The Ben10 war. I have lost it. I dont regret it. I ceded, completely, happily and am actually glad for it.
That said, I still don't like Ben10, I think it's an awful show, I think the contents are grossly inappropriate for kids and I think they aggressively market this show to pre-schoolers when it is obviously made for older children.
Why sometimes it IS good to completely renege on your ideals and let the five year old have exactly what he wants...
Don't get me wrong, for the above reasons I still don't like Ben10. If I had my way, there would STILL be a Ben10 embargo at my house.
The fact is, there isn't. It started slowly, with McDonalds giving away Ben10 toys, and a colouring book given to James by a friend, and then slowly... slooooooowly... there was an episode watched at a relative's house, a DVD bought by an indulgent aunt... and then, suddenly, there's t-shirts and little Ben10 figures and a birthday cake of Ben10 aliens.
I have lost and I have no regrets.
See, in the last twelve months or so, James has enthusiastically embraced the superhero culture. Spiderman. Batman. Superman. The Avengers (or, as he calls them, The Adventures)... Ironman, Black Widow, the Hulk... James cannot seem to get enough. And, in the midst of all this, he kept up his plea for Ben10. No other hero would do. Ben10, Ben10, Ben10... it had to be Ben10.
And not just ANY Ben10 (because, apparently, there are different ones where he is older and, look, to be fair I don't know. I can't stand it, I don't watch it, I don't want to know, but I can tell you right now James knows the difference), but KID BEN10. It had to be Ben10 when he was younger.
And I have been blind. Because I've been thinking this through and last week I came to a realisation.
James spent a horror twelve months, between the ages of three and four. Everything that could go wrong to that kid went wrong. Let's recap:
- His mother gets pregnant and, suddenly, is practically living at the hospital. Deathly, horribly, awfully and obviously sick. He doesn't know day to day whether I was going to be home, at the hospital, where... he had no idea. And he was shuffled from one family member to the next.
- Then, his brother is born. Two and a half months prem, so he suddenly gets his mother back, finally healthy again, and both his parents have to spend day after day after day back in the hospital for six weeks as Michael is in the NICU.
- A few weeks after Michael is finally released home. His father leaves. Gone.
- Because of the months spent shuffled from one place to another, several things took a backseat, the most notable of this was: toothbrushing. Cue: infected teeth, emergency dental surgery, three teeth removed under general in as traumatic a procedure as you can get... coupled with the glandular fever he got at the same time. Slow, painful recovery.
- This usually shy and guarded boy becomes even more isolated, removed, quiet... and then becomes a target for a bully child at his kinder, because his natural defence is to withdraw and not talk it makes him the ideal victim.
It took us a long time, a long time, to bring James back up to where he is now. I count this as one of my successes, that he is so happy and healthy and seemingly unscathed.
But it occurs to me, that entire year, he was made helpless. Powerless.
And this is what his superheroes give him now, a mechanism to deal with that. And not only that, Ben10 is a CHILD with power. A little boy he can relate to, WITH POWER. He is the only one. All other heroes are grown ups.
So, yes, I give him Ben10 and, with it, a little bit of security and hope and confidence.
(disclaimer: it is not a carte-blanche freedom, though, he and I are under strict agreement that if he begins fighting or other violence of any type, then he stops watching Ben10, no arguments, no compromise, it stops).