As I was making breakfast a few mornings ago, the familiar strains of Dora the Explorer wafted in from the next room. The Spanish-spouting senorita and her band of blank-eyed amigos had launched into yet another annoyingly catchy song. “Bate! Bate! Cho-co-late!” they recited with a cult-like intensity. I stopped what I was doing and looked up.
That’s my favorite Dora episode! I thought to myself, and left the turkey bacon to fry on the stove while I made a beeline for the den. As I stood mesmerized before the primary-colored glow of the television, two verses passed before it occurred to me that I had, in that moment, crossed over to the other side. The embarrassingly uncool parent side. Because there’s no denying that once a parent’s brain registers an episode of Dora the Explorer as a “favorite,” it doesn’t matter if she partied with rock stars in college or interviewed A-list celebrities as an adult. Dora in? Hipster cred out.
Feeling down about this disturbing turn of events, I did the only thing an embarrassingly uncool parent could do. I wrote about it on Facebook. Within minutes, commiseration from other embarrassingly uncool parents flooded my inbox.
“Ever been driving in the car, singing along to the Kidz Bop or Raffi CD that was in the player, only to realize the kids aren't even in the car with you?” wrote Margie. “Now that is depressing.”
“The other day I found myself watching a whole episode of Curious George by myself, although the kids had gone into the other room to play,” Alli wrote. “Why? Because I hadn't seen that one before. Terrifying!”
"Rock bottom is when you find yourself answering Dora’s questions,” wrote Mark. “That's when you know it's time to seek professional assistance.”
“Or when you sing her theme song in the shower,” added Kimi.
Clearly, children’s television is taking a disastrous toll on the moms and dads of America. With Diego and Little Einsteins and Spongebob Squarepants on constant rotation in the backgrounds of our lives, with “Swiper, no swiping!” and “Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog!” swirling through our brains amid the grocery lists and bank account balances, is it any wonder that since having kids, our brains feel like they’ve turned to mush? Or that over time, the often-repeated phrases heard in programs like The Backyardigans and The Wiggles become permanently embedded in our once-sophisticated vocabularies?
“I no want that!” my 3-year-old son said stoutly as I placed a plate before him last week.
“Oh come on, Bruiser, it’s a great lunch,” I said. “Bologna sandwich, grapes, Gogurt … What more could you ask for?”
“I no want it!” he repeated, folding his arms over his chest.
“Try it,” I said in a shrill voice. “You’ll like it!” Beside me, my 6-year-old laughed in recognition.
“Try it!” she repeated with me. “You’ll like it!” She took one of Bruiser’s grapes and popped it into her mouth. “I tried it!” we finished together as she chewed, “I think I like it!”
This earworm of a chant, a favorite from Yo Gabba Gabba!, works pretty well when trying to get a kid to eat. But I’ve found it doesn’t go over so well at a business lunch.
“What is this?” an editor said to me recently over salads in the Gulch, eyeing a speared root vegetable with deep suspicion.
“Try it,” I bleated. “You’ll like it!”
She looked up at me in alarm. “Huh?” I remembered too late that she had no children of her own. Horrified by my gaffe, I quickly coughed into my napkin. “Allergies,” I said. “This time of year is awful for me.”
Part of the problem is that today’s parents grew up in an era when rattling off phrases and theme songs from popular television shows actually increased our cool factor. “Where’s the beef?” we’d demand of our parents at dinnertime. “Homey don’t play that,” we’d say smugly outside our junior high lockers. By high school, we’d moved on to “Makin’ copies,” and “Well, isn’t that special?” — proof we’d stayed up late to watch Saturday Night Live. College found us asking each other, “Whasssuupppppp?”
A decade or so later, though, we find ourselves muttering, “This is se-wee-us,” (from The Wonderpets, natch) in times of trouble and suddenly, we’re not so cool. In fact, we’re embarrassingly uncool. We are, after all, reciting lines from a kiddie show that stars a baby duck with a speech impediment. D’oh!
It’s enough to make a parent want to get rid of the television altogether.
But then who would entertain the kids?
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