It all started with Winnie the Pooh. In the year or two before Adalia was born, I really liked Winnie the Pooh…not the Disney Character, but the book, by A.A. Milne. I found Milne’s writing charming and refreshing. Therefore, when I had a baby, she received some Pooh stuff. A few outfits. A toy or two. It was all good. Then one day, when my toddler was just over a year old, we were out grocery shopping. She began pointing from the cart. And grunting. Then yelling. Then convulsing (my firstborn was a bit, ah, intense). All because she spotted a box of cereal with Winnie the Pooh on it. Nothing would be right in her world until she possessed that box of cereal. Keep in mind, she had no idea what was in that box, but just knew, in every fiber of her being, that she must have that box.
It was a real eye-opener for me. My precious toddler had no love for that brand of cereal. She didn’t even know it was cereal. But she wanted it. More than anything else in the world. The discovery of Pooh Bear in the grocery store that day led to more discoveries. And more. Pooh was all over the place. And she wanted everything with him on it. Disney had a hold of daughter, who had never even seen the a Winnie the Pooh movie. I didn’t want Adalia (or my other children) attached to certain items or brands simply because of a cartoon character.
When I brought it up to a friend with a toddler the same age (and a couple of older children as well) she said, “I see it as something familiar to her in the big world”. True. But I saw a child bent on possessing everything in her sight with Pooh on it. Clothing, shoes, cereal, fruit snacks. It was all the same to her.
So we ditched the characters. No one missed them. We didn’t own a tv or videos (we now have a DVD player and watch movies together on occasion). They saw (and see) no commericals aimed at children. When my children were younger they didn’t recognize sesame Street, Disney or Pixar characters. Once they got older they learned about them through MOPS, friends and movies at the dentist’s office. The characters weren’t any more or less important to them than anything else. This system has served us well over the years.
Until Apollo, that is. Apollo has recently switched to disposable diapers (that would be another post in itself). We use Seventh Generation diapers which have no bleach, scent etc. And also no designs (read: characters). A friend recently gave us a pack of diapers she had received when her son was in the hospital but were too small. They were Pampers diapers with Sesame Street characters on them. And Apollo the Observer noticed. It was cute. He pointed and we told him it was Elmo. He loved his Elmo diapers. He liked them better than Seventh Generation. The package ran out and we continued to diaper him in Seventh Generation. Elmo was forgotten.
Then he choked badly on a piece of food and I had to call 911 and we were transported to the hospital in an ambulance. And in the ambulance one of the paramedics gave him a giant trumpet playing Cookie Monster, who he immediately dubbed “Elmo”. I could see what was coming. An obsession with all things Sesame Street. Now I don’t have an issue with the show itself (which I don’t think I’ve even seen) or the characters themselves, but with the mass marketing and brand loyalty that comes with it, exerting its influence over my one year old.
Apollo has been attached to his Sea Otter which was given to us used, so never hooked up to the computer. He was simply Apollo’s snuggle toy. Unfortunately he went missing right around the time Cookie Monster joined our household. So last week I loaded up Apollo (and half a dozen siblings) and took him to pick out a new toy. We wanted Apollo to have a comfort item for his visits to the Children’s Hospital. Several of the kids had been begging to go to Wal-Mart to pick up a few items, so away we went.
Unfortunately all of the stuffed animals in the toy section were licensed characters of some sort. We headed to the baby section next and Apollo found this Garanimals My Best Friend Doll and it was all he wanted. He wouldn’t even look at anything else. Now, I’m pretty open-minded and my older boys all played with dolls, but I knew Chuck would not be impressed with exchanging even Trumpet Playing Cookie Monster with a pink doll.
So off to Fred Meyer we headed where Apollo selected a new friend. A furry little monkey whom he immediately named (what else?) Elmo.