Mastermind and Minion

My eldest son snitched the “Essential Calvin and Hobbes” from next to my bed when he was five years old. I caught him poring over the adventures of the older boy and his striped companion, and loomed over him with mixed feelings. On the one hand, yay love of reading! On the other hand, Calvin is not an ideal role model. On the third tail I’ve always promised myself that – like my parents – I would only make access harder to books that really do damage. I simply hadn’t planned on my non-censorious resolve being tested before my son started first grade.

But there was my spiky-haired son, putting on his best space alien accent and saying “Dat darn Kalfin! He stole ma space chip!” I forked over the complete collection.

He was quoting this tonight, and I swear I hadn't mentioned it.
He was quoting this tonight, and I swear I hadn’t mentioned it.

When you think about Calvin (as a grownup who may or may not spend too much time thinking about Calvin and Hobbes), you think of a kid who drives his parents nuts, does poorly in school and has behavior problems. But when you return with fresh eyes and see what Calvin DOES in the panorama of his time and tale, you begin to wish your son was – and could be – more like Calvin. Calvin has *time* and freedom. He wanders the woods with only a fearsome predator for company. He has long leisurely afternoons for the creation of mutant snow goons. He exercises his vast and untrammeled imagination in a whole panoply of joyful childish pursuits, many of which my poor son is forebarred from by shifting culture and a mother who works. There is no circumstance under which my seven year old would spend a whole afternoon playing with a little creek running through mud. He doesn’t have that much free time, and I am more constrained to periodically check on him.

The book was next to my bed, which explains the odd lighting.
The book was next to my bed, which explains the odd lighting.

But Calvin is teaching Grey what it could mean to be a little boy, and fires his imagination. Grey considers his circumstance, and finds his own way to be, well, an Evil Mastermind (of the amusing, kind, relatively-well-behaved type).

This Calvinic mischief was brought to mind the other night. Grey has a tremendous advantage over Calvin. Although entirely lacking in feline company, Grey has instead a little brother who is his willing and eager minion in acts of creative mischief. How joyful are those two boys in their shared universe! Anyway, the other night the boys were doing their usual delaying song and dance regarding sleep. Basically, it was part of our intricate tradition of them not going to sleep when I’ve told them to go to sleep already. At one point they came downstairs and demanded that I set up a tent for them to sleep in. (In truth, my actual challenges getting Grey to sleep are worthy of a serious post. But it’s funny in small moments.) This demand arrived at the point at which I had HAD ENOUGH ALREADY JUST GO TO BED AND IF YOU DON’T YOU’LL BE SLEEPING IN THE BASEMENT NEXT TO THE WORM BIN!

There was thumping upstairs after my chastened (so I thought) sons went back, but no more demands were lobbied by the prepubescent set, so I declared myself satisfied.

When we went in to kiss them good night, however, an astonishing feat of architecture met our eyes. Sadly, I could find no angle of photography that would take in the full glory but imagine this.

You walk into the room, and the wall appears suddenly several feet nearer, and covered in blue stars. You realize that blessed children have stood Thane’s mattress on it’s side. (I swear this is why I won’t buy either of them a proper bed.)

Wall of bed
Wall of bed

You are convinced that shortly your children will be squashed by said mattress and tiptoeing up you check out the situation. The brothers – the Lego Mastermind and his brother the Builder Minion, have used the kiddie chairs in the room to ensure their sleep remains unsquished. They lie in opposite sides of the “fort”, in a stuffed-animal-and-blanket filled enclosure.

The Minion, in Scooby Doo PJs, protected by the Green IKEA chair
The Minion, in Scooby Doo PJs, protected by the Green IKEA chair

Isn’t this what childhood is all about, my friends? The problem solving? The rule-breaking ingenuity? The ability to sleep on a pile of stuffed animals right next to your brother? Perhaps Calvin taught my son a bit of what was possible. I can’t regret it. And I can’t wait until Thane is old enough to read it too.

The Mastermind, with fuzzy dinosaur blanket and Puppy on a white chair.
The Mastermind, with fuzzy dinosaur blanket and Puppy on a white chair.

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

3 thoughts on “Mastermind and Minion”

  1. Yes, been there so many times. My personal comic is Peanuts- a bit too philisophical for most kids; I took to it, and I think it formed a lot of my thoughts over the years. But my bedside reads are Bloom County, Peanuts, B.C., Wizard of ID, and a relative newcomer, Get Fuzzy- and, I periodically to back over all the Dilbert books. Peanuts balances out the cynicism fount in Dilbert, tho I find Adam’s observations to be truer than not.
    Be happy you have a reader! I myself am a true ‘book hog’, and read at least 5 or 6 a week. Only one of my kids is a hard core reader- one has never completed any book aside from comics from cover to cover- a mixed blessing.

    I also made many forts and other kid dwellings, usually after bedtime. I think that is why my boys in particular are clos to me, almsot my best friends. We game together, watch and critique movies, and do a lot of the things you would get a friend to do, like walk a trail or just hand out. Listening to other parents, this is very unusual- in fact, odd to the point of disbelief for most of them. I credit the time I took when they where very young. Also, I was home on disability for over a year, and performed the rold of ‘house husband’ while my wife worked. I was lucky to get to bond with them like this, and that may has been a factor. Personally, I think it was because unlike others, I never forgot my childhood, and the ups and downs. I may have had to play the heavy some times, but I remembered where they were coming from!

    As James Herriott said in one of his books, “It takes nerves of steel to be a parent.”


  2. Jack has always had trouble falling asleep at night (as a night owl myself, I must admit I can relate), but just last night was the first night that after I said good night and closed the door, I could hear *both* boys scurrying around and chatting with each other. I can see from here that our days of impromptu tents are coming soon…


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