Thank you McDonald’s. One of the more recent “Happy Meal” toys was a set of Batman figures. Because of this, my son’s latest obsession is all things bat. Batman toys, figures, TV shows, clothing and, yes, even food. Considering the last Batman movie released was in 2008, I am surprised by how much Batman merchandise is available at the local Target and Toys R Us. My son’s 5thyear on this planet has been welcomed in by Bruce Wayne and his crew.
Now, you might think I’m being sarcastic when I thank McDonald’s. Actually, I am trying to see a positive spin to it all. There are several concepts that my son does not get. The caped crusader, his sidekick and his enemies are helping to teach my son things that he would otherwise have no interest in learning.
Some of it is just using the figures to make little conversations. He never had that interest with most of his other figure toys. Now he wants to move them around and have Batman drive his Batmobile. He’s lovin’ that Batmobile.
Foremost though, there is the whole idea of law and order. Frankly, that concept still confuses me from time to time. Anyway, good guys and bad guys are very difficult concepts for my son. The only association my son has with “bad guys” comes from a strange incident last fall at our local mall.
If you read here regularly, you know that I always go for tea at our mall coffee shop. One day, I headed over there after OT with my son and Jessica. We arrived to see scores of police officers all around the mall, lights flashing but no sirens. Lots of people were leaving.
I stopped and asked a group of people walking through the parking lot what was going on. It turned out that the mall was being evacuated because of a crazy guy inside with a gun. Obviously, we turned around and left. My office is close enough that we can just make out one end of the mall from my window. I tried to get updates of the situation through the internet. As the morning turned to afternoon, I heard the police had apprehended the suspect, a lone young man who was mentally unbalanced with schizophrenia, and without medication. He had threatened to set the mall on fire.
Because he had taken a backpack into the mall, firefighters were not allowed in to investigate whether a fire had been set or gone out in a game store. Instead a robot was sent in to retrieve the backpack. I figured the drama was just about over when I heard a loud explosion and saw a huge plume of black smoke coming from the mall! My son was down the hall in his ABA session and I called to everyone to come look out my window! There was a huge fire at the mall. The real story is here .
I wasn’t sure if my son would understand what happened but he did get the concepts of fire and mall. This event was a shock. The mall was my savior before our diagnosis. I would strap that kid into his car seat for the ride down to the mall when I had no nanny and then into his stroller when we got there. I had him (somewhat) under control as I got to walk around and give myself a break (sort of).
The mall held (holds) the all mighty tea that is my sustenance. My son’s routines revolved, in large measure around hitting certain stores in that mall in specified order. A great number of those specified stores, escalators and elevators were no longer. They were burned down.
I tried to explain to him that a bad guy burned down the mall. During that period of time, my son was into Pac Man, in a way similar to Batman. He knew that “Inky” “Pinky” “Blinky” and “Clyde” were the bad guys. He blended the concepts and turned it into “Inky burned down the mall.” All bad guys became “Inky”.
I was anxious during our first few visits after the fire. There was a Disney Store, a Toys R Us Express, and an indoor playground that my son used to attend weekly in the end of the mall that burned down. I was sure I was going to have to deal with some massive meltdowns. After all, the mall had always been his favorite location for public meltdowns (especially at the exact location furthest from where we parked the car).
The mall was closed, strangely only for about a week – I can’t really remember now. Slowly, little bits opened back up. It smelled very strongly of smoke the first week or so. Much of it was sheetrocked off from the public. We never had a meltdown. Not one. He simply kept saying that “Inky” burned down the mall and accepted the situation. I was floored.
So now, with Batman, I’m reintroducing the concept of good/bad by reading books about the Joker, Penguin, and others. He’s learning these are the bad guys. He’s very interested in the Penguin because he sees Penguins as good guys (Madagascar – the penguin in the Nick Jr. show “Oswald”). He knows the Penguin is not Inky. But all the Penguins he has known have been good guys, so we vacillate between whether The Penguin is good or bad. He’s seen episodes of the TV show where Penguin steals the Batmobile and yet? He still defaults to the Penguin being a good guy.
So now there are little oral quizzes “Is Joker good or bad?” “Bad.” “How about Batman?” “Good!”
I guess the thank you to McDonalds is for facilitating role play and language development with figurines. You’ve given me a renewed opportunity to try to teach good versus bad and why something would be labeled bad, in that instance.
Besides, as far as obsessions go, Batman isn’t half-bad. Who doesn’t love the 60′s TV show theme song? POW!