Mister Noah's Neighborhood
July 25, 2013
Okay, look. Nick Jr. is on right now. Nick Jr. has maybe been on for awhile now. Maybe. Possibly. I don't know my life.
I put Nick Jr. on for Ike so I could shower, write a blog post and answer some emails. (My favorite being the one someone [HI LISA] sent me at 3 a.m. to ask about getting stains off a microfiber couch and repeatedly used the phrase "COUCH PENIS." Because RELEVANT. God, I love you people.) I put Nick Jr. on because attempts to let him free range around the house had already resulted in a pants-removal incident that hereforeafter shall be referred to as COUCH POOP. Please don't email me about it.
Noah is also here, and also watching Nick Jr. He is watching Nick Jr. with a surprising amount of intensity, given that he is now almost 8 years old and should probably know by now that nobody ever dies on Little Bear. At least not outside of Sweeps. And yet he just barrelled into my office to shriek at top volume that someone named Tonny (?) has lost his drum and it's ALMOST CHIME TIME (?), Mom! If he can't find his drum then CHIME TIME WILL NOT BE BALANCED. AND EVERYTHING WILL BE DESTROYED! CHIME TIMMMMME!!!!! AAAUUUUGGGHHHH!!!!!
He is still down there, yelling about Chime Time, quite literally CAPS LOCKing all over the place.
(Ike seems less invested in this particular plot line, but hey, he is still wearing his pants.)
I used to worry about what I could just "turn on" for them once Noah outgrew the preschool channels and moved on to...God, that next-level-up frenetic, derivative, toy-commercials-posing-as-entertainment crap. (LET ME TELL YOU HOW I REALLY FEEL, CARTOON NETWORK.)
(Lego Legends of Chima, by the way. That's where Lego officially lost me. That's how Lego BROKE ME. I went along with — and even attempted to understand — that Ninjago business but then it's like Lego was able to pinpoint the EXACT SECOND we'd finally bought enough sets to collect all the Important Minifigures Of Note and thus introduced a whole new series of...holy shit, I don't even know. Feuding tribes of lions and crocodiles and eagles fighting over mystical blue Legos while riding Sea-Doos and motorcycles. Oh, and there's this roofie flower that lets you brainwash people? Seriously, just try to read the Wikipedia page about it. I made it halfway through the character names but then my brain started crying and my eyeballs started to bleed because the English language lost all meaning.)
(The Lego Movie looks sort of fun, though! Gaaaahhhhh those assholes here fine take all my money.)
ANYWAY. I shouldn't have worried, because Noah is not at all discriminating when it comes to television. If the big glowy glow box is on, he'll watch it. Maybe because we do restrict his screen time most of the time (IT'S SUMMER IT'S HOT OUT LAY OFF ME), but maybe because he's just a kid with terrible taste in television. (That he probably got from me. I mean, Good God, I'm still watching True Blood, y'all.)
(SHIFT IN POST TONE STARTS HERE. RECORD SCRATCH, SAPPY DETOUR HEAD, ETC.)
I recently discovered that Mister Rogers' Neighborhood is still on, in endless, regular repeats. (It's also available on Amazon Prime for free.) For some reason I'd always assumed that it wouldn't hold my kids' interest, what with all the hojillion other programming choices available.
(Never mind the fact that I personally watched Mister Rogers for an embarassing number of years, usually claiming that oh, I was just waiting for The Electric Company or Carmen Sandiego and this was on, so whatever, I'm not watching it or anything, SHUT UP HERE COMES THE TROLLEY YAAAAY!)
But I was feeling nostalgic a few months ago (lots of cry-inducing Internet coverage on the 10th anniversary of Fred Rogers' death will do that to you, turns out) and decided to put it on for Ike, just to see. Noah and Ezra heard the TV homing bat-signal and quickly joined him on the couch.
At some point, Noah whined that this was boring. I told him he didn't have to watch. Go play with your Legos. He told me never mind, it was okay, he'd suffer through it, somehow.
So, some background here, in which I reveal why the cavalier attitude I just displayed re: television-as-babysitter is kind of a big lie of hot fat heaping guilt: Noah struggles with something we've dubbed "TV Talk," where he somewhat compulsively recites TV dialogue to himself, over and over, usually at inappropriate times and at HIGHLY inappropriate volumes. He's done it for as long as I can remember, and while he continues to make huuuuuuge strides in his social and communication skills, this particular flavor of echolalia persists, usually when he's nervous or overwhelmed.
(And yes, we've tried going really long stretches without any TV/movies/screens/etc. It doesn't help with the tic but just makes the poor kid kind of miserable, because all that stuff is fun. His teachers/therapists have all recommended working with him to more fully absorb and process media [since there's really no escaping it, unless we go Amish or something], and to find tactics to help him control the constant replay loop in his head. We let him watch TV in moderation and then try to redirect him to talk to us ABOUT what he's seen or heard, if that makes sense.)
But with Mister Rogers, there is no TV Talk. No hurling himself around the room or shrieking about CHIME TIIIIIIIME. He'll still sigh sometimes and act like he'd rather be watching Lego lions fight with Lego crocodiles about who fucking knows, but he'll sit on the couch and watch. (SIGH!)
And the he will actually mention things he's learned on the show — even the most abstract of concepts — much later and in a perfectly appropriate context. He tripped and fell outside, and instead of exploding in anger at his feet or the sidewalk (his typical reaction), he talked about how Mister Rogers said that everybody falls down and gets hurt sometimes.
Then another night, he came downstairs and started talking very clearly about some things he was feeling scared and anxious about. Things we've been trying to get to the bottom of for weeks. Why? Because Mister Rogers told him it was always better to tell people you love about your feelings instead of keeping them inside.
(Hmm. Suddenly a little overwhelmed myself because of all these feels.)
Oh God, I think I hear Dora coming on downstairs. I think it's time to go change the channel. I think I need to go see a man about a cardigan.
And then go outside and play some make believe.