Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Need to be a Superhero

Over a my time teaching Kindergarten children I have always noticed that at around 4-6 years old, boys have a burning desire to be and play games involving superheros. I had always just thought it a normal developmental phase (which it is) but was always surprised that children of this age even had an awareness of some of the characters they were imitating. The movies they were from were FAR beyond the comprehension of a 5 year old. It wasn't until my own son who has never watched any of these shows and knows very little about superheros came home pretending to be Spiderman, Superman, Darth Vader and Darth Maul that I really began to wonder about where this desire came from.

I was quick to express my dislike of these characters. Why were they considered a hero when they beat up the 'baddies'? They were as violent as the 'evil' people were... so what made that okay?

Orlando learnt quickly to not talk to me about them much, and when he did the interest was put onto his peers "I only play it because that's what "A" likes to play....." I knew this was un-true. Even in his play at home, he was fascinated in the world, life and power of these characters.

I started to wonder and question as to why they had such pull over this age group. I sat and listened carefully to the solo game Orlando was playing. The continual dialogue gave me insight into what was important in these characters. I realised it was all about POWER and PHYSICALITY.

The important facts were the super human strength, the ability to fly, jump really high and be strong.

When Orlando was imitating these characters, his chest was puffed out in pride and he felt worthy and very grown up. He was loved by all and he was the most powerful of all.

I thought about this feeling and it is really a feeling that we all enjoy. That sense of importance. 

Physiologically in boys bodies at this time they are getting a new big surge of testosterone. They feel set for the fight. Ready to run, leap, jump and take new risks. They are feeling more grown up and ready for a new challenge. Superheros allow them to be fast, physical and take risks, all while they feel this inner sense of 'goodness', importance and power.

So I now understand the appeal, but still don't feel completely comfortable with the imitation of these mass produced media heroes. Movies that are way too old and always out of reach, with merchandise aimed at children who are not old enough to watch the movie!

So.... what parenting choice do I make here? How do I find a middle ground that assists Orlando to play these games that meet his needs, without the mass produced heroes that I can't stand?

Well we do what we do best and we make our own!

Orlando and I are in the process of designing our own superhero. Orlando is thinking about all of the special powers this hero will have, what funky name we can come up with. We are going to do some drawing and designing and then together we are going to sew a special costume for this superhero.

We are having a lot of fun in the process but I will have to wait until we are completely finished before I introduce you to the new and delicious superhero that has come to live in our house. 

I can tell you though that there is a lot of jumping happening. The higher the better (as capes flow out more when you leap off something high enough for mum to cringe!) 

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