Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Abating Batman...

My son recently had a growth spurt which means that we spent a lot of money on groceries and his clothes look like they shrunk in the wash (a better image is that he looks like Dooly at the end of Dooly and the Snortsnoot but you can't get that book anymore and I don't want your curiosity to get the best of you)

So, we told him that we were going to get some new pajamas and he said, "I want Batman pajamas". We are not a Batman kind of family. Our kids don't really watch TV, just a movie on rare occasions. We know that he hears about all this at school, all the "man" characters - Superman, Spiderman, Batman - and I don't like it. I miss his innocence. I miss his love of Hello Kitty which is no better but at least non-stereotypical. In my cheeriest mama voice and I said "We'll see!" Batman pajamas - no way!

We drove to a shamelessly large retailer that I should be ashamed to shop at and there were no long sleeve pajamas at all. It was 20 degrees here in Minneapolis and there were only shorts, t-shirts and shorty pajamas as far as the eye could see. There were no Batman pajamas, so, I figured we were in the clear. Then, as we were walking out of the kid's clothing section, he saw it - a plain, black Batman t-shirt. He ran to it and said, "Oh mama! I want this!" I looked around for Luisa for consultation but she had already fled with the baby. He picked it off the rack and was holding it to his little chest, the same little chest that used to sport anything and everything we picked out for him to wear. His eyes pleading, his little hands clutching at the t-shirt - he looked at me with so much hope and I new that I had the power to grant him or deny him his heart's desire (well, his heart's desire at that moment). I said "no" and started to leave but he begged, "PLEASE, PLEASE, mama..." So many thoughts raced through my head at that point. I don't like the whole character thing, partly because of aesthetics and partly because of some high-horse principle that I can't even understand myself. Still, I couldn't help but wonder if I was taking a stand on something that mattered very little. The intellectual part of me kept saying "Hold firm - today it is a character shirt but tomorrow it will be character everything" but the emotional part of me kept saying, "It's just a Batman shirt - what's the harm?" In the end, I hedged, saying that it wasn't time for t-shirts yet. I still broke his heart.

Where do we draw the lines? Characters are o.k. for pajamas but not for school or the outside world? What do we do when he wants to spend the money his grandparents gave him for clothes on Sponge Bob t-shirts? How do we balance our values with his right to make some choices in his life? What do we do with the inevitable character adorned birthday gifts?

I honestly don't know the answer to these questions but we better figure it out quickly...he still needs pajamas and his memory is long.

5 comments:

Susan Raffo said...

I know, you think that keeping the television off will mean keeping them cut off from much of this insanity. Have you asked him who Batman is and why he wants it so much? I'm always curious when they want things disconnected from the television shows or whatever, just what they think they're buying.

Vikki said...

I did ask him why he wanted Batman pajamas and he said because a kid at school that he likes has them. I asked him how he knew that this kid has Batman pajamas and he said that the kid told him.

Emptyman said...

I think you need to clarify what values you feel would be violated if your child wore a Batman T-shirt. Your opposition to the purchase might have been more reflexive than rational, which is why you struggle with it now. The presence or absence of a logo on a T-shirt does not change the inherent value of the T-shirt. Do Batman and Spongebob specifically stand for some particular value or creed which you oppose? Or is it just that some of the money from your T-shirt purchase goes into the pocket of a big multinational entertainment congolomerate? Because if the latter, guess what, some of the money from ANY shirt you bought in that store was going to go into the pockets of a big multinational, quite possibly one you would dislike more than Warner Brothers or Viacom.

I appreciate wanting to avoid rampant consumerism and the need to raise one's children to find value and meaning in something other than buying things. Buying a shirt when you need a shirt is not unnecessary consumption, however. Nor does the design on the shirt change that equation, unless the shirt with the logo was appreciably more expensive than a similar non-logo shirt.

Kristin said...

Hey, I decided to call the Family Matriarch and dictate a message from her. Here is what Gramma Sissy says in response to your blog:

"Here's the deal, Vikki, all of those early characters or pieces of culture (Dora, Batman, Schreck), are designed to teach your children to want the Name Brand Stuff... so that when they grow up they will want a Sony, a Lexus, (insert brand name here). It is a Training Ground for Consumerism.

When a child wants Dora underwear, she will grow up to want Victoria's Secret Underwear because Victoria Secret is "better"; when in fact, what the child needs is underwear.

Vikki, you need to listen to your intuition. It's the culture who is saying "you don't know anything as a mother, ignore your intuition and if your child wants Batman Pajamas, then that is what he needs".

And whose want is it? It's not really Miguel's; it's the culture of consumerism. You and Luisa are the parents and you have the power to decide what is best.

Your instinct already told you no, and most of the time, your instinct as a mother is best".


Ps. Gramma Sissy says you are Great Parents. And if she thinks so, then it is So.

Susan Raffo said...

oh my god - i love this. comments from the everyman and from the great aunt sis!