Thursday, June 01, 2006

Character Calling

My children "call" characters in television shows and movies.

As in:
"I'm Tom!"
"I'm Jerry!"
"I call I'm always Tom!"
"You can't call that."
"Yes I can, I'm always Tom."
"That's not fair, I want to be Tom."
"You be Jerry."
"Maaaam, Joey says he's always Tom and he can't call that! Tell him he can't do that."

Times like this, when I hear this circular conversation repeat itself over and over again, I wonder how my life came to this: settling disputes about who gets to "be" a particular cartoon character. How can they actually care about this?!

But they do care. And a whole real lot too. Somehow, whatever they are watching becomes more entertaining for them when they get to participate in the action vicariously through their characters.

No matter what the show or movie is, before the opening credits subside the calls are flying fast and furious. It reminds me of the old "I call shotgun" races of my youth (before kids under 12 couldn't ride in the front seat of the car anymore, which effectively settled that one).

It doesn't matter if the show is animated or live action, whether it stars people or animals. I kid you not, a fight nearly broke out over "March of the Penguins" when the kids couldn't tell who they had called since they all looked pretty much the same after awhile.

What is a mother to do? I despise bickering, especially over something so completely ridiculous and detached from reality. I have issued the "no more calling" edicts. I have refused to mediate. I have assigned the characters myself. I have let them duke it out. I have even hidden in the closet, waiting for the entire episode to blow over (that was, admittedly, a low point). The only thing I haven't tried is banning television altogether. That, I think, would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Do other children do this too, or is this particular insanity reserved for my family alone?

I must admit, though, that sometimes I find it endearing. Particularly, that my growing-up-too-fast first born still fully participates in this nonsense. I will consider it a sad milestone when he no longer cares enough to engage.

Once the arguing subsides and they have all assumed their roles, I also enjoy watching them get into character. Sam, after winning the call to be Pablo in the "Pirate Treasure" episode of The Backyardigans, immediately races to the playroom and dons his eye patch and pirate hat before dashing back to his spot on the couch, authentic pirate scowl in place on his face. This is fun for me.

I suppose I should be glad they are interacting with the television rather than simply sitting in a trance. But this is of little comfort when the barbs are flying and howls of protest drown out what is supposed to be the sweet (yet all too temporary) peace that the television provides the household.

Unless I devise a brilliant plan, I guess this is mine to embrace until they all outgrow it. Or until I throw the television out. Which is definitely NOT going to happen anytime soon.


nutmeg said...

Same problems over here. My kids either fight about who is who, or who HAS to turn off the TV (it used to be who GETS to turn off the TV).....or they just plain ol' fight.

I love the fact that my oldest still chooses Veggietales and the Wiggles from time to time.....along with his national goegraphic and spiderman episodes.

I've thought of chucking the TV, but am not that brave/holy.

Yes, your kids are normal, or at least as insane as mine.


Michelle said...

Kids have to fight about something (anything), I'm convinced of it. No matter the situation: watching tv, picking out ice cream at the grocery store, cleaning up toys...they will find some way to turn it into an argument. The amatuer psychologist in me guessesa that it's how they figure out and develop characteristics like leadership or the ability to get along or learning how to compromise or something else good.

Suzanne Di Silvestri said...

I feel better knowing that we are not alone in this!

And, you're right, if it isn't this they were fighting about, it would be something else. They're hardwired for it. As you say, it must serve some greater good! I will try to remember that in the darker moments.

Jen said...

Relish in it even though it's hard. Pretty soon they will be like mine. Jeff calls out who he is going to be and Hannah just says whatever, be who you want to be. At least for now yours still "interact" My oldest just has utter disdain for her younger sibling.

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