Friday, June 28, 2013

The Tiger Who Stole My Heart

I’ve been bracing myself for children’s television and all the cooky characters and songs that come with it.

I’ve been through it before. I was the teenager who could sing all the Barney songs because my brothers – 13 and 14 years younger – loved that purple dinosaur. Blue’s Clues, Rugrats, Power Rangers. I knew them all. So, I was prepared.

I was not prepared to fall in love with this adorable striped tiger named Daniel. But I did and so did my seven-month-old son.

I really never intended for Will to start watching any TV shows of his own quite this young. I knew they would have little value for him and I was one of those paranoid Moms who started reading too much about how bad it is for children so little. So, even though he had been completely fascinated by the TV starting at about two months, I very intentionally tried to keep him away.

Then I became that other Mom. The Mom who needed 30 minutes to finish up work and could sense the crankiness setting in. I decided to see what was on that might hold his interest for just a little bit of time. I tried Nickelodeon and Disney, but was unimpressed with the programs on both channels. I really felt like even if he was just shy of six months old, I wanted the programming to be more than just bright colors and silly songs.  That led me to PBS and a show I’d never heard of: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

The first thing I noticed was that Daniel’s theme song sounded familiar. Quite familiar. Sounds of my own childhood. A mommy friend quickly confirmed for me that the characters were based on those from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, a childhood favorite. I was feeling like less of a crappy Mommy. Mister Roger’s Neighborhood had definite educational value.

The next thing I noticed was that Will was captivated. Not just staring at the TV, but he clearly was enjoying the songs. He didn’t even look up at the TV all that often. Just the sounds on the TV were enough to keep him happily playing in his exersaucer, looking up every so often to see the action.

I really liked what I was seeing, both in my son’s reaction and what this program had to offer. A good, educational, fun message. Now, we record all episodes and each one is just as wonderful as the last. We are a Daniel Tiger family. I already have plans for a Daniel-themed first birthday party

And what of my concerns about TV viewing this early? I still have them. And I am certain that many people will judge me for my decision to “use TV as a babysitter,” but the bottom line is that sometimes things need to be done where I cannot hold my child’s full attention for a short period of time. And, frankly, I was a TV kid. Still am. But, I was also an avid reader. Still am. My child can watch TV and be well rounded. And I don’t really use it as a babysitter. It’s simply another activity he has during the day.

I don’t know if I’d have fewer reservations if I didn’t love this little show so much, when my munchkin smiles when I sing him the “Daniel Tiger song,” I’m okay with our choices.

What age(s) did your little ones start watching TV shows of their own? How do you feel about what programs they watch? Love them? Hate them?

Ashley Bearden is a full-time working Mommy to seven-month-old son Will after two and a half years of trying to get pregnant.

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