Friday, August 29, 2008
Wall-E = Scare-E
E worked all last weekend. By Sunday P and I both missed him something awful, so we ventured into the city just to catch a little time with Mr. Wonderful. After breakfast P and I headed to Pearl River Market for a gift for a friend. Worried the market might be mayhem for a child without toy money, E gave P a little cash :) (You know E's bad back? Its from being wrapped around such a small pinky finger.) The child was thrilled.
Pearl River Market has grown into a huge space. There's teacups and paper lanterns galore alongside tin wind-up clowns and plastic duckies. Swords and onesies, fountains and dragon jackets, there was a festival for P's eyes. The aisles aimed at kids tickled P and he excitedly picked out presents.
It was really interesting to watch his process post Wall-E (Papa and his family took P to see Wall-E while I did my co-op orientation earlier this month.) While he's been witness to his parents' re-use, reduce, recycle mentality, this was just a given; the state of his world. I don't think he thought twice about all of our furniture purchases being second hand or antique. Everyone keeps worms in their homes, right? But after seeing the cataclysmic world portrayed in Wall-E, he thinks twice, A Lot. I've read articles saying adult themes in a kid's film is innocuous; little ones just miss the stuff and enjoy the splashy images. But this hasn't been the case with P. He asks lots of pointed questions and wants to get down to the nitty gritty of it all.
P: Why the people have to leave the Earth?
Me: There was too much trash, the Earth wasn't healthy anymore.
P: Why there too much trash?
Me: Welll, they bought lots of stuff and didn't re-use stuff. Everything has to go Somewhere and they put lots of stuff in the dump.
P: We can't put stuff in the trash anymore?
Me: Yah, sure we can. But dumps eventually get full. That's why Papa and I try to keep a lot out by recycling and feeding our worms and stuff like that.
P: But Grams and Gramps don't recycle.
Me: Um, yah. Lots of people don't.
P: But then there be too much trash! (Downbeat) We gonna have to leave Earth too?
And that face, that look of worry and sadness, dear gawd. We've had many iterations of this discussion over the past few weeks, ending with me weakly reassuring the child that our planet is strong, we just have to do our part and it will be healthy and happy... Which, of course, is contradicted every time we go to the aquarium or zoo and the failing conservation of Earth is pointed out. Ugh. Nothing like a three year old worrying about the future of his world and starving polar bears.
So, post Wall-E, P's present picking is much more poignant. He was already veering away from plastic toys (they break more easily than wood and metal) but now that he wants to prevent excess trash he's really working his way away from "junk." So he carefully selected a tin wind-up crocodile, a harmonica and a spin drum. (He's really into instruments lately. Its a new stage that has jumped up suddenly and seemingly out of thin air. I'm sure there is an inspiration in there somewhere, but its not obvious this time. He wants to play the violin and have "all of the instruments in the world.")
Outside the store he opened and tried each item. After ecstatically playing his harmonica he looked up at me and smiled. A bright red smile... The cheap paint on his "made in china" harmonica was leaking all over his face. Oy.
As we scooted uptown he peppered me with why questions. Why did the paint leak? Was he going to die? Why put paint on a harmonica that can't get wet? And I just wasn't sure how to answer him. Gee, honey, people will do anything to make a buck, even poison little kids with cheap products and stick lead paint on Thomas Trains. Do I lie and cover for the bastards? Oh, well, I'm sure they didn't know they were creating cheap pieces of shit.... And then he wants to know if we'll have to throw it away and add to the dump and leave the Earth.
I'd always planned on shooting it straight with my kid. Non shady answers, full disclosure when requested. But I'm finding more and more that I just want to hug him and tell him everything will be alright. People will only make good, solid items that are necessary. They won't poison his planet or trash it. They won't push him off a train. The other day at the co-op he saw the meat section and asked the type of each meat. After reading all of the labels as he pointed, making sure I didn't miss a one, he asked "Do people eat people meat too?" Downbeat. "Will anyone ever eat me?" Images of Papua New Guinea flashing through my mind I kissed his head and said, "No. No one will ever eat you." But, he wants to know, Mama, does it Ever happen? Oh, gawd, the honesty is killing me. So I try to promote personal responsibility, moving away from any sense of blame. WE don't eat people. WE can recycle. WE can work harder not to buy from stores and companies that sell leaky red paint or, better yet, buy second hand, yadi yadi.
While we waited for E to finish his project, we read a million books at the bookstore and then burned off some energy at the playground. Union Square's playground is small, not very clean and very busy. But, and this is a big but, it has a real jungle gym thingy. Not one of those modern ramps surrounded by protective bars from which a child could Never fall. No, its a real, rusty climbing nirvana. And the kids swamp to the thing. P was focused on controlled falling (of course) and practiced scaling and dropping over and over again. Then he wanted to play his harmonica again. So we headed to some green space to be musical. As he pulled it out he asked if it was safe to put in his mouth. I asked if he was comfortable with it. He didn't know. So I said, "If it was me, I wouldn't be comfortable putting it in my mouth. But everyone has to choose what they think is safe for their bodies." And he said "If you're not comfortable with it, then I'm not comfortable with it." And he figured out how to blow it without touching his lips to the paint :)
The next morning we went to the neighborhood toy store and bought a paint-free harmonica (no second hand harmonicas being available that day :) P gave the red one to BB (charity/re-using) and they now duet together. Dump saved, child happy, Earth hanging in the balance...
Posted by Jac