The Worst of Kid TV

Caillou2__1375279128_74.134.205.46In the last post, I shared my favorite preschool TV shows. Keeping in mind that there’s far more bad kid TV than good, below is the list of shows that make my ears bleed and have me questioning my will to live before the opening song ends.

  1. Caillou (PBS). Hating Caillou is practically a group sport for parents at this point. There’s even an expletive-laden Facebook group dedicated to his demise. What is it about Caillou that every parent hates so much? How much time do you have? The theme song, the inexplicable baldness at the age of 4, the whining. My God, the whining. It is unceasing, but what’s worse is it WORKS. Caillou’s parents always cave to the whining, which is not something I want reinforced for 22 minutes on a regular basis. After two episodes, I flat-out banned Caillou. Now, whenever my son catches a glimpse of him in passing, he always says, “That’s Caillou, Mom. We don’t watch him.” I consider this my greatest parenting success to date.
  2. Wonder Pets (Nickelodeon). My son loves these little animals, but I groan every time he asks to watch the show. There’s nothing outright “wrong” with it; it’s just annoying. Ming-Ming is too full of herself; Tuck is always whining about needing a hug. The theme of the show is teamwork, but let’s be honest – there’s no way anything is happening without Linny. She’s clearly the brains of the outfit. Plus, they blew through all the normal animals in the first season, so latter seasons feature the Wonder Pets saving things like stinkbugs. Really, Wonder Pets? I’m pretty sure the world will be okay with one less stinkbug.
  3. Martha Speaks (PBS). So, the premise of the show is that a family’s dog ate some alphabet soup one day, and instead of it going to her stomach, it went to her brain and now she can talk. That’s it. Seriously. And it comes with the most annoying theme song of all time. Yep, worse than Caillou’s, and I thought nothing could be worse than that.
  4. Most of what we watched as kids. I’m not anal about it, but I do prefer if whatever kid shows we tune into try to impart some sort of worthwhile lesson. With that in mind, have you ever noticed how murder is an overriding theme in pretty much every old cartoon? Tom trying to kill Jerry, Coyote trying to kill Road Runner, Elmer Fudd trying to kill Bugs Bunny. There’s no way that stuff would fly on a new cartoon these days. Except maybe on Caillou. If they switched the plot so that every episode featured Rosie attempting to off Caillou in increasingly elaborate schemes, THAT would have parents on board. Think on it, PBS.

Batchelor-Approved Kid TV Shows

DTI know, I know, we’re not really supposed to give our kids screen time these days. We should be cultivating little Einsteins with an insatiable curiosity about life. Free time should be dedicated to learning letters and numbers and Pinterested science projects.

But sometimes, a mama needs a minute (or 22) to get things done (take a shower. Start dinner. Pound Sip a glass or two of wine.) We cut the cable cord awhile back, so all of our kid TV viewing is done through either the PBS Kids app or free streaming from Amazon Instant Video (we have a Prime membership. Worth every cent.).

So yes, I will willingly park my three year old in front of the TV when I need a break. I’m not a total deadbeat – I always watch an episode or two of any new series he wants to check out. What I’ve found is that most kid TV shows are barely tolerable (and a few are downright awful – but we’ll hit on those next time), but there’s a handful that we’ve come to love.

Here are our favorites:

  1. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (PBS). From the creators of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, this is everything a kid’s show should be. Informative, entertaining, non-grating. From trying new foods to potty-training, Daniel is basically the third parent in the Batchelor household. And just when I thought I couldn’t love him any more, he got a baby sister this summer. Now we have shows about making time for the baby and sharing with the baby and the timing just couldn’t be more perfect. Seriously, Daniel, I love you.
  2. Curious George (PBS). I’ve been a fan of Curious George since I was a kid. This latest iteration is a little less mischievous and a lot smarter than I remember from back in the olden days. But he cracks my son up, and that giggle is one of my favorite sounds.
  3. Backyardigans (Nickelodeon). I don’t think new episodes air anymore, but we log time with Austin, Tyrone, Uniqua, Pablo and Tasha through the power of the interwebs. The shows are chock full of songs, dances and imaginative play, and my son definitely expresses a boost in creativity after a little Backyardigans time. These also run pretty long for a kid’s show, allowing mama to maximize her toddler-captivated time (translation: you have time to shower AND shave your legs).
  4. Sid the Science Kid (PBS). Sid earns points for keeping it real. The shows take place at both his home and preschool every day, because both of his parents work. He’s also a curious fellow who wants to know how the world works and asks about a million questions (sound familiar?). But the show covers some pretty advanced topics (like how friction works) in a way that’s understandable.

So those are our household favorites. What’s tops on your TV?

The Messy One

Confession time: in my marriage, I’m the messy one. You see, I never close drawers all the way. Ever. It’s not that I mean to leave them all hanging open, I just don’t notice it. I grab a pair of underwear out and give a half-hearted shove of the drawer. What’s that? There are two pair hanging out, preventing the drawer from closing completely? Huh, never noticed. Jon, on the other hand, is fastidious about the closing of drawers. And folding, but that’s a whole other post.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? He’s neat; I’m messy – surely there’s plenty of fodder for regular arguments. But there’s one thing my husband chose to do early on that had a profound effect on our relationship. Do you know what Jon does when he sees an open drawer? He closes it. No nagging. No exasperation. No “leaving it open so maybe I’ll learn to close it myself someday” (i.e., hoping that I’ll change something fundamental about myself). He just takes the two seconds to close the drawer fully and moves on. Once, I asked him why he doesn’t nag. His response:

“It doesn’t bother me anymore. It used to; I thought you were just being lazy. But then I realized that you really don’t see it or notice it. I do, so I do it for you.”

This could’ve become a daily source of frustration for Jon. “Jennifer, you left your drawers open AGAIN.” It could’ve been a daily source of guilt/sense of failure for me. “I don’t mean to, seriously. I just don’t see it!” But my sweet husband, in his infinite wisdom, freed us from that exhausting cycle. And he sent me a very clear message – he accepts me as I am. He lets me be me, drawers ajar and all. As the spouse with the more annoying habit(s), let me vouch for what this will do for your relationship. Without the nagging, I don’t feel like a disappointment. In turn, I try hard to contain my messiness out of respect for Jon. This tiny little mutual kindness has paid dividends over the years.

This is not to say we have a perfect marriage and never have fights or get on each others’ nerves. Far from it. You can’t make every single life decision as a twosome without a disagreement, and you can’t live with someone for years and years on end without getting at least a little annoyed now and then. Did I mention I also am terrible at completely screwing the tops back on things? (Toothpaste, salad dressing, medicine. It can get messy. My mom actually thanks Jon on a regular basis for putting up with me.)

But we do our best to eliminate the temptation for daily nagging. We don’t get everything right (maybe even most things), but I’m pretty sure we nailed that one.

What little thing do you strive to get right every day in your relationships?

Opting Out

This week was supposed to be my first week back at work from maternity leave. Instead, I quit last Thursday and, for the moment anyway, am living the life of a stay at home mom.

For the record, this was never my plan. I liked the sense of accomplishment and independence that came with holding down a job and earning a paycheck. I liked having something tangible to reflect my hard work.

But things change. I changed. You see, I have a 12 week old daughter who likes to take her naps lying on my chest.  And I have a 3 year old son who likes to make up stories so that I can write them down and help draw the pictures to go with it. And to be honest, I’m tired of missing these things. Not just during the hours at work, but because I wasn’t my best when I came home from work either. Other people were getting the best of my attention, my creativity, my patience. My husband and my kids got what was left. And maybe that’s on me, for not balancing things better. For not having anything left in my tank when I came home at night. But in the end, something had to give, and it ended up being my career.

It’s not an easy choice, mind you. And it’s not just the immediate challenges of learning to live on one income and changing my mindset, either. I’ve read all the articles and studies about the damage that “off-ramping” does to your career and long-term earning potential. I’ve heard the calls to “lean in” and how important it is for women to pursue leadership roles in the workplace. I understand that I may be torpedoing my career with my choice. That’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes, when it’s just me and my thoughts.

But then my son asks, “Mom, can we snuggle?” Or my daughter looks right in my eyes and gives me the biggest grin. And I know that it’s this that I want to lean into. Memorizing the smell of the top of my daughter’s head. The weight of my son’s hand as it clasps mine. It’s not big stuff around here. Some days, it’s mind-numbingly little stuff.  But it’s fleeting, ephemeral – the good and the bad stuff. And for me, in this season of life, I just want to be here for the stuff.