We've got a new obsession at our house right now: it's Dragon Tales all day every day. I have to admit that I brought this on myself. I've been trying to move Bud away from the Teletubbies and toward more plot-driven children's programming. He's had a long-standing relationship with Zoboomafoo, Sesame Street and Blues Clues, and has had passing flirtations with lots of other shows on PBS and Noggin, but the Tubbies remain his One True Love. But I was determined to keep this Christmas Tubbies-free, and I couldn't bear the thought of bringing yet another Blues Clues or Sesame Street video into the house, so this year I went with Dragon Tales. I got a little playset with the Dragon tales characters (dragons Ord, Cassie, Zak & Weezie - the two-headed dragon, and Quetzel; he has since added two Fisher Price dolls to play the roles of real children Emmy and Max), a cd of Dragon Tales music, and a video that has three little Dragon Tales stories on it.
Bud was thrilled.
Since then, it's been All Dragon Tales, All The Time. He loves the video. He even loves the opening production sequence that shows the logo for Columbia/Tri-Star (the Columbia lady with the torch and the Tri-Star Pegasus, which he calls "the mom statue" and "the horse statue"... and, of course, he would like to own these two statues, please, Mama, please.) All things considered, it's a pleasant obsession and a nice break from Tubbie-talk ("Eh-oh, Dipsy. Eh-oh, Laa-laa. Ook! Whassatt?")
This morning, however, about half an hour after I dropped him off at school I got a call from his teacher. He was in the special ed room and she wanted to have a chance to talk to me out of earshot from him. She was concerned because he got angry and told the classroom aide he was going to hit her.
Ugh. Dragon Tales. In one episode on his video, Max hits his friends when he doesn't get his way. The teacher-figure, Quetzel, teaches Max that hitting is not a good way to solve problems and gives Max lots of other, better strategies. Unfortunately, the moral of the story is not the part that stuck with Bud. The hitting part, though - that was a whole different story: Hitting??? I never thought of that! Cool! (Lesson learned: Be careful what you wish for. The Tubbies may talk like babies, but they are impeccably well-behaved.)
I gave Bud's teacher the context and we did some problem-solving. She explained that this is actually one example of a larger pattern she is seeing lately, and she has a hunch that he has hit the developmental stage that most kids hit around age 4: I-am-my-own-independent-person- and-who-are-you-to-tell-me-what-to-do. And then, because she is such an amazing Kindergarten teacher, we brainstormed and schemed and got on the same page and ended the phone call with a pretty good plan in place.
When I picked Bud up from school later, I didn't say anything about the "I'm going to hit you" incident. But as we pulled away from the school, I heard a sad little voice from the back seat say "I'm not going to hit you, Mom. I'm not going to hit you." I told him that was a very good thing, and that hitting makes people sad and angry. He was quiet for a moment, then said "I love you, Mom. Can you turn it up?" (Translation: "I'd like to end this conversation and listen to music now.")
I tried to bring it up gently a couple of other times during the day, but he wasn't having any of it. He reported that he was happy all day, his teacher was happy all day, and the aide was happy all day. End of story.
So I spent a good chunk of the afternoon wondering if innundating him with Dragon Tales had been a bad idea. But after dinner, Bud let me know it wasn't when he led me through the pretend play adventure of a lifetime. He created an elaborate story, and used totally unscripted language as he explained his role and my role and the characters and the plot: he JUMPED into Dragonland, and he told Cassie "we need to find the Mother Statue in her blue bathrobe and the Horse Statue" and Cassie said "The mother statue is somewhere" and Cassie said "Do you want to jump on my back?" and he said "Sure!" and then he rode on Cassie's back and I rode on Ord's back and Daddy and Nana and Papa watched us and - NO! - Daddy rode on Zack and Weezie's back and Nana and Papa rode on Quetzal's back and we flew all over Dragonland and...
It was amazing.
His eyes were sparkling, his excitement spilling over, his little arms flapping so hard he could have flown without the aid of a dragon. He could see it - and he could make me see it, too. He made it up as we went along, he altered the plan when he had a better idea, he improvised when he couldn't find the prop he needed. We set up his sensory integration swing and he climbed up with his Ord doll to fly over Dragonland so he could find the missing statues, and he talked and talked and talked. I even threw a little chaos into his creation just to see what would happen: "Bud, if you ride on Cassie's back, where is Emmy going to ride?"
Bud didn't even blink before he responded, "Emmy rides on Bud's back - come on!"
Bud fell asleep quickly tonight, having safely rescued both the Mother Statue and the Horse Statue. My heart is still beating a little fast, though. I'm not as young as I used to be, and it's the first time I ever rode a dragon.
But I can't wait to do it again.