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December 16, 2010

This is the seventh installment in a 20-part series entitled, "Harmful Christmas Gift of the Day." I worked as a Picker of items at an Amazon.com processing warehouse for a good chunk of the holiday season, and the only thing I got out of it was a list of disturbing, harmful items parents are buying for their children (or each other) this Holiday. This article and many more at my site http://www.YeahHeDid.com! Today's item: "Curious George Makes New Friends." That's great for George, but what does it say about your kids?

First and foremost, I would like everyone to know that I’m not here to bash the world of Curious George. It’s a successful long-running franchise for a reason and I believe, for the most part, it has a very positive impact on growing children (Curious George Takes a Vacation and Discovers New Things, for instance, is transformational, and probably single-handedly makes a lot of kids very awesome).

Unfortunately, there’s a very big however involved. With a long-running franchise obviously comes a large amount of different stories and titles, and they can’t all be great… there’s bound to be some mistakes. Curious George is no different, as many of the Curious George titles being purchased on Amazon are ones that are either destructive, misleading, or degrading, often in not-so-subtle ways. One particular title comes to mind, and I think it’s important to take a look at it. Curious? Let’s explore (George would want us to).

The title is Curious George Makes New Friends… Here’s a picture:

You’re the mother of poor little Henry, a first grader who is a little different than the rest of the kids. He’s the kind of kid who plays with the fraying classroom carpet more often than he plays with the children he goes to school with. In fact, he doesn’t do much else. As a parent, you want to believe Henry is on the cusp of becoming awesome and making (at least) one other friend…. even if it’s just that kid who always smells like old refrigerator pizza.

However, news soon spreads on Facebook (where modern day moms congregate to talk about these kinds of things) that there’s a huge impending birthday party for young Collin Flaherty, who will be the coolest kid in town for the next 11 years, but will have a very difficult time transitioning into college because he won’t be able let his youth go, and will ultimately drop out and work his way up to land a management position at the Pizza Hut you don’t go to because they don’t clean the tables.

It’s going to be the biggest event of the year, and everyone’s invited (Mom’s orders). That is, everybody but Henry. You see, Collin worked out a deal with his mother to forfeit a birthday present just so Henry wouldn’t be invited. Collin’s mom (Debra), who won’t admit to her friends that the Flaherty family is having financial troubles, reluctantly accepts the terms.

Henry’s mother (you in this scenario) decides to bring the party up to Henry, who lies to you and tells you he was originally invited, but then the party was cancelled because Collin’s father had recently been incarcerated. You know this isn’t true, as you just had a conversation with him when he stopped at your mailbox on his morning run.

You know it’s time to take action, but you also know you have to be subtle about it. Your mind drifts back to your childhood, and you remember Curious George, the wonderful little monkey who took you all over the world when you were young. You check online, and find exactly what you’re looking for:Curious George Makes New Friends.

It arrives in the mail a scant two days later (Amazon ships things very quickly). You know Henry isn’t going to watch this willingly. He needs to be forced. You decide to ground him for his little white lie he told about Collin’s daddy, and take all of his DVDs and Video Games away as a result. Once they’re gone, you plant the DVD in his room. Henry is livid. He rips apart his room in rage, as he knows he won’t be able to play Pikmin for a week. The tornado of anger that tears through Henry’s room stops abruptly when he finds the Curious George DVD. He’s never seen it before, but he’s excited to at least have something to watch (and he feels like he’s become victorious over his mother with the find).

He pops it in. Over the next week, Henry will watch the DVD 35 or 40 times, likely just out of sheer boredom. Now, I know what you’re thinking… Henry learns how to make new friends from Curious George, right? Well, maybe he does… for now anyways. Fast forward 10 years. Henry’s fragile mind has long blocked out memories of first grade entirely, something your brain often does to protect you from yourself and your sad, sad past. Henry’s as average as a kid can be and has a few good, close friends. And he assumes it’s always been that way.

Until curiosity (something George taught him no doubt) reveals otherwise. Bored one day, Henry decides to go up into the attic and look at all of the boxes full of stuff from his childhood. He’s having a great time, until he finds it… the Curious George DVD. He opens it up, and a flood of memories come back to him. He suddenly remembers it all. Instantly, he loses everything’s he’s unknowingly worked to build over the past ten years. As quickly as Curious George helped him make friends, he was able to take them away again.

Parents: if you’re going to help your kid make friends by buying him a DVD of a monkey showing him how to do it, make sure you don’t put it in his memory box. It’s best he doesn’t find out the reason he has friends.