Heroes

“He never gets scared on a mission—even when it looks dangerous.”

“He is energetic and unpredictable. … He is bold in battle and always ready for action.”

“He is enthusiastic and fearless.”

“[He] can be very clumsy and is always bumping into things. Maybe this is because…he usually acts first and thinks later!”

Sounds like my Describe-Your-Child form for McDiesel’s teacher at the beginning of the school year or my checked boxes on the Child Behavior Checklist, but these are actually passages from a book—from a major Lego brand—that McD wants to read every night before bed.

And I guess I don’t blame him. After all, impulsive, reckless, aggressive behavior doesn’t mean these characters have ADHD; it means they’re masters and chosen and heroes. On Coruscant, Ninjago, or in Makuhero City McD would be the man. As luck would have it, however, he lives here.

Even though they’re all good guys (bonus), McD’s favorite jedis, clones, ninjas, and robots (Lego brands, all) usually break rules, flout authority, and ignore directions. They are aggressive and headstrong and hot-headed. They are not the best team players. It’s part of their stories—and I mean explicitly—that these qualities (along with very cool weapons) are actually responsible for prowess and fame of heroic proportions. I get the attraction to these characters (if not to the weaponry); after all, these were exactly the boys I spent high school adoring from afar. But I’m not convinced his ADHD holds the keys to McD’s destiny as a Chosen One.

Witnessing at close range the destruction and distress these very qualities result in in a five-year-old, I’m wondering if these are precisely the attributes boy culture should be promoting or valorizing. Unless… could these characters boost the self-esteem of boys suffering from the ADHD epidemic? Is this pattern some sort of norming process—we’re being conditioned (by Lego??) to accept these qualities as innately masculine (boys-will-be-boys style)? Did the woman who wrote the book McD wants to read every night have an ADHD kid, too, and did that influence her descriptions of the characters? Is it just a simple—yet striking—coincidence and I’m crazy hyper-sensitive?

I am surely hyper-sensitive, but something’s going on. And it doesn’t take an adult or the magic powers of an advanced degree to figure that out. The parallels are obvious enough for a third-grader to pick up on. When I get to a passage like the ones above, McD’s Big Bro Typ will chime in—under his breath, matter-of-factly—that the character sounds just like McDiesel. (He might even mean this as a compliment.) McD will then will take extreme and inexplicable offence, start yelling that he is NOT reckless (a funny word for a Kindergarten vocabulary, when you think about it), and throw whatever is at hand at his brother’s teeth.

(Don’t get me wrong. I love Lego; a sizable portion of my income over the past five years is sitting colorfully in an 18-gallon tub. And I’m not ready to argue these characters cause McD’s behavior to flare up. But still.)

Before I spend all sorts of time working this up into a full-blown cultural studies essay, I have to figure a few more things out. Such as McD’s denial of any coincidence at all, which is somewhat fatal to the foundations of my argument. When I broached this topic with the boys the other day —on the tire swing—McD explained to me that he is in fact, not reckless just because he, say, throws whatever is at hand at his brother’s teeth regardless of all consequences. “Mom!” He said, deeply irate at being so grievously misunderstood. “I think before I do that stuff!”

Hmm. A wrinkle in my thesis.

Perhaps my favorite passage from McDiesel’s bedtime reading will help me sort it out (the second sentence of which I read aloud with added emphasis for McD’s benefit and edification):

“He sometimes acts without thinking, which can get him into trouble. However, he also possesses secret intelligence skills, which he will soon reveal…”

How could I not love Lego? Pure poetry. Now, how soon is “soon”?

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