Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Pirate's Life for Me

When my 2-year-old son, Jordan, first started to get into pirates, I wasn’t so sure about it. I didn’t like the violence, the sword fighting, the bad language, the drinking. I didn’t really like the disabled pirate thing, either: the “peg legs,” the eye patches, the hooks for hands. Jordan wears braces on his legs for orthopedic impairments and uses forearm crutches, and I didn’t like him seeing these disabled pirates hobbling around on busted-up wooden crutches.

But the pirate thing couldn’t be stopped. My husband got Jordan into the Pirates of the Caribbean; I tried to push Muppet Treasure Island. Whatever pirate movie was on, Jordan insisted that pirates would be part of his life!

Now he is totally obsessed with pirates. He was one for Halloween, of course, and this year he’s going to have a pirate-themed birthday party (maybe even with a Jack Sparrow look-alike in attendance—but is that for him or for Mommy?).

But it goes beyond just pirates on special occasions. Sometimes I think he truly thinks he is a pirate. Captain Jack Sparrow is a constant topic of conversation at our house. Jordan’s pirate name is now Captain Jordan Two Swords. He spends most of his day thinking about, talking about, playing with, and watching pirates. His collections of Playmobil and Pirates of the Caribbean pirates and accessories are growing. I must admit that I love playing with them, too. The Playmobil pirates are like a boy’s version of Barbies, with their hats that snap on, their beards that come off and can be switched between pirates. They have capes, necklaces, earrings, all tiny and all fun to put on and off.

Then of course, there are the swords. The Playmobil and Caribbean pirates all have swords that snap on and off. Then the bigger, kid-size swords: Jordan has four of them now. I resisted sword fighting with him at first—the violence!!—but when I finally did, I was impressed with how well he does at it. He doesn’t just swing his arm around; instead, he does very precise maneuvers with his wrist. He doesn’t flail around but is very exact. And he gets so much joy out of it. He doesn’t even mind when he loses. I found a way to actually hit the sword out of his hand so I can win every time (I know, bad mommy!). He yells, “You got me!” and sometimes even falls down. His father loves swords, too, and is planning on taking fencing lessons with Jordan when Jordan is older.

Jordan loves singing pirate songs—we recently got a whole CD Of “swashbuckling sea songs.” He has so much fun singing along to the music, and he always makes me sing, too. He uses so many pirate expressions, like “Shiver me timbers,” “Walk me plank!” and much to my horror at first, “Surrender the booty!”
He also loves pirate treasure. He has loved playing with money for a while now (he even knows who Andrew Jackson is because of playing with money!). Before this, he had a piggy bank and several cash registers he was obsessed with. But now he can put his interest in money into pirate gold. He counts the coins, arranges them, puts them away, takes them back out, and shouts, “I got treasure!”

But the real turning point for me, when I began to really accept his love of pirates, was when we were shopping for more Playmobil pirates, and I came across Captain Peg Leg. With my newfound “disability rights” feelings, I didn’t like that name at all. I started to think more about how I didn’t like the eye patch or hook things, either. Why do pirates have to have these impairments all the time?

But Jordan saw Captain Peg Leg and shouted, “He has braces!” Jordan has never known a time in his life when he did not have casts or braces of some kind on his legs. So, for him, seeing someone else who had braces, which he rarely sees, was something great and new for him. I put Captain Peg Leg in the cart.

Then, while watching the pirate movies, seeing these pirates that do have hooks, peg legs (or prosthetic is the right word!), and eye patches, I started to view them differently. Yes, they have impairments, but not disabilities. The pirate with the leg prosthetic sword fights right along with the others. The one with the hook for a hand drinks his booze with the other hand. There is never any talk among the pirates about their impairments; they are seen as just another part of life. Besides, there is no time for pity or for thinking too much about any limitations—there are songs to sing, booty to steal, and adventures to have!