Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's a magic carpet ride

In order to celebrate the beginning of Sesame Street's 37th season, the Lovely Mrs. Davis is asking:

What television, music, movie or book from your childhood are you excited about sharing with your own children?

For me, the list is a mile long. But as a nod to the inspiration for this question, I've decided to reflect on what it has been like to rediscover Sesame Street with my son.

During my maternity leave, as my son and I both recovered from the stress of birth, I found that I liked to have the television on, especially mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Nevertheless, it felt wrong to turn on most of what passes for daytime programming. When I discovered Noggin, a channel that plays shows aimed at pre-schoolers for most of the day, it seemed to be a good compromise--noise for me, but nothing too disturbing for my son. Most of the time, I managed to tune in when Noggin was showing either Sesame Street or Play with me, Sesame (a shortened version using Sesame Street muppets, some recycled bits from the original, and some new material).

When my son was around three-months-old, I realized that he was smiling or laughing every time Ernie came onto the screen, specifically Ernie. He already recognized the character. Now it so happens that Ernie was always one of my favorites, something about the way he brings humor to everything and you just know you're going to laugh when he's on-screen. I started singing "Rubber Duckie" at bathtime and bought a bathtime book featuring Ernie.

My son soon became enamored of Elmo as well. Now, Elmo was added well after my Sesame Street days and even after most of my babysitting days, so I viewed him as something as an interloper. Annoying and unnecessary. Until I stopped and watched him through my son's eyes. Here is a little kid in muppet-form, experiencing and explaining a world that has so much going on in it. The "Elmo's World" part of Sesame Street episodes looks at a whole range of things, set in the sort of structured routine toddlers crave. Elmo helped us through the transition from crib to bed and has been present for our potty-training struggles.

We don't watch as much Sesame Street now as we used to, since we don't get Noggin in Canada and DVDs are our primary form of television entertainment. Our two DVDs of "Elmo's World" are occasionally picked out, and several Sesame Street books make the cut at bedtime. But when we do happen upon a channel that is showing an episode, we inevitably pause for a while. Just a couple days ago, we all had a laugh over the "Put down the duckie" song, in which Ernie is instructed that he has to let go of his rubber duckie in order to play jazz. Moments like that are priceless.

Looking ahead a couple, or many, years: My wife and I were discussing Monty Python's Spamalot earlier this week, quoting lines from Holy Grail, and generally revelling in our nerdiness. In the midst of this, she stopped short and, in all earnestness, asked me, "What do we do if our son doesn't like Monty Python?" I stood there, dumbfounded for nearly a minute, until I uttered a single word, "Inconceivable!" (Yes, I pulled from Princess Bride for that one; it's another household favorite.) I'm counting on my genetics and the sense of humor my wife and I share to influence him on this one!

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