Twice a week, Henry and I go to a pretend pre-school called “Terrific Twos!” Actually, I think it might be called “Terrific Two’s!” (Bad apostrophe. BAD.) When I signed him (and by extension, me) up for this, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was what two women in the neighborhood told me--that it was a fun way to spend a couple of mornings. The class description in the brochure didn’t sound promising. Alongside other courses, such as cooking (“Watch your wee one learn to chop and dice—safely, of course!”) and art (“Explore different media with your toddler—and have fun, to boot!”), the “Terrific Twos!” description was decidedly frosty, with only a few lines on teaching the toddler to “negotiate transitions” and “manage group interactions” as well as “deal with separation issues.” No mention of arts and crafts, exercise, singing, or human warmth of any kind. I pictured a bare, windowless room, the children huddled in a corner, a woman wearing a severe bun and a unitard (Why a unitard, you ask? Why not?) barking orders. “Henry, hand this ragged doll to Emma. Emma, return the ragged doll to Henry. Good. Here is a nutrition pellet. Now I will leave. Then I will return. Do not cry. Or else.” But hey! Wouldn’t that be a good story for the blog! And we needed something to get us out of this vermin-infested dust trap, so I forked over the cash.
Turns out there are snacks and Play-Doh and hugs a-plenty, and the teacher wears her bun very loose and is warm and amiable, although way too young. Not too young for the kids—too young for me. Also too cute. Henry and five other kids play in a small room, while the mothers try not to hover too close even though there’s nowhere else to go; we also try to come up with something to say to each other, and usually fail. Then we all go downstairs to the gym, which is a couple of playschool slides on some gym mats in an auditorium, and Henry goes apeshit for ten minutes. Then we sit in a circle and sing idiot songs for idiots. Or, I guess, children’s songs for children, if you want to get technical about it. All I know is, we already take a music class, and that class has songs I can stand to hear, and a teacher who can sing, and really hot parents who make me feel less than hot, but at least they’re easy on the eyes. And, let me not be modest about it, I’m a singer. I can belt a tune, my friends. I got me the training. I could get operatic on their asses, if I chose to do so. So the whiny half-hearted off-key “Wheels on the Bus” each week—it hurts, is what I’m saying. But then comes “Where is Thumbkin?” and also the reason I’m not an adult. Because I seriously have never sung that song past the thumb, so when the teacher trilled, “Where is Pointer?” and started the next verse with her index finger, all I could think is “Oh my god she’s going to do the middle finger and her middle finger is going to be pointing at us OH MY GOD” and, indeed, she sang “Where is Tallman?”, with her middle finger right out there, and no one cracked a smile. Of course.
No one except me, I mean. I laughed. Out loud. And now every time we sing it, I start to laugh when my middle finger starts to make the trip from behind my back to the entire class. I can’t help it. Tallman! Ha!
Anyway, that was my point.
My group of FWAP (Friends Who Are Parents) all exert considerable amounts of energy bitching about the sorry state of today’s Sesame Street. “It used to be so great!” they moan. “Remember Kermit? And Gordon wearing bellbottoms? And how Bob was a young guy, not a gray husk of withered tissue, neither alive nor dead? And how Mr. Hooper wasn’t a pile of decomposing remains buried under Big Bird’s nest? Remember?”
But most of all, they hate Elmo. They hate all the other new Muppets too, of course. (And I agree with them about Baby Bear. Yes, we get it, you’re wee. Now shut your puppet-hole before I stab you in the wee little eye.) But Elmo apparently represents all that is bad in this world. Elmo is George Bush/Bin Laden/Jennifer Love Hewitt* in a fur suit. Down with Elmo. Boooo. Boooo.
(*I dislike Jennifer Love Hewitt.)
As an all-too-frequent viewer of Sesame Street, I have watched Elmo in action plenty of times. And I have to say, he doesn’t particularly bug me. Partly this is because my son is in love with him; it’s hard to hate someone your son discusses with such dewy-eyed reverence. But also he strikes me as benign, if alarmingly cheerful. No, the character who really causes me distress is an old favorite—an old favorite who I believe is in dire, dire need of retirement.
Before you start hissing at the screen, have you people watched Ernie in action lately? He does nothing but wreak havoc wherever he goes. He’s a sociopath.
Let us compare and contrast:
Elmo: Uses amiable, albeit imaginary, conversations with his pet goldfish as opportunities to learn and grow.
Ernie: Blames malevolent impulses on rubber ducky.
Elmo: Is patient and kind with the deranged lunatic (and, occasionally, the deranged lunatic’s brother) who loiters outside his window.
Ernie: Torments his long-suffering roommate, Bert, on a regular basis.
Elmo: Invites guests to “Elmo’s World” to talk about themselves. Then he sings a song about them.
Ernie: Takes big Muppet-dumps on everyone’s feelings. For instance: he repeatedly disrupts a “Birdketeer” meeting, finally taking over and declaring it a “Duckateer” meeting, thus emotionally devastating Big Bird. And: he ruins Baby Bear's porridge, for no reason. I know it's Baby Bear, but still!
It was his breakfast!
Elmo: Patiently works through conflicts with all of his friends, even Zoe, who’s clearly suffering from several personality disorders.
Ernie: Forces Big Bird to accompany him on mind-altering “journeys” to frightening, hallucinatory landscapes, where he hides, taunting him.
Elmo: is sweet.
Ernie: is a shithead.
Now do you see?
I’m so out of practice with this. I can’t remember—how was this done, again? Where did my ideas come from? Was I clever? It’s all a blur.
In a nutshell: there was a car accident on our corner, Henry and I witnessed it and were almost victims, and I suffered some post-traumatic stress that involved a lot of shaking and nibbling at fingernails and shaking and not-sleeping and not-eating and, um, shaking. Back when I wrote my last post, I thought I’d share all the details when I returned, but now that my heart rate is back to normal, I no longer have the superhuman (read: insane) energy I had then. But I am all better now, and isn’t that all that matters? I have received the Appropriate Treatments, my brains have been scrubbed clean of the bad thoughts, scrubscrubscrub, and now I am happy Happy HAPPY! HAHAHAHAHAHA!
Hey, where are you--Wait, come back!
In better news, today was Henry’s 2nd birthday. He had his girlfriend over for dinner. They gazed into each other’s eyes, caressed each other’s cheeks with macaroni-and-cheese-encrusted fingers, and screamed over the rightful use and ownership of various trucks and trains. So pretty much what me and the Husband do on any given night.
Have I bragged about my kid enough? I kind of can’t believe how much I lucked out with him. He’s so happy and sweet and oh my god, he couldn’t be more affectionate. He is composed purely of love, as my husband likes to say. He’s, and let’s just put it out there, let us not be modest—jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I mean, come on:
But he’s not just a pretty boy, oh no. This boy has ideas. He’ll go off on riffs about turtles on the ocean and the waves going WHOOSH and how the turtles don’t live in the waterfall which is in the park and the waterfall there also goes WHOOSH and the turtle is on his hand but ha ha there’s no turtle there ha ha and all I can do is sit back and wonder what planet he came from.
He has turns of phrase that neither of us gave him, like “Big fun!” whenever he goes down the slide, or, alternately, “Too much fun!” His new habit is to give each day a theme; if it’s not a beautiful day, it’s a “Going to the Zoo Day” (mind you, this is before I was aware we were going to the zoo) or a “New Friend Day” or a “Hitting the Dog with a Tonka Truck Day.”
Incidentally, at his 2-year checkup yesterday, I learned that my boy weighs 34 back-breaking pounds (96th percentile) and is 35 inches tall (68th? Or something). My son is a square. Well, sort of. Also, his head was so big (because it is so full of dreams) they had to make a new chart for it. We went to a new doctor, whom Henry took a liking to and covered with kisses before we left (and not before careening bare-assed through the halls—apparently it was “Streaking Some Nurses Day”). And the new doctor said, “Are you afraid someone might steal this kid?” I sort of am. So don’t even think about it or I will be so mad.