When my son was 18 months old, my 64-year-old parents took a trip to New Zealand where they bungee jumped off Kawarau Bridge. They came home with the videographic evidence, which they showed off proudly to us one evening shortly after their return. My son watched intently as first my mother and then my father had the bungee cords tied around their ankles. He was riveted as my parents hobbled over to the edge of the bridge. And he was spellbound when my parents each in turn swan-dived towards the river nearly 150 feet below. From that moment, my son was hooked. And his first obsession was born.
At the outset, yes it is impressive that my parents at their tender young age decided to jump off a bridge, held only by an elastic cord tied around their ankles. But what was (not quite) equally amazing was my son’s sudden fascination with bungee jumping. He wanted to watch the bungee jumping video over and over again. He began role playing his own bungee feats by “tying” blankets around his ankles and jumping off the couch. He built elaborate duplo lego bridges where he set up his own bungee jumping operation with a line of daredevil lego men. And he affirmatively told most people he came in contact with that he, in fact, was a “bungee jumper.”
This continued for about six months. Until the London Olympics started, and Olympic swimming became part of our daily television repertoire. All of a sudden, my now two year old, who had never shown much interest in the pool at all, was totally transfixed. He wore goggles and a medal at all times. He fashioned a swimmer’s starting block out of our household stool. He “dove” off of any and every raised object such as curbs, chairs, beds, benches, etc. and “swam” instead of walking everywhere we went (freestyle being his stroke of choice, if you’re interested). He played US Swim Team, where he was Michael Phelps and my husband was Ryan Lochte (Jeah!). And my son is personally responsible for at least 500,000 of the hits on the US Swim Team’s version of “Call Me Maybe” on YouTube.
I began to wonder about my little weirdo. Was there something different about my child? Was it unhealthy that he became completely fixated and possessed by these different odd obsessions? And then I remembered my niece, Molly, who insisted my parents play the “Cinderella” game with her over and over again during her princess obsession. Or my friend’s son, Jack, whose obsession with and vast knowledge of all things dinosaurs could earn him a job at the Museum of Natural History today. And my godson, Aidan, who became so into building and construction, that his parents used to take him to construction sites just to watch “the workers” build.
So my son’s obsessions happen to be a little outlandish and a lot quirky (I mean, bungee jumping???), but at least it seems that obsessions are a normal part of childhood. I decided that I would try to embrace his interests instead of becoming obsessed myself with why he had become interested in these things in the first place. In that vein, I signed him up for swim lessons and let him watch swimming events on the computer. But no, I will not take him bungee jumping. My parents have already promised to take him when he turns 18.
About a month ago, I was making my son breakfast one morning, and he turned to me and said, “Mom, I’m obsessed with superheroes and girls.” I just about dropped the pan of scrambled eggs in my hand. I was initially impressed with his use of the word “obsessed” in the correct context, but I also thought, oh my…. here we go again. And as I sit here typing this post, my son is running around in his Batman shirt and underwear, which he has worn for 3 straight days, “fighting crime” and keeping the people of Gotham City safe. You’re welcome, Gotham City.
What is the most unusual thing your toddler/pre-schooler has been obsessed with? Do you encourage the obsessions, and how?