When my daughter Hannah was a preschooler, she had her Finger Friends. When she needed a scapegoat, she was quick to pass the blame their way. She wasn’t the one who’d taken a cookie without asking, it was those darned Finger Friends. The fact that Finger Friends were just her fingers, attached directly to her body and controlled by her brain, was inconsequential. She gave them a name and a persona, and when she did they became separate entities, and she was no longer responsible for what they did.
My son Jacob is a preschooler now in his own right, and he doesn’t have Finger Friends. Instead, he has Buzz Lightyear. When Jacob wants something, and he suspects I’ll say no, he picks up his Buzz Lightyear toy and drops his voice an octave. Then he says, “Amber, this is Buzz Lightyear. I am an astronaut. You must give Jacob a marshmallow.” I may be able to argue with my son, but who could argue with Buzz Lightyear?
(Actually, it turns out that the answer is I can argue with Buzz Lightyear. But I admit it’s kind of hard when my kid is being both adorable and sort of ingenious.)
Buzz Lightyear isn’t only a mouthpiece for requests that Jacob suspects may be unpopular. Buzz Lightyear is also a convenient scapegoat. Jacob just had to throw the books on the floor, because Buzz wanted to read them all. And Jacob didn’t get water all over the bathroom, Buzz Lightyear did. He was on some sort of mission, and all of that splashing simply could not be avoided.
Buzz Lightyear is a slightly less convenient scapegoat than Finger Friends. He’s not always on hand to deflect the blame in the way that your fingers are. But he also has some things going for him that Finger Friends don’t. For one thing, he’s not physically attached to my child, so it’s easier to claim that he’s acting independently. For another, his persona is well-established in the Toy Story movies as being a little bit clueless, so I suppose it’s quite plausible that he would make some less-than stellar choices. But most of all, he provides far more opportunity for my preschooler to use his own voice effects, which is really very winning in its way.
I’m not sure if Buzz Lightyear will continue to be Jacob’s go-to scapegoat, but for now I’m rather enjoying his interactions when he’s pretending to be the erstwhile space ranger. If he’s going to make a mess, at least he can be endearing when we discuss it after the fact, right?
Did your kids ever create a scapegoat to accept the blame they didn’t want to take on? I’d love to hear about it!