Ages 11 and under
Male and Female
Rubik’s cubes, Trolls dolls, Mr. Potato Heads, View-Masters, Beanie Babies; our childhoods are greatly defined by the popular products we absolutely needed to own no matter what the cost. Among our present-day marketing of the hottest brands that dictate how we live, we now, like every Christmas since 1983 get the chance to look back on a time before fads made their way into the children’s subconscious.
In A Christmas Story, we are taken back into the year 1940, before the effects of war altered America’s state of mind forever, and a child’s greatest earning was all about stopping the bullies. The classical feel of this picture resonates with every post WWII generation with laughs aplenty that remind us of our own ridiculous family obsessions.
On the snowy Cleveland Street of Northern Indiana, all the residents young and old crowd in front of Hicbee’s toy store to peek in on the newest brands to add to their wish lists. The blue eyed nine-year-old in the center, Ralphie, has his sight on one thing and one thing only: a Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200 Shot Air Rifle. His younger brother, Randy, would most want a silver zeppelin, and to never eat meat loaf again. His father, known only as “the Old Man,” wants to keep his prized leg lamp aglow at the front of the house for all of Cleveland Street to witness, a symbol of his victories. The mother of the family wants nothing more than to keep the boys in her life in order. The shenanigans these four get wound up in are humorous to connect with, as we watch their hopes to enjoy this time of year in spite of conflicts.
Everyone has their personal moments of expression to prove how badly they want the thing they want; Ralphie will do anything to prove to his mother that he deserves something as dangerous as a BB gun, Randy refuses to fall victim to his mother’s irrational scheme of over bundling him for snow treading, and the Old Man will never turn off his lamp for anything, in spite of his hectic wife’s wishes.
There are never large events shown within this average family, only easily relatable moments of everyday living. Cracking a secret code from a children’s radio program or trying on your aunt’s embarrassing homemade pajamas may not sound like much, but watching these moments linger proves what truly makes the gears of a family spin. It’s like the mind of a child—the small stuff, rather than the big stuff, are the things to get excited for.
Yet like any abruptly shifting young mind, the editing style of this feature erases any sense of narrative or fluidity. But it’s made up for with the consistent voiceover narration by a grown-up Ralphie who comments on what he remembers from his best Christmas ever. With this special aid, we also get a glimpse into the fantasies this nine-year-old came up with in response to the adults in his world, as inspired by genres of popular radio serials.
It’s so effective, that I now feel like a part of this historic era, as looked at from the mind of a child. Although the depiction of Blacks, Asians, and Hillbillies takes out a bit of the experience, as it reflects more the racial relations of the early 1980s than the setting.
But returning us into the experience is the no-nonsense attitude that does not over glamorize the season’s commercial happiness. Set aside the jingle bells and Claymation reindeer, this special has a rude mall Santa, a poor boy’s tongue frozen to a flagpole, a slipping of the F-bomb from a nine-year-old’s mouth, and the quarrel between hapless victims and the schoolyard bullies. Youth can’t look more real than this.
In fact, the youth depiction here may as well be a little too real. As the boys always lose their sense in favor of impulsive decisions without any real punishment, it essentially teaches the mothers that boys should be boys, and we might as well just enjoy the moment. Now, does that mean that mothers should let their boys get away with lying, giving kids nosebleeds, and mocking blind people like as seen in this special? I don’t think so.
Well, maybe the possessive madness in the 1940s proves how not much of anything has changed over time after all. Imagine that.
Just as Ralphie obsessively wanted to receive a BB gun on Christmas morning, any child will have that one toy that they just have to have on Christmas to be happy. I have certainly have my share of toys that I just had to have for it to be a great Christmas, and even now there are things at the top of my list that necessitate a worthwhile season.
This is where every parent, especially those with autistic kids, should have a word of caution: as especially with kids in the 4-8 age range, whining and screaming for a toy they saw advertised on TV is a guarantee.
Kids always love to spend hours playing with toys and bonding with something they don’t have to actually listen to, it is a therapeutic way for them to spend their time. So think of how much more relaxing playing with toys can be for one with autism, where speaking with people is much more terrifying, and creating stories of imagination from practical objects is much easier.
So hearing their pleas for a toy on Christmas is still expected, in fact, it should be even more so expected than those without autism, as the levels they’ll go to get what they want know few boundaries.
Familiar with kids falling onto the floor, kicking their feet, and screaming in the grocery store if you won’t buy their favorite cereal? Well, double the power of that meltdown in your mind, and change it so that any act of physical force put on them only heightens their screams. Even if it’s not an item at the top of their wish list, the loud sounds and flashing lights at the mall are enough to stress them out. This is what it would be like to say “no” to an autistic child.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #58: He Must Know When He’s Wrong.
Here’s one thing that should be made perfectly clear: every child needs to understand that gimmee, gimmee never gets, and that they should be thankful for what they already have. This means they may not always get everything they want on their Christmas list, and that the world will still turn if they don’t. While it may be tempting to immediately end their temper tantrums by giving them what they want, bear in mind that it only worsens the situation when they throw more tantrums in the future, as their logic will go, “if it worked the first time, it’s got to work the second time!”
“But I want to see my child happy,” some parents may say in defense. Well here’s some food for thought: Imagine if your child was raised with the whole “ask and you’ll receive” mentality? Then they will grow up to become teenagers, then adults, who manipulate others to selfishly get what they want. That never pays off in the end. Your goal as a parent is not to make your child happy, but to train him to make others happy.
Rather, you’ll have to discipline your child whenever a tantrum is thrown. But don’t go overboard with your methods of discipline.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #60: Raising Your Voice Exacerbates the Problem.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #69: I Walked Five Miles to School…
…as raising your tone to your autistic child interferes with their sensory issues, and will leave a permanent scar that is not easy for them to forget. Don’t make them feel guilty about feeling whiny either just because you “had it easier than them.” In the autistic mind, everything is amplified to the nth degree, including their perspectives on situations that may not be looked upon as a big deal.
- Don’t give in to your kids’ temper tantrums. Teach them that gimmee, gimmee never gets by saying in a calm tone, “If you don’t stop complaining right now, you’re definitely not going to get that toy in your stocking—this year or the next.”
- Don’t raise your tone if your autistic child is disobeying you. It only worsens the situation for both of you, and it will damage the relationship between you two. Try your best to stay calm in the situation, and offer a reward for obedience.
- Be careful about telling them that they have it easy compared to others their age. While yes it is true, know that in the point of view of an autistic child, they don’t care about others who are less fortunate. They need someone to understand their feelings, not talk down at them.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!