My son recently had a growth spurt which means that we spent a lot of money on groceries and his clothes look like they shrunk in the wash (a better image is that he looks like Dooly at the end of Dooly and the Snortsnoot but you can't get that book anymore and I don't want your curiosity to get the best of you) So, we told him that we were going to get some new pajamas and he said, "I want Batman pajamas". We are not a Batman kind of family. Our kids don't really watch TV, just a movie on rare occasions. We know that he hears about all this at school, all the "man" characters - Superman, Spiderman, Batman - and I don't like it. I miss his innocence. I miss his love of Hello Kitty which is no better but at least non-stereotypical. In my cheeriest mama voice and I said "We'll see!" Batman pajamas - no way!
We drove to a shamelessly large retailer that I should be ashamed to shop at and there were no long sleeve pajamas at all. It was 20 degrees here in Minneapolis and there were only shorts, t-shirts and shorty pajamas as far as the eye could see. There were no Batman pajamas, so, I figured we were in the clear. Then, as we were walking out of the kid's clothing section, he saw it - a plain, black Batman t-shirt. He ran to it and said, "Oh mama! I want this!" I looked around for Luisa for consultation but she had already fled with the baby. He picked it off the rack and was holding it to his little chest, the same little chest that used to sport anything and everything we picked out for him to wear. His eyes pleading, his little hands clutching at the t-shirt - he looked at me with so much hope and I new that I had the power to grant him or deny him his heart's desire (well, his heart's desire at that moment). I said "no" and started to leave but he begged, "PLEASE, PLEASE, mama..." So many thoughts raced through my head at that point. I don't like the whole character thing, partly because of aesthetics and partly because of some high-horse principle that I can't even understand myself. Still, I couldn't help but wonder if I was taking a stand on something that mattered very little. The intellectual part of me kept saying "Hold firm - today it is a character shirt but tomorrow it will be character everything" but the emotional part of me kept saying, "It's just a Batman shirt - what's the harm?" In the end, I hedged, saying that it wasn't time for t-shirts yet. I still broke his heart.
Where do we draw the lines? Characters are o.k. for pajamas but not for school or the outside world? What do we do when he wants to spend the money his grandparents gave him for clothes on Sponge Bob t-shirts? How do we balance our values with his right to make some choices in his life? What do we do with the inevitable character adorned birthday gifts?
I honestly don't know the answer to these questions but we better figure it out quickly...he still needs pajamas and his memory is long.