Batman and the Mall Fire.

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.

View of the fire from the office.

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!

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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18 Responses to Batman and the Mall Fire.

  1. Hmmmm…. wonder what T will be for Halloween 😉

    We went for the “girl toy” in the most recent Happy Meal series. Little Miss loved the Zoobles and the mechanical open/close button. LOL, I’ve been keeping one in my purse because it seems to pacify her when nothing else can!

  2. Teresa says:

    I hope your son got to watch his fill of Batman retro on tv yesterday. My son did, while wearing his mask and cape. Dad was not happy as Matthew is “too old for that stuff” but given the choices on television, he was outvoted.

    Learning the difference between good and bad is often a very real challenge for our kids. They may pick up behavior cues as they should. We find that many of the old shows have a more simple plot and it’s easier to tell the good guy from the bad. So we gravitate to those shoes, even to the extreme of watching old black and white programming with the Lone Ranger, Daniel Boone and the like.

    Over the years I’ve learned to use whatever motivates our child to learn. If having a Batman bike encourages him to learn to ride, then go for it. If it’s a matter of them observing and thinking about “Would Batman do this?” when choosing appropriate behavior, why not? Yes, you do run the risk of becoming Batman obsessed but in our experience there’s always a new obsession to come along…

  3. My son went through a Batman craze when he was about four. The funny thing is, he just turned 18. Obviously Batman is here to stay…

  4. Lizbeth says:

    There are plenty of worse things than Batman. I’m thinking Barney, Chuggington, Bob the Builder, need I continue???

    Have fun with it!

  5. Flannery says:

    I can’t even begin to count how many toys and/or kid shows and movies have taught my child various concepts. Have no shame! Anything that helps get the point across, or helps to build a new skill is okay in my book.

  6. Amanda says:

    That’s a huge step. Congrats. Sorry about the scary incident which triggered it all though, glad everyone is ok.

  7. Oh wow, probably for the best that I didn’t know about the Batman figures from Maccy D’s- my boy (husband, really) would have insisted upon getting them. We’re all about using special interests to get ideas across. Great to hear that he is getting it! 🙂

  8. Batman and pretend play- how typical! And I mean that as a compliment. 🙂 Sorry about the mall fire, although I totally get the strapping kids in for a stroller ride when you need a little break.

  9. Grace says:

    The concept of law and order confuses you. Haha.

    I LOVE the Penguins of Madasgar! So I understand Tootles’ confusion. (I do a pretty mean Skipper impersonation, too, if I do say so myself. . .)

    Hopefully he’ll have this all figured out by the time he gets into Star Wars. At first Anakin’s a good guy, but then we all know what happened to Anakin. . .talk about confusing.

  10. Brian says:

    As a lawyer, I imagine that following laws would be foreign to you? Ouch. That was a bad lawyer joke. Apologies.

  11. Kelly says:

    I agree with Lizbeth! I can get down with Batman. Chuggington, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and that freakish new Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…all too.s of the Devil! Those songs get stuck in your brain and just eat away the grey matter. Not so with Batman. SHAZAM!

  12. C... says:

    Some concepts, like bad and good, are harder to identify at his age because of the fact that characters and behaviors, tone of voice, appearance are and can be so hard to judge at that age. My son knows the difference between the two but in looking at everyday people you have to base it on actions and facial expression and those can be so subtle too.

  13. eof737 says:

    What an amazing story…. I was expecting to read that all moved on after the young man was apprehended but, he came ready to do serious damage. 😳 Wow!
    Concepts take a while to digest so let Tootles enjoy his Batman/Robin toys; the rest will follow 🙂

  14. Tam says:

    He kinda picked the wrong super hero to learn about good vs bad, since Batman is all about vengeance and vigilantiism, and was the one responsible for destroying the joker’s face lol 🙂

    I think every boy I know (and half the girls) have gone through a batman phase (including me, probably) 🙂

  15. Pingback: The Near Arrest. | Solodialogue

  16. Gus says:

    Thanks for sharing your story.
    My son is 4 and likely in the spectrum (still waiting for diagnosis).anyways, he loves Disney juniors shows, Thomas, bob the builder and cat in the hat. I’m happy these shows are much less violent than the ones I used you watch as a kid (think Tom an Jerry), still, as the plots are “sanitized”, it’s hard for my son to grasp the concept of good and evil. I can see that his normotypic friends in the playground “get it” and I’d hate for him to be taken advantage of (perhaps it’s just my fear?) as he’s as good and gentle and sweet as they get.
    I want to keep showing him all the good things/people/actions there are in the world, but I want him to be equipped (as age allows) to deal with his peers…

    • solodialogue says:

      You know, my son is now 6 years old but he still has trouble with the concept of good and bad. I don’t know how much a NT child understands this concept at this age, much less at 4 as your son is!

      I think as parents, we are always going to fear our children being bullied or taken advantage of because of the different way they process and think about things. This is why I’m as involved in school as the school will allow and why I will sell my left leg to keep him with his full time ABA trained aide in school. Of course, there will eventually come a time when I cannot monitor what happens as he grows (those days are happening slowly and continuously right now – though so slowly, it’s easier to take…)

      I think we have to learn to prepare them as best as we can and then just let them experience the world and be there to hold them up when the hard times happen. That’s what love is all about, don’t you think?

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