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I was chatting with a colleague the other day about toys we let our kids play with and TV shows we let them watch. She mentioned that she doesn’t care for her four-year-old son to play with things like guns and swords or to watch violent TV shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Avengers unless her son is playing at the home of children whose parents do allow it. I began to wonder if maybe we shouldn’t allow these things either.
We have been having one helluva time with Ewing’s behavior at daycare and preschool lately. As he suffered a stroke in utero which damaged the language center of his brain, we have wondered for some time if he has a language processing disorder and if this is contributing to the trouble he is getting in with his teachers. He will often claim to not hear us and ask, “What you said?” even though his hearing tests have all come back normal.
Upon further investigation and conversation with other parents of children who have suffered a stroke affecting the left hemisphere of the brain, we learned that this is not entirely unusual. Though Ewing is too young for a processing disorder diagnosis at this time, other parents whose children have eventually received this diagnosis reported similar behavior in their children. This makes us question whether his language deficits are partly to blame for his issues at school. Is he having trouble understanding what his teachers are telling him to do (or not to do) initially? And when he finally does understand, is his tendency to laugh or joke at their reprisals an attempt to project his embarrassment over not knowing what they’re telling him somewhere else?
Of course, his potential inability to process language has nothing to do with the reasons he’s getting in trouble in the first place.
He is, by all accounts, a “boy’s boy.” He loves all things superhero and fawns over water guns and plastic swords. When I catch him quietly playing on his own, he is almost always engaged in some sort of battle between his action figurines or, if he doesn’t have any with him, his own two hands, banging them together and making the requisite smash-em-up and explosion noises.
It’s not surprising, then, that he enjoys wrestling with the other boys at school and, occasionally, getting into altercations with them when things go too far.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Page 2″ ]
A while ago, Mr. Sammich casually brought up the subject of Ewing’s TV preferences: “Ewing really likes the Avengers cartoon. Have you noticed?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“It’s really kind of violent. Should we be letting him watch that?”
“Oh. I hadn’t even thought about it,” I contemplated. “I mean, I think so? Or maybe not. I don’t know.”
Since then, I’ve had this nagging feeling that maybe I’m doing something wrong, letting him watch these shows and play shoot-em-ups with Batman and Captain America. Maybe I shouldn’t let my father buy Ewing water guns and foam shields. Maybe I should put a stop to the living room WrestleMania that he sometimes engages in with Mr. Sammich and anyone else willing to acquiesce to his pleas. Perhaps this is why he’s so aggressive at school (A trait that, if I’m being honest, I’m not entirely upset about given his special needs. Right or wrong, there’s some comfort in knowing that, if someone’s picking on him, he’s going to stick up for himself.)
Then again, I think back to my childhood and all the toys and games and TV shows the neighborhood kids and I would play and watch. I mean, have you seen old school Looney Tunes lately? Talk about violent. And we survived, didn’t we? Even had some fun along the way. And perhaps most importantly, we used our imaginations, creating and pretending and inventing — all critical components of healthy development in children — in much the same way Ewing is.
So I find myself in limbo here — somewhere between the parenting philosophies of my childhood and those that have taken hold today.
Should we ban superheroes in our home? Or should we trust that our parenting as a whole and the expectations we set for our children will supersede any influence a silly cartoon or Super Soaker may have on them?[/nextpage]