Auntie SparkNotes: My Parents Don't Like My Knife Collection
I like knives. I'm fascinated by them. Or, I should say, I like collecting them and I'm fascinated by their history and design, and by the fact that something as simple as a sharp piece of steel can have so many types, methods of construction, and uses, ranging from surviving in the wilderness to preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Because they have so many uses, I carry a pocketknife with me wherever I go. (And wherever it's legal; I don't take them to school or airports or the like. I'm not stupid). I have a small collection of different types and styles of knives, as well.
However, my parents, particularly my mom, think that I will, for whatever reason, use one of my knives to attack someone else. She gets uncomfortable when I do something as benign as use one to open mail. She says I should stop buying and carrying them. I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but collecting knives has grown into a hobby of mine. I've talked to her about it and tried to explain that they are tools rather than weapons, and also that I've checked my state and local laws and everything I have is 100% legal, but she won't hear any of it. I've tried explaining that they're just things and that they can't do anything I don't make them do, but I can't seem to convince her that I'm not going to turn into a serial killer. I don't know what to do. It's hard to make a strong case when there are so many crime shows on TV about stabbing victims, and when most knives can indeed be used as weapons. I realize I can just not pull out a pocketknife when she's in the room, but how do I make sure she knows that I'm just collecting them and not planning to stab anybody?
I know: annoying isn't it? That's why it's generally a bad idea to make rules about what your kid is and isn't allowed to do based upon the mere possibility, no matter how far-fetched, of hypothetical misbehavior. And I'm sorry, Sparkler, 'cause you really are kind of stuck. You can't prove a negative; your parents can continue to accuse you of being a criminal-to-be all they want, and all you can do in response is, y'know, continue to not stab people.
Which is frustrating, I'm sure. Though if it's any consolation, I'm also sure you're not the only kid with an interest in the macabre—be it knives or medieval weaponry or first-person shooter games involving the graphic dismemberment of zombie attackers—to be getting the full-on parental hysteria treatment in the aftermath of the awful thing that happened in Newtown. It's the unfortunate side effect of a society on high alert.
But that doesn't mean your parents are right, or that you can't try to put this to rest. And so, It's time to break out the Template for Maturely Conversing With Unreasonable Adults. (Did you guys miss this? It's been so long!) Here's how it goes:
Seeing you with a knife makes your mom uncomfortable. Is that rational? No, but you can still understand her feelings—so, show her you do. This is a good approach for any tough conversation; the more your opponent feels heard, the more they'll be ready to listen to what you have to say.
Ex: "I know that knives make you nervous, and things being what they are, I understand why my interest in them could be alarming to you."
Once you've shown a respectful understanding of your parents' feelings, you can present your own take on the situation.
Ex: "But I'm not interested in them as weapons, only as tools and artifacts. And I don't think it's fair to be told that I can't collect something that interests me just because of what I could hypothetically do with it. Collecting knives doesn't mean I want to stab someone with them, anymore than collecting ski masks would mean that I want to put one on and rob a bank."
You can ask your parents what they'd like you to do to prove that your interest is innocuous, or you can offer your own ideas. But one suggestion: when your parents have implied that owning knives puts you at risk for committing violent acts, you might want to call their bluff by taking it to its logical conclusion. After all, you have nothing to hide.
Ex: "I'm happy for us to discuss this with a therapist, as a family, if it would make you feel better. But otherwise, I'd like you to stop bringing this up. I have no desire to hurt people, and it's frustrating and upsetting to have you treat me as though I do."
And then? Drop it. Continuing to argue your innocence just makes this an ongoing conflict, instead of what it should be, which is a question asked and answered. Hopefully, that'll put an end to it—and while your parents may always be leery of sharp objects, being open, honest, and willing to discuss their appeal should at least convince them that you're not about to put one down in somebody's chest.
Do you have a hobby that freaks out your folks? Share your story in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.