Friday, March 14, 2008

Lessons from Parenthood: Fighting Bad Guys

A couple weeks ago we treated Noah to a Happy Meal at McDonalds. While we were waiting in line he carefully examined the Happy Meal Toy display. They were characters from The Spiderwick Chronicles: fairies, goblins, bogarts, pixies and other fantasy creatures. Noah pointed to the ugliest goblin and said, "I hope I get that one."

I was surprised. Last year when the kids meal toys were Bionicles for boys he was afraid of them and opted to get the girl toy, Littlest Pet Shop or something like that. Why did he want a grotesque looking monster now?

"Why do you want that one?"

His answer was simple, "I need a bad guy." Geary nodded in agreement. "He has a lot of super heroes. He needs a bad guy for them to fight. It's important for his development." I could kind of see his point but part of me felt like maybe it was just a boy thing.

When Noah opened his Happy Meal, he had pulled out the ugly goblin. "Yes!" he grinned. I still wasn't impressed but I didn't say anything.

Over the next few days I noticed that Noah's good guy's went on bigger, more exciting adventures. The words "rescue" and "save" became more common in their dialogues. Suddenly, their missions had purpose and urgency. Larry Boy wasn't simply finding Bob the Builder when Bob got lost. Buzz Lightyear wasn't simply snatching Diego out of the way of falling rocks. There was now an enemy to stop; a source of evil that had to be conquered.

That's when I realized, it wasn't just a boy thing. It was a human thing. Our sense of justice is greater when there is a real enemy to overcome. We can choose good things over and over again, but we don't truly feel accomplished unless we destroy the bad thing. We can be responsible and noble and those are great things to be. But the sense of purpose and urgency to do right only comes when we recognize that there really are monsters to fight. It's important for our development.


  1. This post is a reminder to me of how cool it would be to have a boy someday. Because, while I agree with you Jeana, that the desire for justice and to vanquish evil is inherent of all of us, I seriously doubt Lizzie will ever be hoping for a goblin in her Happy Meal.

  2. True. But I bet pretty soon she'll want someone to play Wicked Stepmother to her Cinderella. And at the playground when all the boys are playing superhero, she might gladly allow herself to be captured by "the bad guy" so that someone else can save her.


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