There will be a new weekly blog topic called New Normal in which I will discuss (or rant about) something that has become normal for me in the last year of being a parent. If you are a new parent, take notes. If you have gone through this as a parent already, feel free to share your experience. If none of this applies to you in any way, hopefully you get a chuckle or two.
New Normal #1: I have become unreasonably invested in the shows my kids watch.
By “shows,” I mean show. Sesame Street is our go-to. The kids like the songs, they each have a favorite character (Dom – Cookie Monster, Isaac – Elmo) and from a stimulation standpoint, it doesn’t throw too much at the boys.
Now that Sesame Street is exclusive to HBO, we have access to all of the previous seasons and we’ve gone through many of the episodes over the last five years numerous times. I’ve become very well-versed with the current crop of characters and all of their shticks. Some are annoying (Telly, Elmo), others are fine (Murray, Oscar) and unfortunately some have been excommunicated (Bert, Ernie).
Once you’ve been exposed to enough of these episodes, Stockholm syndrome eventually kicks in and you find yourself subconsciously caring about things that you’d never expect to care about. On its own, this is harmless and may never actually play a role in your life. Hell, you may never even realize that you care to begin with…but the second something changes that you are not emotionally ready for, watch out.
I fell victim to this just last month. The boys have always loved the Number of the Day and Letter of the Day songs. They’re both entertained whenever one comes on, the songs have been lifesavers by just playing on YouTube from the front seat during rough car rides and I’ve got the lyrics and dance moves down. If they are crying or upset about something, I break one of these bad boys out to buy us at least a few minutes of smiling and quiet.
This was a classic example of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Then they broke it.
For as long we we’ve watched the show, Elmo takes the lead on the Letter of the Day and the Count – bound eternally by the dark arts – is the lead vocalist on Number of the Day. While Elmo is his normal camera-hogging self, he sings with enough inflection to be bearable and the Count is the pimpishly cool customer you would expect. Both work in these roles.
Things first started to go awry in January when the Season 47 (dear lord…47 seasons) opener featured a new rendition of the Letter of the Day featuring Abby Cadabby (a three-year old fairy-in-training) replacing Elmo as lead singer. Considering how much Elmo has been feeling himself over the last 20 years after the parent-on-parent crimes of the mid-90’s over Tickle Me Elmo, I don’t mind the little red showboat getting knocked down a few pegs.
The main issue is that the song sucks. It’s not as catchy as the previous version, the boys do not react to it at all, and to be perfectly honest, I am not confident that I can recreate the types of performances I have put on with Elmo’s version. It would be like asking Whitney Houston to follow up her National Anthem in ’91 with Who Let the Dogs Out.
Reeling and wobbling from the change like a stunned Mortal Kombat character, they “finished me” less than 15 minutes later when I saw that a
bomination that is now the Number of the Day.
First of all, they replaced the Count. You know, the guy whose job is to count because his friggin’ name is the Count? Yeah…he apparently no longer runs the numbers on Sesame Street. I always went with the assumption that as punishment from the universe for his practice of black magic, the Count was sentenced with the impossible task of counting out his days as an immortal.
The next issue was that they changed the overall message of the song. When the Count told you about the Number of the Day, you didn’t have to wonder what his motives were. Sure, he’d put some stank on it and get the blood flowing by asking for participation, but he was talking about numbers and numbers never lie.
This new version of the Number of the Day is a tragic story about addiction.
Cookie Monster, Sesame Street’s resident tweeker, now takes the reins on this song and – along with a group of neighborly enablers – paints a sad picture of a monster succumbing to his demons.
What’s that? You think I’m exaggerating? Reading too much into it, you say? Well, I’ve got some lyrics for you.
Yum, Yum, Yum
How many cookies are there today?
Yum, Yum, Yum
How many cookies today?
Well, they still bakin’
::bake, bake, bake, bake::
Let’s do some shakin’
::shake, shake, shake, shake::
How many cookies today?
Let’s take inventory:
- Guy with a documented substance abuse history (cookies)
- Guy starts really jonesing for said substance (cookies)
- Impatiently asks when he will be able to have more of this substance (cookies)
- SHAKES when he goes too long without the substance (cookies)
- Has no regard for the personal property of others – like fine china – when finally consuming said substance (cookies)
I guess my main point is that if you can replace the word in parentheses with the word “crack” without changing the crux of the song in any way, then the song is no longer about numbers.
Perhaps the worst part of the song is when the once-proud Count shows up near the end for a cameo. You would think he’d knock a little sense into the degenerate and reclaim his role as Street treasurer, but no. Instead, you learn that the Count has been the supplier all along when he brings Cookie Monster his fix and smiles deviously as he devours another successful transaction.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking: Shane, these are all incredible observations and someone needs to reach out to the powers that be to put a stop to this. A select few of you may think that I’ve put WAAAAAAY too much thought and energy into this. You’re both right.
Maybe I’m actively trying to take an interest in something that my sons are passionate about and I’m being a supportive father by investing my time and thoughts in something that can help me relate with them. This is possible.
Maybe a mixture of sleep deprivation and being a guy results in me overanalyzing any show that you put on in front of me for more than 10 minutes. This is probable (I’ve got some serious opinions on dumber shows than this…like The Bachelor).
The fact is that things like this can happen because you consume what your child consumes. Every parenting book you read will tell you that kids should not be overexposed to TV and computer screens at a young age. This is very true. What the books DON’T tell you is the effect of overexposing a parent to children’s television. Use me as an example of someone who has gotten in too deep.
I haven’t had to deal with the Paw Patrols or the Thomas the Trains of the world quite yet and I luckily missed the unholy window where Barney and Blues Clues dominated the children’s airwaves. My suggestion, regardless of age or show, is moderation. Make sure that you’re relying on books and music and good ol’ fashioned playtime for the most part and sprinkle in the TV shows sporadically.
If not for their sake…for yours.