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In Defense of Barney

I have an admission to make: I used to be a children’s show snob.

When I first became a mother I had very definite ideas about what was and wasn’t cool for my kids to watch. Firmly entrenched in the the “not cool” camp were Elmo, Thomas the Tank, and the King of Uncool, Barney. In no way, shape, or form were these dweebs ever going to entertain my kids.

My first daughter, Madeline, upon being old enough to watch children’s shows, decided “Mighty B” was her favorite. I couldn’t have been more proud. A kid’s show created by Amy Poehler? That is the definition of cool. Or at least as cool as things get in the realm of children’s programs.

My second daughter, Annabel, also did me proud initially. Her favorite show was “Yo Gabba Gabba,” an out-there show that features musical performances by cool music acts like The Shins and Weezer, and has Biz “Just a Friend” Markie as a member of the cast! I watched Annie rock out to this show and smiled.  She was cooler than most adults I knew and still in diapers!

Things soon started to change. While Annie still loved “Yo Gabba Gabba,” she also became fascinated with Elmo. Before long that annoying, high pitched voice echoed throughout my home all day long. Rather than ban Elmo and break Annie’s heart, I decided to give Elmo a pass because he was from “Sesame Street,” and who could hate on Sesame Street?

Despite my begrudging acceptance of Elmo, I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Upon returning from a weekend away, I opened my front door to hear words that sent a shiver down my spine:

“I love you, you love me…”

I hurried into the family room where Annie and Mike were watching Barney. That’s right. BARNEY.

“It was her!” Mike blurted out upon noticing me. “She saw it was an option on Netflix and begged to watch it!”

I narrowed my eyes.

“I won’t go down for this,” Miked yelled. “It was Annie. All Annie!”

I frowned as Annie giggled and clapped. There was nothing I could do – she was hooked on Barney.

In the days to follow a funny thing happened – I actually found something to like about Barney. The show was geared specifically to toddlers, and Annie is right in the sweet spot. She learned new songs, numbers, and words at a record pace.

“Alright, Barney,” I thought. “Maybe you aren’t the anti-Christ after all.”

Barney wasn’t done trying to win me over. Mike and I had been having trouble getting Annie to hug us before bed, a fact which frustrated us to no end. But then one night after Barney came into our lives I asked Annie for a goodnight hug and she said, “Barney hug?”

I nodded and outstretched my arms, but Annie just stood there.

“Sing song, Mama,” she said.

I nearly retched, then swallowed my pride and sang.

“I love you, you love me…”

Annie smiled and joined in.

“With a great big hug…”

Annie threw her arms around me and gave me an enthusiastic hug.

“…and a kiss from me to you.”

Annie planted the sweetest little kiss right on my lips.

“Won’t you say you love me too?”

Annie cocked her head and cooed, “I love you, Mama.”

“I love you too,” I told Annie with my heart swelling.

At that moment I could have married that big, dumb dinosaur.

Annie and I have sang the Barney song every night since then and I couldn’t be happier. It has taught me an important lesson: when it comes to what is best for our children, we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or, er, a dinosaur by his costume.


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