Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Maim Your TV: Or How Barbie's Little Sister Betrayed Me.
I know a lot of people say that TV is bad for kids, and even worse for toddlers (because they think Elmo is real and that Dora really hears them when they yell back at her, and they are too young to get how really funny that is...ha, stupid toddlers), but you know what is worse? Living in a filthy house with a crazy mom, so I've always used the magic of TV to distract my little thunderball of energy from pulling all her clothes out of her bureau and throwing them around her room for the 5th time in one particular day. As she got older, its repetitive nature helped her with her speech and language issues, its inclusive fun-for-all entertainment created an even tighter bond with Pixie, her BFF, and its mind-numbing qualities distracted her from her everyday new-person-in-a-new-world fears.
The only problem with it is that one of her fears (besides public bathrooms and vacuum cleaners) could be random stuff that happens in cartoons. Now, I think most rational, self-preserving adults are afraid of public bathrooms, and anyone who's seen the Jaws bit from Mr Mom can relate to being scared spitless of vacuums, but the things in her cartoons that frighten her seem strange and arbitrary. There's the flying V in Sesame Street, a firefighter episode of Wow Wow Wubzy, the opening scene of Toot and Puddle, a rocket ship going up, up, up and then down, down, down in Yo Gabba Gabba, a bathtub scene in little bear and about half the crap that goes on in Dora and Diego. I didn't know why, but every time an offending episode came on, she would either cry or run out of her room and hide under her blanket. We kept a running mental list of the scary badness and used the power of Tivo to avoid them. For awhile, that worked perfectly, Snappy got to watch TV, and we all got to live in a fairly neat and sane house.
Then, IT happened. We were in Tahoe on vacation. Snappy was a little off her game, in a new place, experiencing a new season and was in bad need of distraction. Our first morning there, we had planned on going out to play in the snow right after an in-room breakfast of yogurt and Cheerios, and Snappy was anxious and wanted to skip the breakfast altogether. Then, joy of joys, I found an episode of her new favorite show, Little Einsteins (a show designed to embarrass us all by making preschoolers smarter than their parents) on the hotel TV, we were both stoked beyond stoked at this development and settled in for a wonderful, relaxing start to our busy day. I busted out the laptop and logged onto Facebook while Snappy ate her cereal and watched Quincy play Swan Lake on a bunch of floating instruments.
Now sure, a small child with a giant harp flying around his head combined with the melancholy key of E minor (I guess...who knows, they didn't have Little Einsteins when I was a kid), can be a bit creepy, but Snappy found it down-right traumatizing, so much so that I actually grabbed for my cellphone, thinking that her piercing "help me" scream was surely a sign of internal bleeding or a brain tumor. But no, it was just freaking Quincy and his freaking flying harp. Snappy clawed at the door, I shut the TV cabinet and we finished getting dressed in the elevator. For the rest of the weekend there was no TV. No distractions for any of us, and at the end of a long day in Tahoe, sometimes distractions are pretty darn nice.
But no, she wouldn't have it. The show had scared her so much, she was afraid of the television itself. If it weren't for that cabinet, I would've had to wheel the damn thing out into the hall like they did at the end of Poltergeist. When we got home, Snappy was done with all of it. Sesame Street, Blues Clues and Ni Hao Kai -Lan were dead to her. There was no more Yo Gabba Gabba, no more Little Bear, no Wonder Pets or Wow Wubzy, her Backyardigan DVDs sat, collecting dust and the season pass of Pinky Dinky Doo continued to record and delete, unwatched. Little Einsteins was not even discussed, except occasionally in furtive, trembling whispers and even then it was referred to as The Abomination.
Luckily, this was around Christmas and she was soon to receive the greatest distraction ever made by man or nature: a three-story dollhouse with a porch and an elevator. It was an even better distraction than television. She could spend hours in her room, listening to the pop radio station and whirling her princesses and Pink Girl among the floors, re-enacting scenes from Disney movies she used to watch and the Knuffle Bunny books she still read. Joy of joys! I was able to clean again, and not just clean, but organize. One day, while I was cleaning out the DVD cabinet, I found an old dvd someone had given me when Snappy was a baby. It had come free with something or another. I remember thinking I would probably end up throwing the darned thing out before Snappy would watch something called "Kelly Dream Club". It just looked so stupid. Look at it:
But then Pixie came by for a rainy day visit. The dollhouse was not easily shared, and craft projects seemed to only last a matter of seconds. I was desperate. I popped Kelly Dream Club into the PS2 and the girls were zombified in an instant. It was about little girls who had lockets that granted wishes, and being little girls, they wished for two things: 1. to find out what it is like to be fairies and 2. to find out what it is like to be princesses. What else is there besides fairies and princesses? Nothing, according to Pixie and the Snaps, they watched it twice in a row without flinching. It had no conflict, no creepy music and (joy of freaking joys) no flying harps.
The next time Pixie came over, they didn't even watch Kelly Dream Club, they played Kelly Dream Club. Which sounds complicated, but consisted solely of dressing up in little princess and/or fairy outfits and running around until Snappy would yell, "Keeya!" in a voice that clearly said "I am Kelly and I am having an adventure with my best friend, Keeya". Then Pixie would reply "Yes!" in a voice that clearly said "I am Keeya and I am having an adventure with my best friend, Kelly". Considering that my childhood games of Charlie's Angels was just a bunch of little girls running down the driveway, falling and yelling "Bosley!", it was impressively complex and nuanced by comparison.
After listening to the impassioned shouts of "Keeya!" and "Yes!" for over an hour, I realized that this Kelly Dream Club thing was a bone fide phenomenon. I Googled it and immediately found out the WORST NEWS EVER. First of all, Kelly is Barbie's little sister, which is not the worst news ever, but it's still pretty bad. I mean, what happened to Skipper? Did they give her up for adoption? Who knows, but the Worst Thing Ever is that Kelly has gone the way of Skipper. Yep. She's gone to the great Malibu Dream House in the sky. Curse you Mattel! Now I can not spend too much money for Kelly Dream Club dolls or bed sheets or dress-up clothes or even a new Kelly Dream Club DVD. I should have seen it coming. Stupid Mattel. You blew your wad on the first DVD. Where else do you go after fairies and princesses? Nowhere. I was mad. I wanted to burn all of their factories down.
But perhaps, just perhaps, I was over-reacting. Because yesterday, while Snappy was playing "one princess gets caught in a cage and then another princess saves her" in her dollhouse, I re-organized her room, re-arranging the clothes in her drawers and re-purposing her changing table as a bookshelf. An hour later, I walked in to find that she had thrown said clothes and books around her room. I called her in, "sorry, Mum!" she chirped. I gave her a stern talking to and made her help me pick up everything and put it back. While we were working, her favorite Weezer song came on the radio and she sang along, dancing while she threw the clothes back in her drawers. Okay, Mattel. You just got lucky.