season is upon us. It’s that time of year when there are many things going on at my kids school such as arts and crafts shows, band concerts, bake sales and choir recitals. Most of these events are attended by a good deal of the parents who want to feel a sense of involvement with their kids schooling and their extracurricular affairs.

I know one set of parents who will be getting some strange looks and sideways glances behind their backs.

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