When my son was little, he loved Barney, I didn't, hence the following essay. So many years later, I thought the nightmare was over but what you know, my grandson loves Barney too. Help!
Has it happened to you yet? Has Barney come to your town? If he hasn't, he probably will, chortling, singing, with a live show with him no less. I'm sure that as many parents contemplate an evening with the purple menace, they can think of more pleasant ways to spend their time--a root canal perhaps? I know I did.
It didn’t matter. I went to see Barney--not to watch a purple giggling nightmare for anyone over the age of five but to witness the unabashed joy and wonder on my son Danny’s face. For this, I justified Barney my mind: Barney is good. Barney teaches sharing and caring....yada, yada, yada.
Being a deep thinker, I tried to figure out why little kids love Barney so much while the rest of humanity just wants to set him on fire. Back then, I rationalized that the reason why most of us hate Barney because his message of love makes us feel guilty about what we are not doing.
I came to the cotton candy conclusion that the reason small children follow Barney like the purple pied piper is because attracts their spiritual nature because he teaches sharing and caring....yada, yada, yada.
Nice theory, but I was wrong. Most of us over the age of five hate Barney simply because he is one irritating dinosaur. He has this voice that makes dogs cringe and an always-oh-so-happy disposition that would make a Buddhist buy a gun. And I know for a fact that my son didn’t learn sharing from Barney--he learned it from me.
When Danny was in preschool, he watched Barney everyday with the other little goomers. He saw Sesame Street as did all his little friends and saw countless videos about sharing from those pesky Care Bears too. These impressionable globs of childhood were also constantly told to share by teachers and us parents.
All that my son and his friends learned about sharing was put to the test when these four-year-olds had an Easter egg hunt in their classroom. Well, as often is the case, some of the kids found the majority of the eggs and some didn't have any. The poor teachers had to gently ask these sweet little kids to share some of their eggs with the others. "NO!!! MINE!!!" was the resounding call heard from most of the children. My son was the only one who went around the room like the town crier singing, "Who needs eggs? I got eggs here!"
Now am I going to give credit to that purple pest for this small miracle? No way. This happy result is a shiny badge I pin on myself, thank you very much. You see, Barney only sang silly songs about sharing to Danny minutes a day. I'm the one gave him a sip of my drink whenever he was thirsty. I'm the one who always let him use my school supplies to draw pictures with. And I don't know how many times I gave that boy my last piece of gum. Am I Mother Of The Year? --No. Is Danny going to grow up to be Gandhi? --No. But it is these little things that we don't think about that make the difference.
The truth of the matter is Barney didn’t teach my son anything. He kept him occupied. Danny liked Barney because he looks like a big purple stuffed animal come to life and his voice is always happy. And like any being with underdeveloped intelligence, my son probably thought: If it's big and it doesn't eat me it must be fun to play with--and Barney is fun. He makes everything sound exciting and wonderful. And in a nutshell, that was Danny’s universe: a world where nearly everything was new and astonishing. Frankly I was glad that Barney was there to say, "Wow Timmy isn't it great that the sky is so blue?!!! Because as parent sometimes I got a bit distracted, "Yes Danny, that's nice, tell Mommy after Jerry Springer okay?"
I decided it was not my function as a parent to be a one-dimensional laugh track. Besides, if I spent all my time playing Barney to Danny, I would’ve gotten bored really fast and my daughter, Niaz would’ve been looking for matches. .
I could continue to explain how Barney didn't influence my son but it is a moot point because around the age of six a metamorphosis happened. I tucked my sweet little guy in bed hearing him sing "I love you...you love me..." and then practically the next day he was banging his stuffed purple Barney against the wall saying, "I hate Barney! Barney is dumb. If I had a gun I would shoot him!" Shattered were my crystalline dreams of my son winning the Nobel Peace Prize and born out of some dark dungeon of parental fear, the nightmare: he’s going to become a mass murderer in mismatched clothes!
Why did this metamorphosis happen? What did I do wrong? Why couldn’t keep my sweet little boy who laughed and sang with the purple thing on TV--from becoming a boy who gets joy from watching big dinosaurs rip the heads off people, dogs and other dinosaurs? It just happened: Danny just got weird one day and start making guns out of his baloney sandwiches. I can’t explain it. It's just part of the evolution of my son—it was probably hard wired in him. My daughter, on the other hand didn’t get weird until she was12. That's when she could suddenly shape shift from daddy's little love muffin to the head spinning demon girl on the Exorcist whenever I walked into the room.
These changes are inevitable, but I didn’t know that and tried to protect my kids anyway. Case in point, when Danny was six there was all this hype about how Jurassic Park was too violent, bloody and frightening for young children. I listened to these critics and when my husband wanted to take us to see the movie, I said no, stating the critics....yada, yada, yada--we went anyway. At the movie, I kept my innocent little cherub in my lap to protect him from the scary parts. Somewhere between the goat's leg on the windshield and the lawyer getting devoured on the toilet, my son said, "Mom, don't be scared it's just a movie.”
Dan is almost 12 now, and not my innocent little cherub anymore but he's turned out to be a pretty neat guy. The other day I said to him, "Hey Dan, how about we go see Barney when he comes? "He looked at me and smiled so sweetly and said, "Yeah right. You're funny." I brought him his grilled cheese sandwich; he gave me a hug and said "Thanks Mom.” As I was walking out of the room, I got that momentary warm feeling parents get when they've done something right.
Just then Dan yelled, "Hey Mom! Watch this! This is my favorite part, you know when the guy gets his head cut off? Look in slow motion!" Dan likes to watch The Braveheart battle scenes in slow motion. I always cover my eyes, but like the parents who endure purple dinosaur vertigo, I suffer through, peaking through my fingers to see that one look on my son's face: sunshine bursting--the creation of a miniature super nova of happiness.