Though Bud will be eight years old in a few short months, he has continued to be a fan of television made for preschoolers. While his peers are buzzing about Shrek and Spiderman, Bud's been content to focus his attention on the Teletubbies, Blues Clues, and Sesame Street. There has been a significant advantage to this: in the tv that Bud has always watched, there are no "bad guys" and the language the characters use is respectful and appropriate. As a result, because Bud still relies heavily on echolalia, his language - so often based on scripts from the shows he sees - has remained relatively innocuous and pleasant.
In recent weeks, though, Bud's been pushing the boundaries and taking a (tentative) walk on the wild side. He'd gotten a Disney book and cd set for Christmas, but had ignored it completely for months. Then suddenly - as he does - he pulled it out, dusted it off, gave it his full attention, and discovered the wonder that is 101 Dalmatians.
He's been reading along with the storybook as he listens to the cd. He's been listening to the cd in the dark each night as he falls asleep. And, much to my surprise, he has gone to the shelf that holds a wholly ignored and overlooked Disney video collection and pulled down the 101 Dalmatians DVD. For a while, he simply carried it around and looked at it. And then he watched it. Twice.
It has opened a whole new, thrillingly subversive door for Bud. I wondered what Bud's take on this new on-screen interpersonal dynamic would be: would he get the good-vs-evil interplay? Would he understand why we are cheering on dalmatians Pongo and Perdita and disdaining the evil Cruella de Vil and her thugs-for-hire, Horace and Jasper? But I needn't have worried. Bud understands it perfectly. He knows who the good guys are; he knows who the bad guys are. But for the first time in his life, he seems intrigued by - drawn to - not frightened of - the bad guys. So, suddenly, Bud's speech has become peppered with Cruella-speak:
"Why, you imbecile!" he'll shout at me. Or,
"You fools!" And, worse,
"Ah, shut up!"
Bud and I have started talking about time, place, and circumstance for words like that. We've talked about what makes Cruella a "bad guy" and why she uses words like that. He gets it.
"Mean words make people sad," I've explained. "We don't say mean words to people."
"Just to toys," Bud has offered.
And so I hear him as he plays with his characters, muttering under his breath as he makes Bert scold Ernie: "You IMBECILE!"
I recognize it as another double-edged developmental step forward. Bud's discovering another layer of the human condition. He's recognizing it within himself. And, truth be told, he's grooving on it.
He's channeling his inner Cruella. As for me - I'm just taking a deep breath and preparing myself as best I can for the tween years.