If you asked me what my favorite show was growing up, I would have said Sesame Street (and when I got older I would have said the Muppet Show). I loved the muppets. In fact the first thing I remember telling people I wanted to be when I grew up was a muppeteer. I was fascinated. So it probably wouldn’t be surprising to find out that if you asked me what my least favorite show was growing up, my answer would have been Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. The puppets were terrible, they all sounded the same (since most were voiced by Fred Rogers), and the show moved so slowly. My mom had me watch it often right before “rest” or “nap” time because Mr. Rogers would undoubtedly lull me into the appropriate mood.
But here’s the thing… today, I remember more episodes of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood than Sesame Street. I remember him teaching us how to make and blow giant bubbles, watching a video on how coins or robots are made, of Mr. Rogers showing different kinds of bicycles, and much more. In fact, one of the episodes I best remember was getting to see how marionettes work. For a kid fascinated with puppets, seeing how they work was much more interesting than just seeing them work.
Although I did not like Mr. Roger as a child, Mr. Roger had a great impact on me. The whole thing makes me wonder… how often are we forgetting as a society that just because we are entertained by something that doesn’t necessarily make it any good. This is especially true for what our children hear and see. A ton of children’s movies that come out these days go to great lengths to be entertaining for both kids and the parents who bring them… the same is true with kid’s TV shows. And on the one hand I appreciate this trend (since I am not bored to death in the theater with my child). But maybe I shouldn’t appreciate it as much as I do. Because ultimately, if I am “entertained” by the same thing my child is… it either says something about my maturity level or that my kids are watching something beyond theirs. I wonder how many of us in society are making the “entertainment factor” too high a value when determining what we watch, read, or listen to. I always hear people talk about what is wrong about society… It just might be us.
I’ve been watching a TV show with 3 year daughter the last couple week’s before taking her to daycare. She has been watching “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” the first spinoff from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood since his passing. It’s a cartoon, with cute animals, and more “action” than Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, yet something has remained the same. It’s still sweet and simple. The story lines aren’t complex. There is little conflict and the conflict that does happen is dealt with quickly and easily. And let me tell you… this an incredibly boring show for an adult to watch with their child!! In fact, even my daughter would tell you that she prefers the shows with fast action and glittery princesses and fairies. But when she has trouble being dropped off at daycare or sharing or getting angry… it is Daniel Tiger that has had the most impact. And I will also admit that whenever Daniel Tiger sings, “It’s you I like,”I find myself tearing up a little as well.
Behind all the cuteness and songs, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is teaching my daughter something. And I appreciate that it is not also simultaneously teaching her other “not so good things” as well. But Daniel Tiger seems to have taught me something too. I need to rethink what I am choosing to have my children watch. And maybe I need to rethink some of the things I watch I well.