Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Trying to understand the mind of a child

At some point, I will need to consult with a child psychologist to understand the lock that Elmo has on the toddler psyche.  

Not that I don't think Elmo is cute.  I think he's a perfectly fine Sesame Street character, funny, kind of endearing and all that.  But why Elmo as opposed to, say, Telly?  Or Zoe?*  

Or why not the old school characters that dominated the story lines when I watched Sesame Street as a kid, like Oscar or Bert & Ernie or Grover?  Or Kermit? I loved those guys.  But they've sort of faded into the background on the show, only occasionally popping up in the odd sketch.

But for whatever reason, there is something about Elmo.  Zeke is seriously obsessed.  

It started when Jason started recording the daily episodes of Sesame Street on PBS, so that Zeke could have something age-appropriate to watch while he chilled out before bedtime.  And before long, Zeke was referring to the show as "Elmo."  And when Elmo wasn't on the screen, he would look at me or Jason and say, "Elmo? Elmo?" until we fast-forwarded the recording to a sketch in which Elmo was prominently featured.  

And now, when Elmo finally shows up, Zeke's face will light up and he'll point and yell "Elmo!"  with such joy in his voice and in his countenance that it's almost unbearably sweet.  Elmo just makes him so fucking happy, he can hardly stand it.  He'll watch the show, and if Elmo sings or dances, Zeke will bop around dancing and smiling.  And all is right with the world.

I knew Zeke was deeply smitten (or in deep smit, as my friend Karen likes to say) when my mom and I went to Target to do some shopping and brought Zeke with us.  We headed over to the toy section and found an Elmo stuffed animal/puppet for Zeke.  I took it out of the box and handed it to him, and it was like he had died and gone to heaven.

"Elmo!" he said, his voice filled with love.  And he gave Elmo a hug and a kiss and sighed deeply.  He rode around in the shopping cart, unable to contain his glee.  He kept saying, "Elmo," over and over, and smiling and hugging his new doll to his chest.  

Seriously, if he's as affectionate and sweet with future girlfriends as he is with his Elmo, I will feel I have done a good job of teaching him to treat women with love and respect.

(Zeke shows Elmo the love)

There's a part of me that feels like I should bristle against his fixation on this overly commercialized character.  Like we're both being manipulated by the evil geniuses that create and produce Sesame Street.  

But then I look at my son's smiling face, and I think, "ah, who cares?  The kid's happy."  

That's good enough for me.

*At least it's not Baby Bear that he's fixated on.  That character, with it's cloying lisp, seriously bugs.  And I hate the fact that children who are learning how to speak and pronounce words are subjected to extended story lines involving a character that says things like "pawot" for "parrot."


  1. if you ever get the chance to see Avenue Q, please go see it. You'll never look at a puppet the same way again. it's brilliant!

  2. I've actually wanted to see that show for ages. I heard bits of the soundtrack years ago, and it's hilarious.

  3. We are stuck on Sponge Bob

  4. Anonymous10:17 AM

    I hate to admit it but I, too, love Elmo. When I was in college, a friend bought me a Sunny Days Elmo for my birthday. He sang the Sesame Street theme song. Although the batteries have long died (I mean, I have been out of college for 12 years), I still have him & my Tickle Me Elmo.

    Maybe it the voice. The laugh. I don't know. Hell, it's Elmo!