Flat Stanley Brings Out the Kid in Us All
As our kids enter middle school a seriousness descends on them. Anything associated with small children is “childish” and must be forsaken. As a stay-at-home parent, I noted that this attitude really only came out when peers were present. At other times, they laughed at kids’ shows just as frequently as the younger ones and sometimes their laughter was even louder. On occasion, they would forget themselves when a friend was over and would pause for a moment when these shows were on TV. It was not unusual for these tweens to laugh along, then catch themselves, feigning a joke elsewhere and quickly moving on.
In just a few years, these childhood “friends” resurfaced, sometimes on T-shirts and accessories. The few years they were verboten provided just enough distance to make the concept retro – a throwback to their younger days, making such nostalgia acceptable, sometimes even trendy.
While they still insisted that actually watching these shows or engaging in conversations about childhood objects was due to having younger siblings or having a babysitting job, the embarrassment had diminished. Catching them watching such shows alone was generally explained away, “It was on the TV and I didn’t want to look for the remote.” (As a mom who used the same excuse on occasion, I wouldn’t even consider arguing that point.)
Several years ago, Flat Stanley came to visit us, via my niece. He arrived at our house in December, and I got into the project wholeheartedly, even making a Facebook profile so that she and her mom could follow the adventures in real-time. Since it was the end of marching band season, Flat Stanley came with us to the band banquet and was a big hit. Several of the teens exclaimed “Oh, it’s Flat Stanley!” and the group posed for pictures with the paper doll.
I tried to stifle a goofy grin. I hadn’t expected that not only would these teens recognize the character, but that they would be so excited to be reacquainted with their old friend. The paper doll I had tucked in my purse was an instant celebrity. I paused to wonder how they would have reacted just a few years before. I suspect poor Stanley would have been ignored or even worse, that my own child might have shown some embarrassment and shoved her back in my purse.
While teens are still working out who they are and have their insecurities, most have more confidence than they did in their tween years. Revisiting childhood pleasures can be comforting; it reminds them of how far they have come. Reliving childhood memories can bring them back to a happier, simpler time and remove (at least temporarily) some current stressors. Perhaps we adults should take note.
[photo of me with my oldest and youngest – and Stanley at our town’s holiday parade]