Thursday, April 17, 2008

Today's epiphany brought to you by Elmo

Before I had Peanut, Mr Babbler and I swore our house would not be filled with all sorts of licensed plastic crap.

That's ok, you go ahead. Laugh at my ignorance. I'll wait.

Finished? Wiped the tears from your eyes?

As I was saying, we had sworn our house would not be filled with all sorts of licensed crap. Our child would not be outfitted head-to-toe in Dora. We would not eat/sleep/breathe The Wiggles. There would not be an endless parade of saccharine-sweet Disney princesses sashaying their way
across our TV screen.

For the most part, we have been successful. Peanut does not own a single branded item of clothing. She has yet to see even a single moment of Disney. She is, however, allowed to watch Sesame Street - carefully compiled on our PVR and pulled out when Mommy needs a few precious moments.

She loves Sesame Street with a passion that is ordinarily only reserved for her Bunny. The sound of the "P-B-S Kids!" intro is enough to make her drop whatever she's doing and run for her chair.

The Peanut's royal throne.

She's very giving with her love. One day she shows a deep affinity for Big Bird. Other days it's Bert. She's always got a giggle for Cookie Monster. And, like many kids, she loves some Elmo. No, Peanut does not play favorites with her Monsters.

Yes, these monsters.

We love Sesame Street around here. It's smart and clever and funny, and some of the "adult" jokes never fail to make me giggle. (Ever see the piece where Ernie gets Bert to pretend to talk to an elephant on the phone? He's introducing himself to her, and at the end of the call Ernie is talking to the camera. In the background you can hear Bert saying "yes, I'm about 6" tall with blond hair. No, I really don't think we should meet." Hilarious I tell you!) But even with all that love, apart from a single colouring book we've managed to avoid the siren call of branded toys or clothes or cutlery.

Until last night. I was walking through Wal-mart and they were having a special sale on this item:

A branded piece of plastic crap.

I stopped in my tracks, and before I knew what I was doing I was reaching for my cell phone to call Mr Babbler to discuss a possible purchase with him. Thirty seconds later I had loaded the box into my cart and I was on my way. I was bringing an item into our house that had broken all the rules. It was branded. It was plastic. It makes noise. In a nutshell, it's a cheaply made piece of crap.

Peanut woke up this morning, ate her breakfast, and then wandered into the living room to find Elmo waiting for her. The morning sun was streaming through the windows, hitting Elmo just so, such that the plastic appeared to glow with an inner light. She stopped in her tracks, gripped Bunny even tighter, pointed and started squealing and babbling madly. Her head whipped around for me, her eyes wide with excitement, before tentatively approaching Elmo and offering him her Bunny. Periodically throughout the day she would wander over to stroke Elmo's head.

That reaction, that reaction that I knew she was going to have, was what caused my epiphany. It's all well and good that Mr Babbler and I had such high-minded ideals, but at the end of the day what we really want is to make our child happy. While this doesn't mean you'll see Peanut wandering around in Dora head-to-toe or find her room decorated in Disney Princesses any time soon, it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing decision. Occasionally, I can bend, and in doing so bring Peanut untold pleasure. Knowing how excited she would be, as I paid, drove home, and put the pieces together was like the night before Christmas, when you can barely restrain yourself from giving that ultimate gift - the one longed for, pined for, sought after. I went to bed, excited for the morning and eager to see her reaction, and was well-rewarded for my efforts.

Perhaps in some way, by still maintaining some of our original ideas, that is what has made this moment (and those, occasional ones, that are sure to follow) that much sweeter. The shock of pleasure and joy in the unexpected and unanticipated a heady combination.


Jennifer said...

I've been there with you. I gave in to Emma's joy - and to the random times those commercialized toys brought 10 minutes of peace to my house. :)

Speaking of random, I've tagged you for the 6 Random Things Game - rules are on my blog.


kittenpie said...

Funny, I could totally hear you saying this after the other night.

I think all parents go through these things - I call it death by a thousand little dyings of our values and ideals. For us, it was Dora, and stuff some friends bought her (dishes, a few other little knickknacks) plus some stickers and a trio of small plastic Little People figurines I bought her. She still hasn't seen disney, but knows all about it from her daycare friends, so it's hard to keep at bay forever, anyhow, no matter how high your ideals or how many like-minded yuppies you may have surrounded yourself with!

nomotherearth said...

Have you started potty training? That was my downfall. I will buy underwear with pretty much ANYTHING on it to get the Boy to use the potty. Do you want Spiderman underwear, Boy?? SURE! Do you even know who Spiderman is???...

cinnamon gurl said...

Yeah, I was thinking about this the other day when I looking for t-shirts for Swee'pea and found myself considering a Dora shirt (he just recently announced he liked Dora even though it's never been on in our house - grandparents!) then a Thomas the Tank shirt, because he loves that stuff. Once upon a time, I would have been horrified by myself, but back then I hadn't even seen Swee'pea, let alone felt the love and joy in seeing him play and cuddle. In the end, I went with a generic fire truck shirt that he loved so much that he had to put it on the moment he laid eyes on it.

SciFi Dad said...

We held those same ideas when our daughter was born: no lights, no batteries, no noises, etc. But as she grew, my wife noticed that when they were at a more lenient parent's house, my daughter's face lit up when she played with the less-imaginative toys.

One day, we broke down and bought one. I've never seen her so happy.

And, like you said, sometimes it's not about our ideals or beliefs. Sometimes it's about what makes them happy.

Don Mills Diva said...

Heh. Yup I can relate to this post. I have always said I would never take my kid to Disney World because it's so consumerist and all the characters are marketers and...well you know...and lately I've been fanatasizing about the pure joy such a trip would be sure to bring Graham.

BTW - sorry we didn't get too much of a chance to chat last weekend!

caramama said...

You mean these ideals also will fall by the wayside? Crap. I really dislike some of those characters... But I see this is another area over which we think we have control until the actual children we have teach us better.

I love the idea of a rocking toy! I'm going to have to look around for one.

Ali said...

my daughter Isabella is the only kid in the world who doesn't give a crap about elmo. what's wrong with her??? :)

Mac and Cheese said...

We're right along with you on doing exactly what we said we wouldn't. Walmart, eh? Welcome to the 'burbs.

Bea said...

The thing about branded toys is that they allow the children to display their knowledge - there's that thrill of recognition, the shock of actually knowing something about an object in a world full of unknowns. It's not an entirely bad thing, that.

crazymumma said...

I had such high ideals before I had my children. I still do really. But I also realized that flexibility was key to mental health, of both me, and my girls.

Aliki2006 said...

I have always--ALWAYS--been such a sucker for that vision of delight and joy on my child's face over a new toy--in the end, that's what counts.

kgirl said...

bee doesn't like sesame street, or any monster associated with it. i count myself very, very lucky.


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