Last night at the used DVD shop I innocently plucked the 1990 film “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” off the shelf. “How ’bout this, honey?” I asked Elijah, instantly hoping he’d look at me with his crooked grin and ask to keep scanning the DVD shelves.
He snatched the DVD from my hands and raced to the checkout line. What had I done?
Elijah begged me to watch it right away, but we had to wait until morning because it was nearly bed time when we finally got home. It was love at first sight once we popped the disk into the portable DVD player. We haven’t even watched it all the way through and already he’s turned into an honorary Turtle. He dug up an old mask, the kind favored by the pizza-lovin’ foursome, and put his Nerf sword to good use.
That means he’s been bashing me with it intermittently. I’m not even a Brown Belt, so it’s not a fair fight.
The media is always asking if the entertainment we consume influences our behavior, a thorny issue that can’t be resolved within the space of a 1,000 word article. Anyone with a toddler at home knows the answer, though. My sons will dance when Barney dances, make monkey noises when Curious George does the same and, now, battle evil doers just like their Turtle friends.
I’m tempted to stop the love affair here and now, telling him no more Turtle time until he learns that a Nerf sword is not, er, a toy. That seems like the easy way out. Elijah is bombarded with stimuli at home, at school … wherever he goes. It could be a kid at the mall playing superheroes with his kid brother or a fellow student starting an innocent round of cops and robbers (do kids still play that game? Is there an app for that?).
It’s my job to teach him how to process those influences, letting him have his childish fun without hurting others – or himself.
I also remember seeing movies as a boy and wanting to act them out the moment I left the theater. The urge didn’t last long, but it felt good to let it flood my senses all the same. For some reason the Chuck Norris film “Good Guys Wear Black” had such an influence on me, but the need to kick as high as my little leg could lift faded by the time I got home.
Elijah’s viewing habits tend to change day by day. Tomorrow he’ll go to bed and dream about pizza-chomping Turtles. The next day, he might beg me to watch an episode of “Bob the Builder” (yes he can!). As his father, I need to give him a little space to act out his fleeting fantasies safely. Or at the very least don my Nerf armor and prepare for battle.