Sometimes I think about all the plans I made before becoming a mom. I think about all of the things I was going to do, and especially about the things I wasn’t going to do. My baby would never have a pacifier. I would never put my preschooler in front of the TV just so I could get twenty-one minutes of peace. Those were the ridiculous notions of a neurotic new mom—fearful and over-thinking every move. Anxious that any wrong choice made might send my son down the road to ruin. It’s a lot of pressure, you know. One mistake from me, and Buddy could end up being one of those guys who makes up his own nickname, worships Jimmy Buffett, and has a tattoo of the word “tattoo.”
But that was before I found the path to harmony and balance in parenting. Before I found The Way.
I found it unexpectedly one morning, when I put my kid in front of the TV so I could get the aforementioned twenty-one minutes of peace. I was really on the edge that day, so I searched the couch cushions until I found Buddy’s favorite pacifier—the one with the frog attached to it. (Not the one with the bear. Never the one with the bear!) Then I clicked on PBS, because at least that’s educational TV, and that’s when it appeared in front us, in a million flashes of light and sound. The I Ching of parenting a preschooler: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
The cartoon is a spinoff of a live action/puppet show I well remember watching as a child, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I got a peaceful, easy feeling reminiscing about cardigan sweaters and the clang clang clang of a trolley, so I sat down to watch with him. Texas Tech says you’re supposed to watch the show along with your kid(s), and practice the philosophy together in order to achieve the full effect of the teachings. Good choices, mom!
Each episode focuses on a single theme—some life lesson that young Daniel Tiger must learn in order to overcome adversity and achieve inner peace (or perhaps just social and emotional maturity). He gets frustrated, he gets jealous, he finds out he’s getting a baby sister. The adults in Daniel’s life help him through each new challenge with a song—a simple mantra that reinforces the lesson. Separation anxiety? Grown Ups Come Back. Angry? Take a Deep Breath and Count to Four. And of course, When You Have to Go Potty, Stop and Go Right Away. Truer words have never been spoken.
I admire Daniel’s mom and dad because they are way better at parenting than I am. They handle every situation their little one throws at them effortlessly—with love, patience, and a catchy little ditty. Tiger stripes, doin’ it right.
If you are open, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood can help you along the path to an effortless and unburdened life with a preschooler. Or at least, it might give you twenty-one minutes of peace.
Admit it—you sing the Daniel Tiger songs at home! Which one is the most useful to you?