C is for cookie...

Monday, November 23, 2009
E has an imaginary friend. Actually, she's not quite imaginary. She is one of Linny's trusty side-kicks on the Wonder Pets.

For those of you who don't know, TWP are three classroom pets that receive a cry for help via a can on a string, jump in their frisbee "fly boat" and answer the baby animal's call of distress. And while they're no real American heros, they are cute and funny and sweet...mostly.

Anyway, back to E's lispy imaginary friend, Ming-Ming. Ming-Ming sits at the table with us. She has her own placemat, her own cup, and her own food. She reads books with us, E says "excuse me" whenever she gets in his way, and she lets me wash her wings when we're all done eating. E shares his food with her, and not just the stuff he doesn't like. Nope, he shared his M&M's with her. Shared his M&M's! M&M's are such a rare treat in this house...well, for him anyway. I eat them almost every day. But, yeah. He shared his M&M's with her! As in two for me and two for Ming-Ming. And they sat on her mat for a solid five, six, maybe seven minutes before one of them disappeared. And then it was another four or five minutes before I looked over again and the last chocolate-coated delicacy was gone and there was a tell-tale streak of Red #5 around E's lips.

Now, my intention had been to keep E away from the tv till he was at least three but what I hadn't factored in to my grand (read: naive) plan was that I would become pregnant and so sick that I would turn to tv as my savior. I was at about week 6 when all of a sudden whoa! It was all I could do to keep my eyes open and my mouth puke-free. So on the really rough days, those days where there was no. other. way., I would spend a blissful 30 minutes or so, usually in the morning, propped up on the back of the couch, with one arm draped across E's lap (safety precaution) and we would watch a little tv.

Because I felt so guilty, I would keep one eye open so that I could talk to him about what we were watching (I read somewhere that this made it better...perhaps like it's better if you say excuse me after you fart in public.) I started with Sesame Street's 123 Count with Me/Learning About Letters (C is for cookie, that's good enough for me...) Again, to alleviate my guilt, I rationalized that he'd be learning the alphabet and his numbers. Plus, I'd been warned by seasoned parents never to let your kids listen to or watch something that you don't want to have run through your brain in perpetuity (C is for cookie, that's good enough for me...)

D and I agreed that old-school Sesame Street songs were as good as it gets as far as ear worms go. We were having fun with the 123's and ABC's. We sang along and E was "learning" his numbers*, so I'm not quite sure when or why we veered off that path, but I know that we watched a few episodes of The Backyardigans (too sophisticated) and a few episodes of Little Bill (too annoying) before stumbling upon TWP.

While I find the program's message of team-work and helping those in need to be well-intentioned, I do take issue with the fact that it's a bit stereotypical and borderline racist. Jewish squirrel mom happy that her baby is rescued from a roller coaster at Coney Island...Baby flamingo's Jamaican uncle is happy that TWP rescued his nephew, mahn (in every other episode it's one/both of the parents that thank TWP at the end)...fat old Cajun frog needs a wheelchair...Chinese panda who can't pronounce her R's...see where I'm going with this? I mean, really? You need to teach two-and-a-half year olds that black babies don't have daddies? I'm just waiting for the episode where a baby manatee gets caught by the propeller of a speedboat off the coast of Cuba and all 15 cousins, three aunts and a drunk uncle come to thank TWP. Because as out-raged as I am, I'm not going to do anything about it till they offend my people.

So why do we let E watch TWP? First off, he watches about 3 or 4 hours of tv a week, not counting football with dad. And that's only when there's a minor baby emergency, usually when B needs a bath or is going through a growth spurt and is nursing for the 6th time before 9:00 am or when it's too crappy to go out. If the weather is nice - and we have a very liberal definition of "nice" around here because I have found that the quality of our day is directly proportional to the amount of time we spend outside - and we ride scooter or walk to one of our neighborhood parks or just play basketball in the front yard...but we make sure to get outside.

Also, I'm confident that at two-and-a-half, E is not picking up on the subtle undercurrents of racism that make me cringe. However, he is definitely picking up on the overt messages of teamwork and ingenuity. He talks a lot more about helping and sharing and trying again and finding a different way. Things that, apparently, you can only learn from cartoon animals because when I suggest he tries something a different way, oh nelly.

And the number one reason we let him watch? Because it makes him laugh out loud. D and I can't help but indulge in a little TWP because seeing E so happy makes us really happy, too.

* Children at this age aren't really counting. They're reciting a string of words. Knowing how to count implies understanding cardinality and one-to-one correspondence, a skill that does not emerge till much later.
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