My 11-year-old son Tommy collects stuffed bananas. You know, stuffed banana plush toys. He found his first one (and all of them, in fact) at the thrift store. This initial stuffed fruit was not just an ordinary banana, it was a stuffed Rastafarian banana complete with dreadlocks.
“What is this?” he asked.
“It’s a Rastafarian banana,” I said with glee.
Needless to say, Tommy had to have it. The price was right — $3. We bought it and took it home.
This purchase brought on an extensive Internet research project on the Rastafarian religion. In his reading on the Internet, Tommy discovered that:
- Rastafarianism was born in the slums of Jamaica in the 1920s
- Rastas believe in the divinity of Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian Emperor
- The religion was founded by Marcus Garvey and involves the ritualistic use of marijuana.
From one little thrift store purchase, Tommy got a whole education on a world religion. We then introduced Bob Marley as a prime example of a Rasta. Tommy had grown up listening to Marley’s music. He particularly liked “Three Little Birds.” Tommy then made the “dreadlock connection” between his new banana and Marley.
Yes, indeed, everything was going to be all right.
Tommy wanted more. Bananas, that is.
He started going to the thrift store regularly with me. In the days to follow, he found two more stuffed bananas, but these weren’t Rastafarians. The one he called “Clown Banana” because it had a red nose and neon-colored hair. The other one was just your basic stuffed banana with no outstanding features; although that one was plain, he loved it just the same.
Of course, Tommy liked the new stuffed bananas he found, but he truly wanted another Rastafarian banana. One day, we prayed very hard.
“Dear Jesus,” Tommy said. “Please let me find a Rastafarian banana at the thrift store.”
We drove in quiet hope. I was afraid he was going to be disappointed and throw a small tantrum when he didn’t find this exotic banana in the pile of used plush toys. We went into the thrift store. Tommy raced directly to the stuffed toys. I lingered behind, examining a pair of glass candlesticks marked $2 on a shelf.
“Oh, my gosh,” I heard Tommy say.
“What?” I said, approaching him.
And then, I saw it. Tommy had found a second stuffed Rastafarian banana. (Needless to say, Tommy became a great believer in the power of prayer that day.)
“What are the odds of finding exactly what you were looking for?” I asked in disbelief. “You found another Rasta banana!” Not knowing what else to say, I said, “Praise the Lord!”
Tommy was jubilant. And so was I.
Tommy now had four stuffed bananas.
His grandmother found the fifth one. She too liked to haunt the thrift store. This banana had a beard and a mustache and wore a red and white bandana. He was kind of a hippie banana. Grandma was so excited about her find that she wanted to personally hand-deliver the precious thing to Tommy. When he saw it, he was overjoyed.
Banana No. 6 was a Ninja banana complete with a black eye patch, also found at the thrift store.
Tommy now had what anyone would call a whole stuffed banana collection. He adored his bananas. He liked to put them to sleep in little baskets I found especially for this purpose. He liked to line them all up on the living room couch and take pictures of them. They were his babies, his favorite toys.
What is my point in telling you all this?
My point is that your child’s passions, no matter how strange they may be, should be nurtured. This is not rocket science, but it is important.
Having a banana collection gives Tommy a hobby — an odd one, but a hobby nevertheless. And from assembling this collection, he’s learned so much. Just the mere fact that he was curious enough to get onto the computer and Google “Rastafarians” makes me happy. Every parent hopes that her child will want to drink in new knowledge, and that’s just what Tommy did.
Parents need to be smart and make the most of their child’s interests.
Tommy is not into football. He’s not into basketball or baseball. He doesn’t like hockey like his best friend Christian does. We tried karate. We tried hip-hop dancing. We tried it all.
Tommy’s passion is collecting stuffed bananas.
What is your child’s passion? Don’t dismiss it if it’s not a “normal” one. Go with the flow. Your child’s interests make them who they are.
Tommy will never forget the day he prayed to God for a stuffed Rastafarian banana and got it. Again, the whole experience has made him a much stronger believer in God and his religion. What more can I ask for?
Viva the wacky passions of our children! Who knows where they may lead?