Leggo of my Lego

“I want to take apart my legos,” M-ito said.

Mom-ita and I just stared at him. “What?” I asked.

“M-ito says he wants to take apart all his legos.”

“All of them?” I asked, with my mouth dropping open.

M-ito nodded with a big smile. “And it’ll be easy to take ’em apart. I’ll just smash ’em up.”

“No,” Mom-ita said. “You’ll take them apart. Now why do you want to take them apart?”

“All of them?” I asked again, still uncomprehending. You see, M-ito has been building legos models for a couple of years now. We have the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Underwater Adventures (my personal favorite), Mars, Castle, Power Miners, and a few others I can’t remember. They line two book cases in his room. He keeps them out of the way so that no one can touch them and break them. Little kids… look out. He built them. He plays with them. He collects them. I just didn’t understand.

“We’ll get a bin for them and you can put all the pieces in that.”

“That’s right. That’s what I thought,” M-ito said, still smiling.

“But Dad-dito will take pictures of them first so we can remember them. And you don’t have to break up all of them. You should save some.” Mom-ita had it down.

“You want to break them up?” I said again. I was having trouble with attachment, trying to hold on to the legos. M-ito was ready to let them go and I wasn’t.

I took pictures of him giving me the thumbs up next to his shelves. I asked him if he wanted to save the underwater adventure models – for that’s what I think of them as, models – models without glue. I spent a lot of evenings sitting on the floor with him searching for and finding pieces for him while he snapped them together.

“No,” M-ito said. “I’ll need the pieces for building other things – you know, like Austino does with them.” Austino and his friend have a bin they build all kinds of structures, spaceships and weapons of destruction from. If Austino does it, M-ito will do it too. Austino is a year older and is M-ito’s hero.

I nodded, then shrugged. “I’ll go clean out a bin.” So I did. It’s still sitting empty beneath the play table. But the Deathstar is half disassembled.  My heart aches a little. But if it means there’s more space in his room…

Games a 7-Year Old Plays

Here was M-ito’s list for Santa (who he still believes may or may be real and I’m so glad he’s still on the fence about the big round guy).

  1. The Nintendo DS (see Dumb and Stupid (DS) previous entry)
  2. Rock’em Sock’em Robots (Just like my brother and I played when we were kids. Santa Aunt got it for him. We’ve played about ten minutes with it so far and its’ still the same game. Even Mom-ita played a few rounds. You get tired of it before you break it. We’ll see how long it lasts in active service. But as a retro gift I’m glad his aunt got it for him.)
  3. Sorry Sliders (The TV commercial totally got him. We played our own version of the game with disks we have and that was almost as much fun as the real game. Cousins got this for him and we’ve played it three times. I can’t tell it it’s a keeper of not. It’s basically like a four person small shuffleboard game.)
  4. Battleship (Friends got this for him – the electronic version and he got the small travel version. As Mom-ita says, “Now we don’t even have to talk to each other when we play” – the computer does it all. He loves this game even though it goes slow after a while.)
  5. The Force Unleashed Wii (It’s too violent but he played it at a friends house and Mom-ita said it was “OK” so we have it along with the light sabers that go with it.)
  6. Spy Gear Eavesdropper Remote Control Vehicle (Santa Aunt got him the infrared goggles instead. Spy gear was heavily pedaled on TV commercials and the stuff is neat looking but… M-ito hasn’t opened the box yet.)

Here’s what Santa added in the bag to combat EGS:

  1. The next three Hiccup the Viking Books by Cressida Cowel (M-ito loves these).
  2. The next four Droon books by Tony Abbot
  3. Carcassonne (an award wining tile game about building a city in medieval times by Rio Grande Games for 8+ and for 2-5 players)
  4. The Settlers of Catan (another award-winning game for 10+ and 2-5 players)
  5. Gamewright Games: Going Nuts, Say Cheese, and Constellation Connect (still one of my favorite game companies for kids – card games and dice games like you’ve never seen before)

What Do 2nd and 3rd Grade Boys Talk About?

It starts as soon as we get in the car. I’ve only driven the boys (M-ito and his friend Austino) to school (or picked them up from school) a handful of times but it happens each time. They get in the car and start talking about poop, pee, and destruction. Here’s an example.

“Poop, poop, poop, poop,” Austino says as soon as they close the car door and buckle themselves in.

“Poop and pee, poop and pee, poop and pee,” M-ito adds in. They are both hysterical with laughter. I smile back at them through the rear view mirror.

“All right you two,” I say, “that’s enough with the poop and pee.” I know once they are in school none of this will be allowed. I figure it’s better to get it all out now so when they don’t stop right away I let it go on for  a few minutes before I veer them towards another subject.

On Friday they both were singing the Barney song but it went a little like this: “I hate you, you hate me, we’re an unhappy family, I’m gonna take a saw and cut off your head, then Barney will soon be dead.” Writing it down it doesn’t sound too good. I know, I know. But in the car, riding home after a full day of school, being good, following the rules, not using any toilet language, being gentlemen, a little letting loose can’t be bad. Can it? Variations of Barney being taken out went on for a good ten minutes with the two boys laughing and giggling at each other’s humor. Eventually I told them that enough was enough and asked them to change the subject – but they only sang louder. I should have figured that wouldn’t stop them but I’m slow at these things. Regardless, I liked to hear them laugh and didn’t want to crush their creative work directly, just channel it somewhere else. So I started word games with them. How many words can you name that rhyme with red? Then I spy with my little eye. It worked for a while, but poor Barney the purple dinosaur eventually got knocked off a few more times before we got home.

This trend towards violence and not understanding what it means disturbs me. It’s not real to the kids. But, do I want it to be real for them? Do I want them to have seen people get killed for real? Dead bodies, for real?  I’ve seen enough violence and the results of violence in my life and I’d rather not have them see any of it even when they’re older. On the other hand, they don’t take it seriously. It’s like a movie or a video game to them. And so it’s funny.

I remember a number of my friends in High School used to enjoy seeing the George Romero films like Dawn of the Dead. They laughed at the gore and violence because it was so over-the-top to them. I couldn’t watch the films. They terrified me and it all looked way too real. I couldn’t laugh at the horror of what I saw on the screen. I was not made to see horror films.

My son does not see violent films – he barely gets to see PG rated animated films and we hand-pick his films very carefully. He still hasn’t watched the third Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith because I think it’s just too violent. M-ito couldn’t sit through Beverly Hills Chihuahua last year because it was “too scary.” He get’s scared easily and we don’t want him to have nightmares. Yet when he plays Wi Lego Star Wars what is the purpose of most of the action? Well… it’s to kill all the other characters. You get points for taking their hearts. “Take out your light saber and kill them,” is commonly heard during play. It makes me cringe. What do parents do about this desensitization?

M-ito told me a story on Friday about his school. Three 8th graders had to do some public speaking at assembly last week – it’s an assignment each of them has to complete during the school year – and one of them tried to be funny in his speech. M-ito explained it to me like this.

“One boy told us he was describing his trip to Japan and said, ‘I was looking out the window of the airplane and saw three torpedoes fly out at a building and blow it up. Then I saw people jumping off the building, wait, no I was only kidding!’ That’s what he said, ‘I was only kidding!” M-ito laughed – I sensed feeling sophisticated because he got the humor. He thought it was funny – as funny as talking about poop, farts, or pee.

The first time I heard him tell this story, we were in the car on the way home from school and Austino was in the car too. They both thought it funny. I smiled but felt a little sick to my stomach – a little disturbed. I was on the 16th floor of Tower II the day the Trade Center’s came down and the story just rang differently for me. I didn’t say anything to him about it. I smiled and listened to them laugh. The second time he told the story it was to Mom-ita a few days later and I was listening while sitting next to him at dinner. I looked at Mom-ita after he’d finished and neither one of us talked for a moment. M-ito was giggling again.

We both finally looked at him and said, “You know it could be that people will think about the World Trade Center when someone tells that kind of story. They might not think it funny. People really got killed there – a lot of people.” But M-ito was working on only 8 hours of sleep and as soon as I got serious he tuned me out. Of course I said two or three sentences more and had to have Mom-ita tell me to stop, “He’s not listening to you anymore,” before I finally did find silence.

I liked it when M-ito thought Oswald was the best TV show. There was no violence. There was Big Banana day. There was a picnic in the park. There was lunch at the local diner meeting friends. Now my son is growing up and the volume is being turned up too.

When it comes down to it, if I have a choice between laughing at violence or poop and pee, I’ll take the poop and pee any day.

Favorite TV Shows at 7 and 1/4

July’s Favorite TV Shows:

  • Phineas and Ferb (Aglet song and the one hit wonder Gitchie Gitchie Goo song are constantly in his head, and mine at this point – by the way I love this show too. It makes me laugh out loud many times. Perhaps it is my sense of humor or perhaps the show is really just funny. The kids are nice to each other and even the older sister Candice – whom M-ito has to look away from every time her and Jeremy are getting all lovey-dovey, has some really warm and beautiful moments.)
  • Star Wars the Clone Wars (the first four episodes just came out on DVD and we’ve already watched them two times this week – I also enjoy this show. The animation is very good and original and the stories exciting and well written – though some are way too old for my son and require explaining. More a 10 and up show than a 7 and up. Don’t let the cartoon imagery fool you – it is violent.)
  • Chowder (this show is new and I’m not sure what it is as I haven’t seen it yet. M-ito described it to me as a story about a short fat kid who wears purple all the time – and said, quote – it’s really cool)
  • Pokemon (we both love to watch this also – M-ito because he knows all the Pokemon and wishes he could have one in this world so he could train it and it could be his best friend – and me because it’s interesting, contains strategy tactical development skills – yes I rerally wrote that – perhaps it’s better to jsut say it promotes game playing skills and neat problem solving skills – and pretty good values shown about friendship and teamwork. I have found the card game to be great – really works M-ito’s math skills and the imagery is terrific. The animation is standard on the show and stylized – reminding me of Speed Racer days, but I think the story lines are good considering every show is about a fight between Pokemon. It’s amazing what the writer’s have done with that.)

Rush Hour

It came in like a spring wind. A small black playing board with plastic cars, trucks and busses on it – and an ice cream truck – for whom the whole purpose of the game was to get it unstuck from a traffic jam. The game was called Rush Hour and it had been months since M-ito brought it out of his room to play. What I liked about the game – a traffic jam puzzle – was that it was portable (ie: fit in my bag of tricks backpack), that I could play too (the expert level games where indeed challenging), and that, well, the game looked cool. For one week last year it was all M-ito played, everywhere we went. Then he’d had enough and moved on to another game. Rush Hour became obsolete. 

Yesterday I pulled it out, because M-ito had mentioned it while talking about iphone games and he reminded us how much he liked the Rush Hour game. Excited, I brought it to coffee this morning, on the last day of school, and two of M-ito’s friends enjoyed playing it while they waited with the adults for their party to start. I started giving them hints and then had to stop myself because they were enjoying themselves without me. After the festivities were over and we were again home, I asked M-ito if he wanted to play. 

“No,” was all he said.

“But,” I began.

“No, Dad-dito, I don’t like that game anymore.”

My mouth hung open and I caught some flies for a few moments. 

But I’m not done with the game yet, I said to myself. I still want to play.

The problem is I like games, a great quality for a Dad-dito to have. It means when Candyland comes out, I play. The same goes for Star Wars Monopoly, Operation, Zooreka, and Zooloretto. And I like all kinds of games, including card games and board games. I don’t mind losing to M-ito most of the time (I have to win every once in a while just to keep him honest), reading the instructions to new games, explaining the rules to him, and looking for new games he might (and I might) like. And M-ito likes games too – he loves them, but he usually loves a game for anywhere from one day to a few months. Then the love affair is over. And I’m left with a hankering to play a game without a partner. 

But I’m not done yet.

So it goes.

Wii Wars

Mom-ita plays a mean Wii. M-ito plays a mean Wii. I can hear them battling through five levels of animated storm troopers, alien cantinas and pod-racers. This is what it sounds like.

“Go over here, Mom-ita – follow me.”

“You have to wait for me.”

“Follow me, Mom-ita, I know what to do here.”

“M-ito, you have to wait for me.”

“Follow me.”

Or…

“Mom-ita, you have to wait for me.”

“I know what to do here so you follow me.”

“Mom-ita!”

“M-ito, sometimes you have to follow. That’s what playing together is all about.”

I step over to see them from the kitchen. I’ve just about finished the dishes. They are both sitting there, nonchucks in one hand and control wand in the other. Their eyes are glued to the TV screen which is filled with flying projectiles, coins and red hearts.

“Get the heart! Get the heart!” M-ito says.

“I’m trying to but you keep moving away from it and I can’t get to it.”

“It’s okay, I’ve got it.”

I play sometimes with M-ito but I’m not a big fan of electronic games. I was when I was a kid and adolescent. I spent a lot of quarters on Pong and Space Invaders, Galaga, Asteroids, and Defender. But I also got lost in them and disappeared while I played for hours on end. I get worried my son will do the same. He has had a different life than me so he doesn’t have the same need to disappear that I had at that age, but I get worried never-the-less.

Back on Tatooine, Mom-ita has put her controls down and has crossed her arms, sitting back on the couch, chin tucked, brow furrowed.

“Mom-ita, what are you doing?” M-ito says as he continues to blast away at furniture and creatures, gaining coins and hearts and points.

“No,” Mom-ita says.

“I’m sorry,” says M-ito. “I said I’m sorry.”

Mom-ita picks up the controls and leans forward.

“I can do this part,” she says and M-ito nods, his mouth hanging a little open.

I return to the dishes, shaking my head. Mom-ita says she wants to practice with me at night after M-ito is asleep. She says this in front of M-ito as a joke, but also to let him know how good he is. But… I don’t think she’s kidding.

Youtube Trouble – Parental Controls to the Rescue

It’s time for me to put parental controls on the computer. M-ito has figured out how to use Google.

Yesterday he called me over to see something he’d found on the computer. It was a Star Wars Lego video on Youtube. I watched two of them before I shook myself and realized my son had found Youtube. How did he find Youtube?

“How’d you find Youtube?” I asked, speaking almost as quickly as I thought.

“Right here,” he said and showed me how he’d typed in Legos and gotten a list of sites, including Youtube videos of legos Star Wars characters in stop-motion battle with each other. It was just dawning on me what this meant – what my son had found and what he could now be exposed to when he showed me another video.

“Look at this one, Dad-dito!” he said, pointing to the screen.

I saw what looked like a scene from episode 1 on the planet Naboo – marshy with fog and a gungan riding a walking two-legged creature. I looked up at the title of the film – Star Wars Spoof Battle with Benny Hill. “Whow,” I said, taking the mouse, ” time to switch channels.”

“Why?” M-ito asked.

“This one’s adult content – you know – not for kids.”

M-ito just looked at me.

“From now on you have to have Mom-ita or me nearby when you go searching on Google or watching Youtube. Got it?”

He nodded.

Later I watched the film, of course, because I’m an adult and I’m curious. It was the battle scene from the movie sped up to manic speed while the famous Benny Hill Show music played in the background. I smiled through to the end.