Mov­ing out­side the Mup­pets

Maryland Independent - - Southern Maryland Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Af­ter a year of non­stop “Mup­pets,” it’s fi­nally happening. My 17-month-old son will ac­tu­ally sit — with vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess — through other programs. “Sesame Street” is ris­ing in the ranks, as is “Mickey Mouse Club­house.” An­i­mated movies like “Mr. Pe­abody and Sher­man” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meat­balls” have been dis­tract­ing Oliver long enough for me to empty the dish­washer with­out lit­tle hands reach­ing for but­ter knives. They also hold his at­ten­tion when my hus­band and I need to sit for a mo­ment — just one tiny, tiny mo­ment.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t plunk the kid in front of the ol’ boob tube and take off. But I’d love to meet a par­ent who doesn’t oc­ca­sion­ally rely on Mickey Mouse or “Paw Pa­trol” to en­ter­tain a busy tod­dler, even for 10 min­utes, be­cause . . . well, be­cause I’d love for you to tell me all your se­crets. I’ll make cof­fee.

Since Oliver was 6 months old, the Mup­pets — Jim Henson’s lov­able, color­ful pup­pet-mon­sters — have been our con­stant com­pan­ions. When Ol­lie came down with a nasty virus last fall, the sight of Ker­mit the Frog was lit­er­ally the only thing to calm him.

Miss Piggy, Scooter and Dr. Teeth are hon­orary mem­bers of the John­son fam­ily. When their ABC re­boot show was can­celled ear­lier this year, I went into mourn­ing. The new TV show has seen us through some dark days and even darker nights — nights when our baby’s cheeks would stream with tears un­til An­i­mal ap­peared to soothe him. And us.

The Mup­pet movies have been mildly en­ter­tain­ing for Ol­lie, but noth­ing has topped the 22-ish min­utes of peace that the TV episodes have granted us. Spencer and I can re­cite ev­ery word of the eight episodes still on our DVR, and we of­ten reen­act them for Oliver. (I’m Miss Piggy, of course.)

This both­ers me less than I thought it would. Be­fore I had kids, the thought of hav­ing to watch chil­dren’s pro­gram­ming would turn my brain to mush. Fresh from my par­ents’ house, I was ex­cited to fi­nally have power over the re­mote con­trol. Spencer is pretty laid back, con­tent to work on his lap­top in the evenings, so I was typ­i­cally free to binge on all the cook­ing shows I wanted.

Why would I want Elmo to come in and ruin the fun?

What I couldn’t have re­al­ized was how lit­tle I would soon care what — if any­thing — was on tele­vi­sion. (Pro­vided it was age-ap­pro­pri­ate, of course.) If a half hour of Abby, Big Bird and friends ex­plain­ing rain­bows would give me a chance to sip my long-cold cof­fee, let’s do this.

Now that Oliver is walk­ing, get­ting him to fo­cus on some­thing that isn’t his feet car­ry­ing him away in a game of cat-and­mouse is even more chal­leng­ing. He de­lights in jog­ging away from us, head­ing to one of the few parts of the down­stairs that re­main off-lim­its to him. We’ve had most of the house baby-proofed for months, but some­times I’ll still slip up and leave my purse on a low ta­ble or for­get a wa­ter bot­tle where he can reach.

Ol­lie is ob­sessed with caps and lids, so find­ing the wa­ter bot­tle cre­ates a power struggle that wears me out. Hand­ing him an un­capped bot­tle is like giv­ing a 16-year-old his own sparkly car keys — un­til Oliver goes to “drink,” essen­tially fall­ing into a dunk tank in­stead. (We’re work­ing on that.)

Spencer and I got a lit­tle ar­ro­gant with this whole “watch­ing non-Mup­pets pro­gram­ming” thing. Des­per­ate for a break last Friday, Spencer scrolled through a list of avail­able ca­ble flicks un­til he found a child­hood fa­vorite: “A Goofy Movie.”

This 1995 Dis­ney clas­sic en­joys a cult fol­low­ing. The sound­track is un­de­ni­ably catchy, with Pow­er­line’s an­thems be­ing the type to get stuck in your head for decades. When the film started, I was sur­prised by how quickly the di­a­logue came back to me . . . likely from my sis­ter and I watch­ing it on re­peat as kids.

Spencer and I don’t share many child­hood mem­o­ries, de­spite be­ing born just a year apart — so it was sweet for me to sing along to these old songs with my hus­band, laughing at our mid­dle-school selves. It was also one of our first at­tempts at shar­ing some­thing we once loved with Oliver, a cross-gen­er­a­tional mo­ment where you hope your child will take to a film like you did. He did not, of course. It was too soon. He’s only a year and a half. The “clas­sic” an­i­ma­tion failed to hold his at­ten­tion the way, say, a Pixar-pro­duced film does, and I guess that shouldn’t sur­prise me. I’m a Mil­len­nial rais­ing a child in an age far more mod­ern than I en­joyed as a kid, so I sup­pose I shouldn’t be shocked when my tod­dler reaches for our smart­phones.

Well, he reaches for them . . . but we don’t let him touch them. Yet.

So I guess we have that go­ing for us.

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