Spiderman sheets

I am doing my best to raise a responsible, healthy, independent, overall productive member of society. In doing this, there seem to be some clear rules one has to follow in order to ensure the small child's overall mental and physical safety: Hold hands when you cross the street. Eat your vegetables. Don't smoke. (I haven't actually instated that rule yet, I'm just getting ready for it.) There also seem to be clear limitations that need to be set: Don't go past the bend in the road where Mommy can't see you when you are playing outside. Bedtime is before 9pm. We don't drink soda for breakfast, but you can have some after lunch. I try to protect him from scary movies, evil kidnappers, and mean neighborhood kids who swear a lot. These things appear to be quite basic, and easy to manage. But then there are rules that I get into my head that I enforce, and then wonder if I am really protecting him, or if even there is anything to protect him from. Today, for example, we went shopping for new bedding for Jacob's new big boy bed. I looked around for the kid's bedding section, because c'mon, he's 3, he should have some cute sheets. But then when we got to that aisle, we were bombarded by commercialism. Jacob suddenly decided he couldn't possibly go on living if he didn't have a Spiderman sheet set, complete with Spiderman throw pillow. I battled it out, and refused to buy the sheets for him, instead settling on some cute Safari animal print ones. He was furious. We left the store with him in tears and me triumphant. I had held my ground against a 3 year old, something good mothers can do. But then I started thinking about what I had battled about--superhero bedding. For some reason, the animal sheets I bought that were only 3 dollars less than the Spiderman ones seemed more virtuous, although I couldn't tell you why. I probably would have been better off just buying the cheap white ones that were only $10 and could be bleached in the event of the inevitable bodily goo that will get on this child's sheets. What on earth was I protecting him from? Bad, evil commercialism? He has Batman and Spiderman toys, why do superhero sheets seem like something intolerable? I couldn't figure it out, so now I'm blogging about it. I think this is something else about motherhood that I struggle with, where I wonder if the particular battles I fight are worth fighting, and if the negative long term consequences I imagine are really just that-imagined consequences. But then I think about all the things I'm not foreseeing, how I'm screwing my son up without even knowing it, and I get all stressed and confused. I just wish that I could have a little chart that says: Batman and drugs=bad. Safari animals and Buffy the Vampire Slayer= good. Ok, all right, probably Buffy belongs in the other category, but you can't blame me for trying, right?


Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

I know this isn't what you want to hear after the fact, but a good policy is: if Mommy doesn't like it, we won't buy it, and if you don't like it, we won't buy it. I think that's the only sensible solution to avoiding these battles.

7/14/2005 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

LOL Julie... I held out for a while on Barbies for my girls (well, it was my oldest) and finally gave in. But there will NEVER has been or will there EVER be Barbie sheets, books, clothes, accessories, CD players, etc. I have no problem with the toys (well, I have some problems with Barbies, but that's another post), but I don't think my kids need to drown in commercialism. It's one thing to have a toy, it's another thing to be immersed in a whole world surrounding that toy. And for some reason -- I haven't quite figured out why I'm so against it -- I think that's wrong. Perhaps because they need to realize that there's more in life than Barbie, or Spiderman; perhaps because sheets are just sheets and not vehicles for advertising. Neither are clothes. Perhaps because if I buy them the sheets, then they'll want the shoes and the clothes and the books and the CD Player...

So, I think you did just fine, Heather.

7/14/2005 06:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

Sorry, but I don't get it at all.

When I was a kid, we had Star Wars sheets, and they were the coolest thing, ever.

7/14/2005 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Liesl said...

I'm with susan m. Sarah has strawberry shortcake sheets and even a little strawberry shortcake cup to hold her toothbrushes in. Grandma B topped this off with an almost life-sized stuffed strawberry shortcake doll. I don't think that having these $15 sheets has made her any more absorbed in the commercialism and they have certainly served their purpose of making her feel like her room is hers (and by extension, that MY room is MINE, not hers). In the middle of the night I have actually told her that she'd better hurry back to her room or strawberry shortcake will be lonely without her.

That being said, I don't think that NOT buying the character sheets will have any bad effects and I think it is good to have a "mommy says so" fight at the store every so often so there is no question of who's in charge =)

7/14/2005 07:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

I totally get it, Heather. I really dislike character clothing (I've given in on a few occasions). I'm not sure if it's the commercialism aspect or just sort of plain old fashioned snobbery. I would have done just what you did, and then not known whether to feel triumphant or guilty.

Great rule, Julie.

7/14/2005 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

From a business/economic point of view, licensing of characters (such as Spiderman) is expensive, but obviously lucrative. The way companies make money is by skimping on other aspects which affect the quality and performance of the product (they know people will buy because of the character and not the quality). This is true for everything from sheets, to clothes, to electronics--but not necessarily true with toys.

7/14/2005 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

So I can justify my dislike of character merchandise because the quality is inferior? Legitimate reasoning is always good.

susan/liesl-- I'm not saying that the children are necessarily more absorbed in commercialism because they have merchandise other than the dolls. What I feel is that by buying those items, I'm commercializing their lives. Does that make sense? Everywhere they look they see a particular character/characters. Soon they come to equate all things desirable with that particular character or with characters in general. Barbie=good. How far is that to Tommy Hilfigger=good? I highly dislike branding as part of American commercialism. I think it's demeaning and wrong when a certain brand of clothing becomes important to a person and am trying to nip it in the bud.

To paraphrase from Anne of Green Gables -- how does character merchandise provide any scope for the imagination? I believe in letting my kids have their own space (I plastered sunday comic strips all over one of my walls when I was a teenager), but through their own creativity and not because they happen to like Barbie or Spiderman.

Granted, I may be all wrong here, and my kids will grow up being deprived and rebel against my anti-branding stance.

7/14/2005 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

I thought some people might like to have a "legitimate" reason for their decision to boycott licensed merchandise.

My actual reason for not buying such things is far more "snobby". I find products with "characters" are artistically poor in design (ie: tacky). And as much as my daughter may be in love with Dora, Mickey Mouse, Disney Princesses or whatever, she will definitely never own any piece of clothing that promotes them (for the record, I am also not a fan of any sort of company "logo" on clothing--again because it robs the piece of it's good design. It needs only depend on the "name" for the sale).

7/14/2005 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Good point about commercializing their entire lives.

Maybe I just feel like this is a moderation in all things kind of situation. Jacob has 2 Batman guys, a Spiderman toy, and shirts that represent Batman, Spiderman, and Superman. I guess I just felt like one more thing, and we would be plunging into the world of the Justice League forever. And like you say, commericalized characters leave little for the scope of imagination. When Jacob plays Superheros, well, there is just one way to play--very, very, violent. When he plays Thomas the Train, he starts building roads and bridges with blocks, and he comes up with scenarios and characters and scenary. I think it's much more productive play.

Still, with the whole clothes thing, at least I have Halloween covered.

7/14/2005 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Well, I don't like clothes with characters, either, although Grandma does. It doesn't hurt to have the occasional article that Grandma buys, I guess.

On the whole sheets thing - I bought my daughter Dora sheets when she moved into a twin bed out of a toddler, and she loved them. Now she hates Dora,(it's for babies!) and we only use those sheets if everything else is dirty, and then it's constant questioning as to when I'm going to do the laundry.

Anyway, I think non-character is good. (I'm still mad I couldn't find a basic scooter, and had to buy the Barbie one. Same thing with the bike. They simply DO NOT make non-specific ones, or if they do, they don't sell them at Wal-Mart.) But I think non-character is good especially for something long term, like sheets. You're going to want to use those sheets for years to come, and trust me, Jacob won't love Spiderman forever.
And if you have an overnight guest, safari animals are less embarrassing than Spiderman.

7/14/2005 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

I bought your husband spiderman underoos, and he seems to have survived. I bought your son spiderman underoos (and now spongebob and batman ones as well). I'm hoping that means your son will grow up to be as cool as your husband. (Not that I'm prejudiced. FYI, all, I'm the proud mother and grandmother.)

Not sure what the moral of this story is. . . .

7/14/2005 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


And as you know, Jacob LOVES the Underoos you bought him. You gave him the Batman ones what, on Sunday of last week? Yeah, he just took them off last night(Wednesday), when I insisted that he couldn't wear that filthy shirt anymore. He still tried to wear the whole outfit to bed again tonight. Imagine if I had really gotten those sheets--he might never get out of bed! Of course, given his penchant for early rising, maybe that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing....hmm....

I hope Jacob turns out to be as cool as my husband, too. I'm a proud wife.

7/14/2005 11:53:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

In our old house, my oldest two had plain bedding since there were different genders in the same room and I never found anything I really liked. In our new house, I put the girls together in one room and I bought beautiful bedding for my girls' room.
Connor had to be in his own room in our new house. I searched, but did not find anything I liked for bedding.
Moving day night was tough. Poor Connor was sad all alone in his room missing our old house. Everything fun had been happening in the girls room. Dad putting the crib together. Alexa putting up a sign that said no boys and not letting him in. Me arranging the furniture trying to find a way to stuff it all in there.
No one had hung out in Connor's room.
My heart went out to my poor weepy son. So after he went to bed, yes, on moving day when I had piles of boxes still, I went out and bought the Spiderman sheets that my son had never seen since I didn't want him to know there was a choice when I was trying to pick out his bedding. I wanted to choose what I wanted.
But, I did it.
They are really crappy sheets. Like sandpaper.
The comforter is the least ugly one of the ones I saw at 3 different stores. So I don't really mind the comforter that much.
Months later I saw bedding I would have really liked. Oh well.
I think I won't do it again. I just wasn't finding anythign that I DID like that justified me refusing, you know?
Most of the character stuff is really, really ugly, isn't it?

7/15/2005 03:01:00 AM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

I will admit that my daughter does have Dora and Disney Princess panties. I believe they were a huge factor in the success of her potty training - so I guess characters have their place as long as I don't have to see them all the time.

7/15/2005 07:28:00 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I think characters do have their place, too... it's just a matter of not going overboard.

And I'm with you, Wiz. I think Wal-Mart has completely gone overboard with characterizing everything. We have a princess bike, because it was the only non-Barbie one. And I'm constantly fighting agaist Barbie/princess this or that whenever we shop there.

But the alternatives are much much more expensive. I'd love to buy all my kids clothes from lands end, but can't afford it. I'd love to buy all my toys from Magic Cabin dolls, but can't afford that either.

I guess what I'm trying to find is some sort of middle ground.

My oldest reminded me that I just bought Barbie shoes for her younger sister. But, as I reminded her, it was after looking through an ENTIRE mall while on vacation to find sandals she needed and the ONLY ones in her size were the Barbie ones.

I guess you can't win them all.

Carrie-- I try not to buy clothes with logos across the front, too, but that's because I don't want to be a walking advertisement. Knowing that it gets in the way of design. Does that go for quality, too? And does that hold for all designers -- I mean isn't Hilfigger or Lauren or DKNY supposed to be good stuff?

7/15/2005 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

Yeah, I bought all my kids those kinds of sheets and I don't think it affected them adversely at all. But I bet he will always hate those safari sheets.

When he is in his thirties, he will say, "Mom rememeber when I wanted those spiderman sheets? I've never forgiven you for that." My girls still remind me how I wouldn't buy them a Kenner easy bake oven. I still don't regret it. It was a stupid toy.

Oh, and they wanted the Barbie jeep to drive. No way.

But mostly I humored them. It's part of childhood.

7/15/2005 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...


When it comes to clothing companies the quality control really varies from company to company. And it is not really connected with logo styles vs. non-logo styles. It mostly has to do with if the company has licensed their name out to other companies in order to produce a wider range of products. This usually means that the original company has less control over the final product that bears it's name and the company who owns the license, like I said before, must skimp on quality to make up for the cost of using the name.

This happens a lot in children's wear that bears the name of an adult design house. The clothes are not necessarily held up to the same quality standards of the adult line. The clothes sell because mommy and daddy like the name and the business people know that.

7/15/2005 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger fMhLisa said...

I never buy character/logo stuff. I do not want to be a billboard, thank you very much. My kids do have some of that stuff, but it's all gifts.

I'm also distrustful of the status that goes with some of the labels, uncomfortable with status markers altogether really.

Not that that applies to a three-year-old's sheets. Since they don't get the status thing at all. It always delights me when my kids get really excited over really cheap toys. They don't care if it came from the dollar store or if it cost as much as a new stove. I suppose this isn't going to last much longer . . . sad day.

7/15/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger fMhLisa said...

I just put Buffy season one on my Netflix list. Never seen it.

7/15/2005 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

Does anyone know if they make Spongebob bedding in adult bed sizes? Cuz I'd be all over that.

7/15/2005 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Barbies. I didn't buy my daughter any. And I found out later that the little girls in the neighborhood were scrouning to put together a barbies cache to play with. (Because all of us hippy-type folks in the neighborhood just wouldn't buy barbies.)

So I bought my granddaughters Barbies. My daughter asked me to. But she also asked me to have them be grandma toys that stay at the house.

And by the way, her twin boys (now 2) absolutely adore Barbie.

So again, not quite sure the moral. Maybe it's that grandmas can be easy.

7/15/2005 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger mindy said...

I try and avoid character stuff & logos, generally, but not if it will save money or if it is the only thing available. My daughter presently has a pair of Madagascar movie sandals, as well as some powerpuff girl sandals that we got secondhand. Before that she had Dora sandals from her nana. My snobbery takes the form of opposing 99% of all battery operated toys. We only have 2, and both were gifts. I like what my mother says, "The play should be in the kid and not in the toy." I don't mind noisy toys, as long as the noise is directly tied to an action and not just the result of pushing a button.

7/19/2005 08:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Kirsten said...

Heather! I just found your blog and thought I would say hello... Send me an email and tell me how life is treating you.-- Kirsten Campbell (kicam@yahoo.com)

Don't stress over the character obsessions. Soren is 6 now and for the past four years has been firm in his goal to grow up and be a pirate. (Albeit a "good" one) We lived in apartments for so long as students with white/off-white walls where we couldn't do anything that when we bought our house I told the kids they could have whatever they wanted. Thus his room has been painted/decorated like the deck of a pirate ship. I figure that all too soon he'll grow up and out of it. Just don't go overboard and give in to all they want. Sheets aren't too bad...

7/19/2005 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Welcome to the blog! And I can't believe Soren is 6! How time flies.

I'll bet his room is awesome, especially if you painted it. Jacob is just now getting into pirates (his top bunk is officially the pirate ship) and would probably love a pirate room, complete with deck!

I'll send you a more personal Email soon. Just wanted to say welcome!

7/20/2005 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Suzie Petunia said...

I know this post is not recent, but I couldn't pass by without adding...

I avoided the Spiderman sheets dilemna myself for months and months, and then my mother-in-law went and bought my son the ENTIRE SET for his birthday. He loves them and that makes me happy...but they DO feel like sandpaper! If it doesn't bother him, I'm not going to let it bother me!

7/26/2005 05:06:00 AM  

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