8.24.2009

What is a good age for a child to get a pocket knife?

What is a good age for a child to get a pocket knife?
that is a riddle as old and as complex as "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?!?!?"


my older son Dean has been asking for a pocket knife for years...
for years I postponed the request... giving Dean a pre-teen deadline

then earlier this summer I overheard that some older boys on the block had been given pocket knives... although these other boys are nine and Dean is only eight... I figured that now was as good a time as any
understanding that knife comes with responsibilities and risks
feeling that giving such a set of responsibilities would also teach lessons
also knowing that this introduction happens under my supervision rather than behind my back

all this while also accepting that there is one more issue...
when older brother Dean gets something... that same something filters down to Grant
the now five year old Grant

just as Grant has seen movies that I would not allow Dean to watch at a certain age... Grant has seen them at a younger age because things trickle down from the older sibling
Grant also gets certain privileges that Dean did not get at the same age
a pocket knife is a prime example of one of these privileges

before purchasing the pocket knife there was a bit of talk about the knife
the pocket knife is a tool and not a toy
a tool with a potential for danger
a tool that comes with a certain set of risks
a tool that demands respect and responsibility

just like daddy and his tools...
daddy does not run around with his friends with a power saw in one hand and a cordless drill in the other

no... daddy brings the tools out when he needs them and then puts them away when he is done

the pocket knife is not any different
this is a tool for certain tasks

there were simple "DOs and DON'Ts"
basic common sense stuff
more reiterating that the pocket knife is a tool and not a toy
a potentially dangerous toy
a toy that carries with it a variety of risks

never is the knife to be used for sword play
never is the knife to be played with as if it is a weapon

it was decided... it was agreed... we would shop for pocket knives on our Colorado vacation

so... once in Colorado we did some shopping
the plane had not even landed and the kids were already ready to get their pocket knives

small children are not much for shopping
what they see is what they want and then they want to buy
what is in front of their eyes may erase what was already in their minds
so... I put a barrier on the purchase... we would get the knives in Grand Lake
which gave us at least one afternoon of browsing in Boulder

the boys had an idea of what they wanted
it seemed that both the boys wanted a Swiss Army Knife... or at least a knife with lots of tools and lots of options
Dean was sticking to the notion that his knife would have a saw

while Grant wanted his knife to have a chain saw
I was curious why neither one of them asked about the knife with a "blaster" or at least a laser
(Han Solo in Star Wars uses a Blaster... there are no knives with blasters)

we browsed through a few stores
to my pleasure there were a variety of stores with a variety of knives

many of which were Swiss Army style knives for a less than Swiss Army price
inexpensive made sense as these knives may be lost in the shuffle sooner rather than later

as we browsed through the knives there was plenty of coaching
I tried to make sure that the boys were calm and no one was jumping around bouncing off the other
I tried to make sure that the boys were careful handling the knives
the boys were very good about listening and very good at respecting the risks
we went in a few stores in Boulder leaving without a knife

once in Grand Lake the pressure for purchase came on hard
sure enough for Dean... the first knife with a saw became the first knife that we had to buy
comparision shopping was not part of their plan

the sooner the purchase the sooner they would have a knife in hand

in our search there was some social interplay with the people behind the counter
the majority of people behind the counter had stories of cutting themselves
with a knife
most of them had a story about cutting themselves with their first knife within the first minutes of ownership
then it happened... Grant was pulling out the blade of a knife and it snapped back and cut him
even the bargain bin knives are sharp enough to cut skin

Grant had trumped them
Grant had cut himself with the knife during the shopping process
this very minor injury brought up hesitation
hesitation within Grant and hesitation within me


Grant grew resistant of the knife concept
Dean bought his multi-tool Swiss Army style knife on the spot...
after the passage of a short amount of time... just about the time it took the bleeding to stop Grant settled in on
a more simple knife with less blades... a knife where the blades pulled back more easily and did not snap back as fast

over the next few days I monitored the boys and their knives

there was some whittling... but really it was more the sharpening of the ends of sticks
after the sharpening of sticks I saw that the pleasure of owning a knife is really more a matter of o
wning and possessing the knife than actually using it
sure the boys got great pleasure in opening my beer with the opener on Dean's knife
but really they got more pleasure and pride in showing others that they did in fact own a pocket knife

over the week in Colorado the boys carried their pocket knives with them
being told not to walk and definitely not to run with their blades out
they were told to be aware of when someone had their knife open and to be careful in approaching them
giving them space if they were whittling or carving something
in the car they got warnings to be careful with the knives out when we drove on bumpy roads

there were warnings issued every second on every danger
I said "be careful" so often that my throat grew hoarse

the boys got their knives and since the first cut there have been no more injuries
hopefully there will be no more injuries
I have not cut myself with a pocket knife since I was 28
and well

that may well be the last time I tried whittling down a stick

it is still not clear what is a good age for a child to get a pocket knife
all I know is there is no possible option to put the Genie back in the bottle
my boys have their pocket knives
now it is my responsibility to guide them to use them safely




2 comments:

Mindy said...

Cool post. Hope your boys enjoy their new knives with no incidents. It seems like it would be tough to know when to allow children to have potentially dangerous items. You seem like a very thoughtful parent.

I enjoy your blog (especially your photos) but also your posts are always interesting to read, as I'm also a mountain biker. I never leave comments and saw you mentioned that you don't get many comments, so I thought I'd take a moment and say hi from Brookings, OR.
best regards,
Mindy

Jim said...

What is a good age for a child to get a pocket knife?

About two years before the first rifle. I'd say 7 or 8 depending on the maturity of the child.

Conceding of course that the knife requires somewhat less supervision than the rifle.