I made two expeditions into unfamiliar territory this week in the pursuit of twenty-five cents per foot self-serve laminating. Laminating is a soul-searching effort for me, as I have to weigh the non-recyclable and non-biodegradable effect on paper against the sturdiness, weather-readiness, and preservation of the art or teaching items being laminated. Plus, I have to go to the friendly neighborhood Christian bookstore, home-schooling supply center, and vacation Bible school headquarters to get the best do-it-yourself laminating price.
It's a busy time at the bookstore. The woman ahead of me in the check-out line had her entire cart filled with identical ceramic nativity scenes that looked like Fred Flintstone's house spray-painted with gold glitter paint. The woman ahead of her wanted to use expired limit-one-per-customer coupons to buy three soft Christian rock music cds.
The three kids behind me in line were whining and badgering their mother because she had only said they could LOOK at the new "Veggie Tales" video, not that they would BUY it. Down the aisle another family values drama was being performed about a boy's desire for a Bibleman laser sword. I thought it was just kids in Target who threw tantrums over GI Joe, Star Wars, and Disney Princess videos. When my sons acted like that we knew it was time to read The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmes.
Bible action figures are hot toys. Who wouldn't want the Almighty Heroes action set? The characters have the physique of the Incredible Hulk, but cuter tunics and slingshots. I'm sure they can be entwined through the chainlink baseball backstop the same way my youngest posed his GI Joes. They can be buried in the playground gravel and lost just as easily as a Ninja Turtle.
We agonize as parents over the toys we buy and media influences on our children. If we let our children play with toy guns, are we raising the schoolshooters and mallshooters of the next decade? If we give our children plastic action figures with Bible verses, will they become the peacemakers, the philosophers, the charitable and ethical leaders we desperately need? If our daughters dress Queen Esther and Deborah the Warrior dolls in their fashion sets with they live with more purity and purpose than if they played with Bratz and Barbie dolls? If our son prefers dressing Joseph in his amazing coat to putting on the Full (silver plastic) Armor of God playset, will he become gay? Is there really any difference between wearing a Power Rangers costume trick-or-treating, or wearing a Samson Super-Muscles costume to the Sunday School fall harvest carnival?
I don't know. My sons are grown now. They are already teacher, administrator, photographer, law student, volunteer, writer, artist, runner, chef, and traveler. They will work in many other fields in their lifetimes. They have a core set of values guiding their relations with others, a respect for nature, an inner motivation, an appreciation of art and the lessons of history, and they are kind to their mommy.
So what toys do they insist that I never give or throw away? The "good wood rifles" and the Legos. The toys of imagination, role-playing, empowerment, and construction--and of precious memories.
© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder