Build Your Own Ninja Turtle, or Not?

Build Bear Turtle
Image: Build-A-Bear Workshop

Last weekend, I took my boys, ages two and four, to our local Build-A-Bear Workshop. I was flying solo, but if you hit the store just as it opens, you’ve pretty much got the run of the place. My husband does not enjoy the same affection for an abundance of soft toys that my sons and I do, so I try and leave the voice of reason at home.

Build Bear Leo
Image: Build-A-Bear Workshop

This was to be a special event. Unbeknownst to my eldest son, the store had debuted a line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I felt certain that he would “neeeeed one,” and had thought briefly about using their online reservation system. This enables you to pay ahead of time and have the store reserve the carcass of your choice for you. If I believed the promotional emails I was getting (and I did), the store would be inundated with Ninja Turtles fans and was going to sell out quickly. Therein lay my first dilemma. I was certainly not going to turn over $100 plus tax on all four Ninja Turtles, and his favorite Turtle changes as often as his underwear. Most of the time it is Leonardo, as we are daily informed that blue is his favorite color. He will occasionally give allegiance to Michelangelo, as he knows that this was my childhood favorite. Sometimes he will even give a nod to Raphael as “red’s okay.” Poor Donatello never gets a look in. I felt pretty certain Leonardo would be the chosen one, but I have been wrong before.

Boy was I wrong this time.

We are Build-A-Bear Workshop aficionados. We have a bear, a bunny, a puppy, and a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer complete with roller skates and sound box. If I had my way, there would be an AppleJack in our house right now. My youngest son has yet to fully develop this inherited affection, but my eldest son at four (he would want me to add “almost five”) is a die-hard. It’s never, “We’re going to Build a Bear,” but always, “We’re going to Build-A-Bear Workshop.” Choosing the bear in question is a momentary thought for him; it is in the details that he thrives. He loves the construction, helping with the stuffing, and picking out a heart. He loves to watch the stitching and takes great pride in the bathing. He loves to name the bear and helps me fill in the birth certificate. He loves to pick out the accessories, which is usually a piece of equipment rather than an item of clothing.

On this particular visit, we came screeching to a halt after running the entire length of the concourse. We were faced with oh-so-many Ninja Turtles. The advertisement I had seen contained pretty decent pictures, and so they were of the quality I had expected—which incidentally, is greater than the quality I would expect of a cuddly Ninja Turtle. Having not read the details too deeply, they were bigger than I had expected them to be. They don’t come with their accessories; your base Ninja Turtle is $25 and if you want nun-chucks or swords, then you’re going to have to play the Grandma card.

Build Bear 2
Image: Sarah Pinault

Instantly, one of the lovely, calm, and patient, cast members started to engage my son in conversation. His side of the conversation went something like this: “Aha, aha, yup, erm, the blue one, yeah that one, aha, yup, okay bye.” All the while, his eyes darted around the store, and down the long row of empty bodies to the beloved “fluff machine.” He made a beeline for the bears, bypassing the buckets of Ninja Turtles. I asked if he wanted Leonardo. “Nope, this guy,” he proclaimed, holding up a generic black bear.

And so, I learned a classic lesson of geek parenting: You can lead your child to geek, but you cannot make them geek out.

Thus far, he has acquiesced in one form or another to anything we put in front of him. Darth Vader for Halloween? Sure. Rocket ship-themed birthday party? Let’s blast off! Frozen at the movies with mommy? Let’s go. Ninja Turtles cuddly toy, something that would have been cherished in my ’80s childhood? Nah!

So this is where it begins, where we start loosening up the steelton cables. We always knew this day would come.

Hero turtles
Image: Screenshot

I am kind of shocked that he wanted a black bear. The name is “Bathy” by the way, as in Kathy, but not. I had fully expected him to want Ninja Turtles, as he has been the one leading me back into my childhood memories. Although growing up in England, I watched the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. My shock was therefore not his rejection of my own love, but more a reaction to his preference of something so simple, over something he loves. He is getting quite the diverse personality, my little man.

I love watching him explore the world around him and being privy as he develops his own style. Sure it’s great when we share something. One of my favorite things to do is sit and read with him, and I love it when he chooses Each Peach Pear Plum. I also love it when he asks me to read his Yogi Bear comic books, though I hate reading comic books aloud. I love it when he wants to go swimming with me, but I also love it when he wants to race our bikes across the lawn. Then, I collapse in a non-bike-riding puddle.

He starts kindergarten this year and is about to get bombarded with a wide range of new influences, and I get a front row seat to everything he discovers and loves, and learns to love. I get to watch as he dislikes things and help him deal with that. I couldn’t be more excited and more terrified.

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Now I just need to get my own Ninja Turtle!