A few months ago, my daughter woke up and sang-spoke the D-word? Was it Dada? Doggie?
Nope. It was “D-D-D-Dora!”
Whenever my daughter is upset, extremely tired, or a car-ride becomes too long, the cry of “D-D-D-ora” – stutter-spoken as per Nick Jr.’s TV Show theme song and inexplicably pronounced with a slight French accent – inevitably repeats, increasing in volume in the hopes that an episode will be delivered.
This chant was gradually joined by others, including ”La-la-la-La!,” (Elmo’s Song)” “E-I!” for Old MacDonald or “A! B! Shee!” for an Elmo and Indie Arie duet. The saddest cry of all is “Meow! Meow!” which means she wants us to the nearest electronic device and immediately produce the “Talking Tom – “I Get You” video.
Judging by the numbers for this video on youtube (as of this writing, there were over 116 MILLION views of the video) there are obviously several million other children making similar demands as my daughter, particularly as the daily views of the video increase by something like 500,000 clicks per day.
The presence of technology makes these chants even more prevalent, particularly as she knows that by merely pointing to my wife’s cell phone, a kindle fire or TV remote, we can access any clip from any media text from any time.
So, whenever my daughter sees the kindle, she will immediately chant Dora, whereas when she hands me the apple tv remote, she might say “Pooh!” so that I can pull up “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” or this super-weird version of Old MacDonald…
Just in case you’re getting the wrong impression, I should probably say that we don’t always acquiesce to our daughter’s demands for media. As a parent, the issue of media consumption is always a difficult and uphill battle. My wife and I do our best, and, admittedly, my wife does a better job than I do. The differences in our childhoods – my wife had three channels growing up, while I had a universe of channels at my disposal – makes our parenting philosophies very different as well.
(I’m pretty sure that I actually love TV, whereas I think my wife is probably a little more sensible about its role in our lives)
I am not naive enough to ignore studies that suggest that parents should limit the amount of screen time that children are exposed to. I do have to say that children’s programming is inspiring on some levels.
There is something entirely sweet about the level of address for some of the better quality shows – such as Sesame Street, Super-Why and to some degree, Dora, and if the goal of these shows is to educate, they do an amazing job of it. The credits of each usually list some child psychologists who are employed as consultants, either to hook their youthful spectators, or to employ the most suitable methods of learning.
The shows often address issues of race, language, gender and inclusion in ways that are altogether missing within the larger media sphere. Issues of a diverse culture and plurality (as presented in some of these shows) all but disappear once adults begin to watch TV and are gradually replaced by the regular offerings of the Prime-Time schedule. For now, these programs offer a hopeful world that is more often than not musical, magical and where anything is possible – including the aspiration of a young fairy to become a Supreme Court Justice…
My daughter’s favorite episode of Dora allows the show’s main villain, Swiper, to step outside of his role as the antagonist and lets him help. The episode is titled, “Swiper the Explorer” and Swiper joins Dora and Boots as they try to find the parents of a baby fox.
What I like about the episode most is that in isolation and repetition (it is the episode she watches most), Swiper just gets to be a good guy, not stealing anyone’s balls or bananas and everyone just accepts that he wants to help out. It is also the episode where Swiper sings a song about “giggling” which fast became my daughter’s favorite word.
Kindness, understanding, patience, friendship and love seem to be the keys to each of these programs. As a parent, these are values and messages that I do approve of, despite my needing to juggle multiple technologies and the systems that deliver them.
I now watch as much children’s media with my daughter than what I watch myself. I think that it is having an effect on me. I love that I get to sing along with her and ask her questions about what she’s watching and I feel like I am sharing the experience of her world as she enters it. Sometimes I even get to point her towards things that I love – like the Muppets, certain songs or other things that I enjoy – making me one part daddy and another part passenger on this amazing journey.
She doesn’t always love what I have to offer. She’s deathly afraid of the Chewbacca doll that I got her early on, which will make introducing her to Star Wars a challenge later. She’s still more likely to chant D-d-d-ora before I am able to pull up a clip that I want to show her. Occasionally though, I’m able to sneak in something good that I liked when I was a kid, and that we can share together. When that happens, it is a moment that is entirely too rare, beautiful and magical.