What I hope Mister Rogers can show my son

IMG_0274We’re not big about TV in our house. My husband and I have movies and television shows that we enjoy, but most of those we get on either Netflix, Amazon or iTunes. It was an easy decision when trimming our budget to cut out cable, though we did get an antenna so we could watch the Olympics and the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving. By default this means B doesn’t watch a lot of TV, which we’re in no hurry to change.

But we do like to find some shows he can watch every once in a while. I’ve watched a lot of the new kids shows and — can we be honest here? — most of them are kind of obnoxious. So we were thrilled when we found Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on Amazon Prime.

Recently, the set pieces from Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood were moved to a History Center near my hometown. I know all television shows have their lifespan, but as I read about this iconic set being restored I was struck by how sad I am that this show isn’t on any more, and lots of kids won’t even know who he is. Because I feel like our kids today could benefit greatly from Fred Rogers.

Patience

I’m not sure how I managed to forget this, but most of the Mister Roger’s episodes have a large plot or theme that carries through multiple episodes and some episodes even end with a question unanswered. This sounds simple, but it’s really a big deal. It’s asking an awful lot from a little person to have patience – about anything – but Fred Rogers does it just like he does everything else: gently and with confidence. What must it have been like for a generation of Mr. Rogers Watchers to finish an episode without the instant gratification of a neatly-wrapped-beginning-middle-end storyline?

An Appreciation For Simplicity

B’s current favorite episode is about homemade musical instruments. We’ve watched it almost a dozen times. One of the things I love about this episode – and most of the show, for that matter – is so much of the focus is on play and creativity. No repetitive alphabet teaching, no contestant overwhelming “lessons” and no built-in opportunities for tons of commercial toys and nonsense. Kids have one job: to play. A large tenant of the Mister Rogers series seemed to be “let’s take something ordinary, have some fun, and talk about it.” Homemade musical instruments, costumes, puppets, games are all fantastic ways to let kids work their brains without stressing about whether or not their going graduate top of their class from Harvard because they didn’t know long division by age 3. I had a very fun, imaginative childhood and my biggest hope is that B can learn to experience the beauty of what happens to the world when you let your mind take over.

Friendly Nature

People, seriously, could this guy be any nicer? I struggle with how to teach manners to my toddler, and it’s something my husband and I discuss a lot. The main thing we (and seemingly lots of other people) agree on is that the best way for kids to learn things like friendliness and manners is for them to see/experience it for themselves. And Fred Rogers is one of those unique human beings that can make every day kindness seem like second nature.

TOLERANCE

You’d be hard-pressed to find such an iconic television character of that era who was as ahead of their time as Fred Rogers. His tolerant and accepting attitude was apparent from his straightforward, un-shaming conversations about divorce to his overall motto of  “just be yourself.” Regardless of the episode, stories or theme, the message rang clear: You are special, and you have worth. Kids today are being measured by standardized tests, being exposed to bullying in a variety of forms, and competing in high-pressure sporting activities that adults are taking way too seriously. Kids today could use Fred Rogers. I wish this show existed in children’s programming today. I miss you Mister Rogers. I appreciate what you did for me, and for children everywhere. My son really enjoys your show.

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