What’s the deal with boys and sticks? Buzz is a classic example. He spends his days carrying one of the following: a Harry Potter wand (he owns four), a sword (he owns three), a broom (he has a short one, but my five-footer will do in a pinch), a light saber (big brothers have five), or a regular stick, if he happens to be outside. He’s three now, but he has had this love affair with sticks since he started walking.
I am convinced that this is not learned behavior. Other than Harry Potter (who he didn’t discover until recently) and medieval knights (even more recently), Buzz’s favorite characters don’t wield sticks. Winnie the Pooh, Superman, and Ariel the Little Mermaid (more about that one later) are all stick-free. My little boy, like his brothers before him, feels some sort of inborn connection to his sticks. He just knows exactly what to do with a stick.
“What to do with a stick” happens to be hard to define. Yes, he occasionally whacks or pokes someone with a wand or a sword, which results in a time-out for the stick. Buzz is pretty smart, and has learned quickly that Mom won’t let sticks become weapons. Here is a partial list of what sticks can do:
- Get contraband items down from a high shelf
- Poke small objects down a heating vent
- Defend a boy from big brothers in a pretend light-saber battle
- Cast a magic spell (often in the middle of a church meeting)
- Fly across the room and poke mom in the eye
So, not all of these are good. In fact, there are a lot of things I really hate about Buzz’s stick habit. But I think there’s more to it than I can put in a list. Somehow, a stick makes a little boy feel bigger, taller maybe, but definitely more powerful. Often, he doesn’t do anything with his stick. He just carries it around, waves it in the air, or uses it as a prop in his imaginary play of the moment. The stick doesn’t give him power because of its practical applications, but because it is whatever he wants it to be. The simpler the toy, the more possibility it has.
I’m glad my boys love their sticks. A toy gun is a toy gun, an action figure is always himself, and video games kill imagination, but a stick can be anything. With a few rules (and mama’s watchful eye), maybe these sticks will keep my boys playing for years to come.
What have your boys done with a stick?