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Pirates Pirates Everywhere: Must I, Too, Walk the Plank?

A pirate-learly mama opines about the craze, surely she's not alone.  Care to offer your 2 cents?

It's a fact: young children are into pirates. Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? I know what I think, but really, really want to know what you think. I am genuinely confused and wonder if I am the only parent who has pirate issues. In short: pirates thieved for a living. The skull and cross bones is scary. Sword fighting is a aggressive. Appropriate for young children (mine is 4)? Are your kids into pirates? If so, are you OK with it? If so, how do you see it? If not, how do you avoid it?


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Pirates, monsters, etc. are harmless ways for kids to work out issues of anxiety and aggression. Like any other activity, a parent should be aware of their activities and make sure the behavior doesn't get out of hand, but this goes equally for wrestling, etc.

It is similar to little boys around 4 (and girls, too) to identify with a superhero to feel more in control of their environment.

Anyway, that's my take on it all.

I'm all about letting my kids be kids. They understand that fantasy play has a time and place. I'd rather take the opportunity to have an open dialouge about the issues at hand than try to forbid their play and curiosity.

We are at the tail-end of a 5-year pirate obsession in our home. We've had no problems with aggression or emulation of the other "unsavory" pirate behaviors.

Portland has it's own band of pirates your kidlet would enjoy. Check these guys out--they do a TON of libary shows every summer: www.eatalime.com.

Before we discovered Captain Bogg, I was leary of the pirate thing. Why would I want my 4yo to admire or emulate a bunch of people who, in kid terms, chased other folks down, took their stuff, and pushed them into the water? We already had quite enough of agressive behavior at home, thankyouverymuch.

However. Kids are going to get into pirates. And young kids are not going to understand exactly what pirates are. They will see them as people who dressed up in fancy costumes and talk funny. If your kids are into Captain Bogg, they may believe for a long time, as mine did, that pirates are people who sing songs.

If your kid is into pirates, you may want to check out the book Obadiah the Bold by Brinton Turkle. It's about a little Quaker boy in Nantucket who wants to be a pirate, and how he learns that his own grandfather, a sailor, was braver than any pirate (and didn't have to walk the plank, either). It's a wonderful book.

After seven years and three kids worth of parenting, I realize that we, as parents, have very little control over what our kids will like. I *really* didn't want to be a Barbie house, but it was the perfect attraction for my girly-girl (and better than Bratz!). Who knew how maniaclly obsessed a little guy can be with Thomas?? I'm not a big van of pirates, but then I don't feel fondness towards evil stepmothers, witches, or any of the other unsavory characters who cause problems for the good guys. But characters on either side of the moral line provide a excellent chance to teach your little one about making good choices.

I've thought about this, and talked about it with my husband, and of course we don't think pirates make a good role model for our children, but I don't think that is what this pirate phase is about.

For my kids, and I assume for many who got into the whole pirate thing via Captain Bogg & Salty, it is really more of a dress up and talk funny kind of play then anything else. Oh, and of course sing loudly. The hardest part for me is explaining some of the Captain Bogg & Salty lyrics to my 6 year old!

I feel like pirates are to this generation what playing Cowboys and Indians was to my parents, which isn't played anymore because it isn't PC on a number of levels. I'd much rather have my kids playing swords then guns, though I'm happy that they don't tend to play with either.

For another non-agressive pirate book, check out Pirate Jam. I stumbled across it at the library last week, and it is about 2 guys who failed pirate school who went on to make jam and sweaters to sell at the market. Quite cute.

I am partial to Captain Feathersword, the friendly pirate, a la the Wiggles, myself. He is all about dancing and singing, and tickling people with his feathersword. I think kids love the idea of adventure and buried treasure, along with the fancy ships and costumes. We seem to have an actual pirate population of adults here in Portland that seems to have stemmed from the Goth movement, and they seem to be a friendly bunch.

The thing is...Pirates RULE!

My daughter has been a pirate fan since she was two or three. I can't quite remember what the roots of her fascination were but it may have been Captain Bogg and Salty.

I fall into the "harmless creative play" camp. Pirates definitely aren't great role models but so far I'm not too worried about Mila viewing pirating as a potential career choice - she wants to be a pilot who flies between Beaverton and New Zealand...

If you are willing to the entertain your child's pirate fantasies, "Pirate Jam" is definitely a fun book. And I would also throw "Tough Boris" by Mem Fox in the mix. It is a story about a pirate who laments the passing of his parrot.

Speaking of pirates everywhere, the Portland Pirate Festival returns for its second year in September. Here are the details:


We're pretty into pirates at our house.

Our five year old loves them - the outfits, the parrots on the shoulders, the sailing of the high seas, the yar mateys, all of that.

I agree that the pirate thing has replaced cowboys and indians and other unnacceptable gunplay games. As far as music, I think the whole notion was introduced to our son by Captain Feathersword and moved on from there to Capt Bogg and Salty.

Its fun for us too so we have no problem with it. We all have fun playing around with the idea of our own inner outlaw don't we? For our kids its a phase and we try not to take everything super seriously around here...we choose our battles and pirates just aren't high on the list!

I have two boys. They love their Captain Bogg music, love to sword fight, whack at eachother, with their foam swords. They love to wear their pirate hats and dance and play. We even have a pirate flag in our treehouse and a Captain Bogg sticker on our car. My oldest plays pirate with his pirate ship and treasure hunt with the maps that we make. Pirates everywhere at my house.
The boys have no idea why you would "Eat a Lime", or what a swashbuckler or scullywag is. They do not need this information to have fun. The kicker is that we know the truth, and it's fun to be a little bad.
Go ahead, walk the plank. It's just a phase. Much better than when little girls want Barbie's or those Bratz dolls in my opinion.

Our whole family is really into the pirate thing.. .it is definately about fantasy play and imagination for us, and doesn't have much to do with reality. What it has represented to my 5 year old has changed over the years based on what intruiges him at the time: comradarie (with the band of mateys), maps, treasure, sailing, daring adventures out in the world without your mommy, and so on. He has also explored being tough and aggressive with his pirate play, which is bound to happen anyway, and I'm okay with it. That's what play is about. You can "play" at being something you would never dream of being in real life. Children have always done this...(we probably did too and have just forgotten!) Personally, I find it much more palatable than "cowboys and indians" or war play.

I personally like pirates so I'm glad I don't have to see "mutant ninja turtle" stuff everywhere. On the other hand, if my boys aren't pretending to be pirates (the *bad guys*), then they're pretending to fight the bad guys...still agressive, which does bother me when they get carried away...

I'm also a fan of Captain Bogg but I do have to say that when we were at the pirate festival last summer, the pirate re-enactments that came out of nowhere through the crowds of families was totally inappropriate. I guess that's when the adults got too into it. But when kids play pirate I think its totally harmless.

In the Pirates of Penzance, the pirates are a bunch of tenderhearted orphans. (or so they claim!)

If it's any consolation, my friend from L.A. just visited, and she said that the whole pirate trend is fading fast and that here come the ninjas. I find ninjas a bit more elegant and, barring the Ninja star, less weapon-centered.

The pirate trend may fade in the mainstream, but I have a feeling there will always be a pirate component of some sort. I heard once that the book Treasure Island spawned the modern-day fascination with pirates. It doesn't really matter anymore; the fantasy has a life of it's own now! I don't see my son "moving on" any time soon...

Thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences and perspectives, I really appreciate this blog for constantly broadening my thinking. I think my concern really stems from the fact that it's my oldest who is a 4-year old boy so I am just entering the sword/gun/monster/pirate phase and am getting my mind around it. I am mindful not to squelch his natural inquiries/tendencies, but also don't mind deviating from the norm when I think it's best (e.g., plan B). Thanks again for helping me to sort this one out - especially to the person who mentioned a friendly pirate and to the discussion around the kid perspective on all this (hidden treasure! funa ccents! adventure!), which is usually far simpler than the "grown-up" issues we add to the mix (theft, violence - eek, how will my kid turn out if he sword fights now?). I will say that at 4, I worry that too much good/evil, bad guy/good guy stuff is premature/paints an imblanced picture of our world. Thinking I better hit the child development books for a little "what's happening at 4" background! Thanks again.

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