Adventures with Hello Kitty
When you are first freaking out about autism, and reading lots of books that freak you out even further, you learn that special interests are very obscure. Your child will be set up for a world of mockery and ridicule because they have opted to become the world’s expert on stick insects or timothy grass. You waste some of your worry hours on the fact that you hate insects and are allergic to timothy grass, but Pudding has saved me from this ordeal. She saved me from a lot of ordeals, actually, by being the exact same child she was before her diagnosis.
Still, Pudding has the most typical special interests of any autist I’ve ever heard of. For the last 18 months of her life, we’ve been living with Hello Kitty. Nothing unusual about that for a five-year-old girl. And lucky for us as a foreign service family, she has opted for a special interest that is about as global as it gets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above begging for someone in Taiwan to send me something through the pouch, but it really is unnecessary. I can’t think of anything she’d want that she couldn’t get here. Well, apart from perhaps the Hello Kitty airline, or wine (because who doesn’t want their 5 year-old to be an alcoholic?).
A friend emailed me a couple of weeks ago with some game-changing information: a Hello Kitty store had opened at one of the malls in Johannesburg. An entire shop. Of Hello Kitty. Oh my.
We didn’t really need a store. You see Pudding has Hello Kitty stuffed animals (including one that repeats everything she says!), board games and plastic toys. She has t-shirts, sweaters, leggings, nightgowns, swimsuits, lunch boxes, flasks, a variety of bags, hair accessories, and hats. I’m sure there is more that has slipped my mind.
While she is wearing Hello Kitty and playing with Hello Kitty, she can watch her Hello Kitty DVD. As far as special interests go, we’re lucky that she picked a brand that is truly global. Imagine the trauma of moving your child away from her special interest every tour?
When we go to our local mall (which Pudding loves, but isn’t the one with the new store) we have a few points where we “check-in” with Hello Kitty. There is the store that sells Hello Kitty jewelry that we look at, and another that sells bags and accessories. There is the Build-A-Bear shop that features a Hello Kitty which we’ve somehow managed to avoid, and Woolworths selling Hello Kitty chocolate and party supplies.
I kept the Hello Kitty store secret, knowing full well that if she knew it, she would forever more only want to go there.
But after meeting Phineas and Ferb, it was her turn. We didn’t tell her that was where we were going. I’d aimed to take photographs of the utter delight on her face, but as soon as Pudding saw the shop she put the hyper in hyperactive and raced in ahead of me.
Fortunately for their sakes, most of the delicate items were behind locked glass, so Pudding contented herself with touching the shop assistants Hello Kitty apron until I rescued her. I knew there would be no getting her away from what must now be The Best Place In The World without actually buying her something. They didn’t have the bento box that Pudding has recently become obsessed with on YouTube, but they did have an egg shaper, which I bought to celebrate the fact that Pudding is no longer allergic to eggs.
We also bought a plastic cup, figuring that it would last longer than the day she had a Hello Kitty china mug. It didn’t even make it that long. Any suggestions for what to do with a broken plastic cup? maybe storing her paintbrushes to combine another special interest of hers.
Still, nothing lasts in this world, and that is a lesson for all of us. Including that feeling that I’d treated the children fairly- Cubby began demanding equal treatment until we caved in and got him a Captain America car. Ping-pong, you see?
And all of this rampant consumerism explains why it is necessary for me to return to work. I’m quite looking forward to it- as long as it doesn’t get too much in the way of my special interests.