Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

In our house, we limit screen time, maybe an hour a day. For the first two years, we capped TV watching at an hour a week.

We also tend away from the licensed products.

You know the ones I am talking about, the Elsa socks, Batman toothbrushes, or Elmo dolls. So imagine my husband’s surprise when I announced we were giving our two-year-old nephew Spider-Man for Christmas.

It all started with a sentence:

“I’m going to lose!”

My nephew gleefully yelled this sentence as he raced his four-year-old brother and our daughter, also two years old. The sureness of it struck me. Small for his age, and used to his brother always winning, he just assumed that he would lose. He wasn’t wrong in this case. His strengths showed in other areas, areas that are often in the background when you are two. The boy needed a new role model to show him these strengths.

So I gave him Spider-Man.

Each child is unique, and a child’s parents usually know the child best. I talked with his mother. His mom had been working on this dynamic, to shift it for the better for her boys. She liked my idea and even had another aunt to contribute with Spider-Man-themed gifts.

Suffice to say, his mother blessed my idea, and I moved forward.

When giving someone a role model, it is important to give enough to allow the person to see themselves in the role model. Most important in this is a sense of identity that the person can relate to and share.

Spider-Man matched my nephew’s needs. Spider-Man is smaller and weaker than most of his opponents. Yet, he is still strong. Spider-Man is smart and thinks his way out of trouble. He was also male. These matched my nephew.

The second part of allowing the person to see themselves in the role model is how you present it. I picked an action figure for my nephew to play with, a book on Spider-Man for my nephew to learn the story, including the strengths and the struggles of Spider-Man, and, finally, to allow my nephew to become Spider-Man, I gave him a Spider-Man pajama set. This allowed him to cosplay without knowing what cosplay was.

My nephew loved it.

He continues to love it two years later. The action figure became the first of many, the book pages hold the wear of repeated readings. And, two years later, the little boy finally outgrew his pajamas. His mother contacted me to help find new ones as a replacement.

I am grateful to be able to work with my nephew’s mother to find the perfect gift for him, something I try to do every year at Christmas time for all the little ones I shop for. I am grateful to help one child find one of many role models and heroes he will have throughout his life.

No matter what makes you unique, you deserve a role model equally unique, one that shows you your inner strength, even when it is hidden. As adults, it is up to us to provide our children with the wide array of role models to give each child the hero he or she needs at that point in life, to bring out the best in each child.

What role models do you give the children in your life? Please let us know in the comments below.

Image copyright Marvel.

A programmer at heart, Claire Jennings spent the first seventeen years of her career as a software development engineer before joining the ranks of management. She spent eight years of her career in the video game industry, learning how virtual worlds are put together. Now a mother of a four-year-old daughter, she and her husband strives to help children understand how to control the technology that runs through every thread of their lives using her knowledge gained while in the video game industry.