I trust everyone had a reasonably fine Thanksgiving, and without too much heavy obligation, found a lot of things to be thankful for. It really is such a nice holiday, it’s a shame that so many horrible travel stories accompany it. Our family has plenty to be thankful for, but you might be able to guess many of them. But you want to know what I’m really thankful for?
The Nerf Arsenal.
I’m so thankful for the Nerf Arsenal, and the pandemonium it brought to our house on Saturday night, that I can only attempt to describe it.
My son Liam, who’s now eleven, had a couple of the boys from his old school over on Saturday night for pizza and video games. The idea and impetus was actually mine, because I thought it would be a perfect night for it, and December would be too busy for everyone’s schedule. In the afternoon, Liam worked on setting up the television room for it, even checking the settings on the Gamecube so there wouldn’t be any memory problems or technical snafus.
Then he got out his Nerf Arsenal and a pair of wraparound sunglasses. Mustering what he thought was a Schwarzenegger accent (like he’s seen many “Terminator” movies!), he greeted the boys at the door. They were stunned, “Wow, that’s the biggest gun I’ve ever seen!” For the rest of the night, allowing for respites in front of the TV, they ran around the house ambushing each other with orange foam projectiles and screaming and panting and laughing their heads off.
Why did all this chaos thrill me so much? Because Liam never has friends over unless it’s his birthday or something. Liam has Asperger’s Syndrome, which we diagnosed around his third birthday. For those of you who don’t know, Asperger’s is a form of autism that makes it hard to understand social situations. The best description I ever heard of it was that it’s like permanent culture shock, in which a person (usually a male) can’t really figure out why things happen as they do and how to keep himself involved in the interaction.
Asperger’s is a spectrum disorder, and not everyone is afflicted to the same extent. Liam is much, much better off than many with AS, and many people who meet him can overlook the condition completely. But I’ve seen him on his good days and bad, and I’m a worrier by nature anyway. For eight years, I’ve fretted about him–how he’s going to grow, how he’s going to function as a teen and adult, how much he’s going to get out of life, how much he’s going to enjoy himself.
So seeing him playing War with two other sixth graders–that’s about the best present I’m going to get this year.
When I bought him the Nerf Arsenal last year, my wife was reluctant. She’s not an incredible peacenik or anything, but the idea of these comically huge guns shooting missiles around her house made her a little uneasy. The trouble is, she never had a brother, and so doesn’t realize how much interaction and satisfaction men get from playing War. For Liam’s sake, I think any kind of interaction is worthwhile. And it looks like so far, I’m right.
So if you hear anybody this Christmas season get on their soapbox and spout off about how awful it is to sell toy guns, just remember that they can be very therapeutic, in a literal sense. It also helps the father, when he gets to shoot suction cup darts at the faces of football coaches on TV.
Thank you, Hasbro, for Nerf N-Strike, Action Blasters, and all your other fine squishy products!!