Saturday, September 6, 2014

Please Don't Shank Your Sister

One of the best toys ever, say my kids.
(Ruddy Bits and its subsidiaries have not
been compensated for this opinion).
“It’s a jail!”

“No! It’s juvie!”

“No. It’s a jail!”

“It’s juvie!”

Of all the arguments I’ve witnessed as a parent, this had to be the strangest, most surreal one yet. Our 6-year-old daughter had just used Magna Tiles™ to build herself a little structure, and decided to put a few small dolls inside. She called it a jail.

Along came our 4-year-old son, who never lets anyone play with these magnetic building blocks alone. (For the record, this is not a sponsored post. But if the fine folks at Magna Tiles want to send over a few, we'll gladly accept them.) 

They all love these particular toys, and
have had years of building fun creations with them. Even more so than their Legos. As a parent, the worst part about the tiles is that the kids always have them out. They like the darned things that much.

Whenever anyone is building with the Magna Tiles, the boy always either joins in the creative fun, or pretends he’s Godzilla and promptly destroys the structure with wanton malice.  

On this occasion, he decided to join the fun. He too went and got a few of his action figures and dolls, and decided they also deserved time in the plastic prison. 

I tried not to worry much about why my kids were building prisons in their free time. It’s not like we focus on incarceration as a family. We don’t watch “Orange is the New Black,” and if we did, we certainly would not let our kids watch it. And we're not from Texas, where I hear prison building is an acceptable past-time -- that and obsessing over high school football.

On the contrary, I find our country's incarceration rates quite troubling, if not downright embarrassing. But that's another blog.

So, while I did find it a bit odd, I thought that if the kids want to hone their building skills by constructing high-security facilities to which they can sentence their naughtiest dolls – and the ones that just caught a bad break – so be it.

It didn’t really bother me that much.

Yet, when they started fighting over whether to call it “Jail” or “Juvie,” I got a bit concerned.

"Jail!" screamed the 6-year-old girl again.

"Juvie!" shouted the boy through increasingly clenched teeth.

My concern was this: How does a 4-year-old raised in my house know that juvenile detention centers are called “juvie” in the first place? Heck, how does he know about juvenile detention centers at all?

It’s not like the misses and I are always leveraging threats of “juvie” on them so they’ll obey our many, and often ignored, commands.

The words “Clean your room, or you’re going to juvie!” have not once been uttered in our house.

My kids have yet to discover the Simpsons.
So Bart isn't to blame for this one.  
Yet here was my 4-year-old son standing over a small box building, which was housing four small stuffed animals and two action figures (prison overcrowding apparently is an issue here), vehemently stating that it was “juvie!” and not just a jail.

This particular argument came to an abrupt end when the boy tried to shank his sister with a triangular Magna Tile.

At that point I figured my “parent of the year” qualifications were under threat, so I intervened. First I disarmed the boy without incident. Then I put him in solitary.

After the situation was under control, I thought it might be prudent to find out how these kids know about juvie in the first place. So I asked his 6-year-old sister what “juvie” means – for clarification, and to begin my Jedi-like parenting discussion.

“It’s kid jail, dad. Duh,” she replied.

“Oh. And who told you about it?”

I figured it must've been some Disney show that slipped passed the radar.  

She looked around, to make sure no one was about to hear her sing to the resident authorities. Then she whispered, “Chloe told us.” 

That’s their 8-year-old sister.

Of course. That makes sense. Because, by eight, all kids know about kid jail. … I think.

I wish there was some deep lesson or moral to this tale. But there isn’t. Other than that little kids with older siblings learn stuff a lot earlier than we want them to.

Oh, and that Magna Tiles can be used to make a fairly secure detention facility, for dolls and action figures of all ages.

Isn't learning fun?

Now clean up the Magna Tiles or you're all going to juvie.

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