We have a dilemma in our house. I have already written multiple times about how much Calvin loves Cars. Unfortunately, this love has become an obsession. We have pajamas, placemats, eating utensils, sippy cups, action figures, books...You get the picture. Since my husband and I are both against product tie-ins in general and against the way our culture teaches children to be consumers so early, I am not sure how this happened. We just didn't let our principles and our actions line up, and we didn't let grandparents know about those principles. It happened so quickly, and it was so easy to buy Calvin a Cars item just to see the big smile on his face.
Now we have a decision to make. Hobbes is becoming obsessed with Thomas, and I already bought him a Thomas train (just the one car) for his birthday. We do allow our children to watch a bit of TV (lately more than I should be), and I don't mind my kids knowing about Thomas or Lightning McQueen or other age appropriate characters. But I think we need to break them, and me, of this tendency to become consumers of our favorite characters. More than that, we want their imaginations to be fueled by truly good stories and by the freedom to make up their own worlds. I am not sure how to change our home to foster this sort of environment without seeming cruel for taking away the boys' favorite toys and videos.
I was thinking of all of this today when the boys and I sat down to watch Mr. Roger's Neighboorhood. We actually watch this show more than any of the others, and today, I realized one more reason that I love Mr.Rogers so much. (I'll happily elaborate on all of the other reasons for you if you wish.) He took a ride on a trolley today and then started talking about his little trolley that he uses for make-believe. He said that children often ask him where they can get a trolley like his, and he tells them to make one -- NOT to call this number or go to this web address or go to your local Wal-Mart. No, he said to make one. He then proceeded to show the children how he might make one using a cardboard box, markers, and paper.
What a remarkably unusual moment in children's television that was, even twenty or so years after it was filmed. Mr. Rogers is as refreshingly counter-cultural today as he was when I was a child, perhaps even more. Watching that show always leaves me and the boys with such a good feeling, a very good feeling...
Now, I'd love to hear your advice on this area of product tie-ins and what we can do to change course in our home before we are overrun with Lightning McQueens. I wouldn't mind knowing how to break the news to Calvin that Mr. Rogers passed away some years ago, either.