I’ll come clean right from the start and let you know that I let my kids watch television occasionally. Also, that “occasionally” morphs into “pretty much constantly” when they are sick. And given that last month was basically one big ball of fevers and vomit, we watched our fair share of television. In particular, we watched a lot of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
I have to admit, I really like Daniel Tiger. I know it’s not cool to fess up to liking a children’s television show, but there’s something very endearing about the pant-less Tiger family. I also appreciate that the show gives kids practical tips, through catchy little songs, on how to be nice, calm down, and work on other little life skills.
Here’s the problem: while the songs give a clear, positive message, my kids somehow manage to completely miss the point. Every time.
Here are just a few examples of a Daniel Tiger song going terribly awry in application:
“When you have to go potty, stop, and go right away”
My Child’s Interpretation: “Totally agree with you, Daniel. Right here on the floor looks like a good spot.”
“Give a squeeze, nice and slow, take a deep breath, let it go” (on feeling frustrated)
My Child’s Interpretation: “I am squeezing my brother as hard as I possibly can, but I’m still feeling frustrated! Perhaps I am not letting go of my breath in a loud enough scream?”
“When you wait, you can play, sing, or imagine anything”
My Child’s Interpretation: “Help a kid out, Daniel. It seems like singing the Fart Song at the top of my lungs in the grocery store, while imagining I was Fart Man, was not appreciated by my mom. I followed the instructions exactly! Can you clarify?”
“When something seems bad, turn it around, and find something good”
My Child’s Interpretation: “Daniel, I’ve got to hand it to you, you nailed it on this one. My mom gave me this bowl of chicken soup, which was just totally unacceptable. So I turned the bowl over and banged on it like a drum. Much more satisfying!”
“Clean up, pick up, put away, clean up everyday”
My Child’s Interpretation: “Again, totally agree. I love a blank slate to throw all my toys onto. Wait, you don’t mean I clean up, pick up, put away, do you? No, no. I didn’t think so. Yeah, we’re on the same page.”
“Think about how someone else is feeling, think about how someone else feels, maybe you can help them feel better”
My Child’s Interpretation: “You know what would make my brother feel a lot better? If he gave me his cookie. Yeah, I definitely sense he feels like sharing. I’m just gonna go ahead and take that from him.”
“There’s time for you, and baby, too”
My Child’s Interpretation: “There’s even more time for me if I scream really loudly, throw a glass of milk on the ground, or ‘accidentally’ stuff the toilet with LEGO pieces right when the baby needs mommy.”
“So let’s watch the broccoli swing, and watch the carrots hopping, roll with the oranges and roll some more, in the grocery store”
My Child’s Interpretation: “Daniel, I know in your version you were just imagining the fruits and vegetables dance, but let me tell you, it is way more satisfying to just go ahead and send them rolling yourself.”
“We gotta try new food ’cause it might taste good”
My Child’s Interpretation: “No. No we don’t.”
Ah well, so we’ve got some work to do. In the immortal words of Daniel Tiger, “Keep trying, you’ll get better!”