Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In the night garden through the looking glass

So LGO and I are under house arrest this week. 'Tis the season of viruses galore, and ours probably isn't severe enough to warrant a stupid name. Really, what is plaguing our house is likely nothing more than the Common Cold. But I prefer to call it Wanda. Only when you're on first name terms does the duel truly begin. And Wanda, be warned. I've got Vicks on my side; I've got NeoCitron and enough Kleenex to wipe the floor with you! Wanda, be warned, I'm gonna kick your butt from here to kingdom come... As soon as I can get up off the couch.

It is tough enough entertaining a toddler at the best of times. But when you also feel snotty and sorry for yourself, the challenge seems insurmountable. What to do? What to do when he still only wants to eat crayons? What to do when his only interest in Lego is how far he can throw the individual pieces... I stacked blocks with him, then croaked through several story books. That killed about 20 minutes. Eventually I capitulated. I turned on the TV. Shock, horror, I know. Television is black death. Most experts tell you it will not only turn your kids' brains into pea soup, it will turn them into fat losers without hope of a job or a girlfriend, without hope of ever leaving that dented spot on your couch. It might be Russian roulette, but I'm willing to hedge my bets. I do try to regulate what and when our own little couch potato watches the Idiot Box. For instance, I am careful not to let it become a soundtrack to our days, even when they are spent indoors. But I'm not a fascist about it, either. Usually he watches about 30 minutes daily of Treehouse, plus one 'educational' DVD (Einstein or Bumblebee -- chicken or egg, they're much the same, and I won't speculate about which came first and ripped the other one off. I think Einstein have had enough embarrassment to last them their careers). Educational because the focus is on vocabulary. We don't watch the ones with a bunch of images set to a classical record since they wouldn't hold LGO's attention for a nanosecond. The Bumblebees show real kids doing real actions, with a voiceover that labels said actions. Don't get me wrong. The DVDs aren't a substitute for Little Green Mom. But they're yet another facet of learning and playing, I think. They're not a babysitter, although they do provide LGM with a vital mental break and LGO with a different form of stimuli. Personally, I don't see the detriment in that. Most TV, though, I would agree with the experts, is drivel. And kids TV is better than adult TV. At times I have found myself getting quite involved in a moralistic episode of Franklin, or wondering how The Backyardigans will sing their way out of their latest caper. LGO isn't interested in much programming. But when the Tube flickers to life, he does get that glazed, zombie-eyed look. He has always had a penchant for In the Night Garden. Another trippy British derivative much in the vein of Teletubbies. I don't fool myself into thinking there is anything remotely educational in the Night's content. But neither do its makers claim there is. It is pure, frolicking fun. A good lead in to nap- or bedtime, as it always concludes with each of the characters getting tucked into their respective beds for the night. The characters themselves are a queer assortment, queer in the weird sense, though I think the narrator is queer in the straight sense. He keeps saying, 'Isn't that a pip?' which must be some British idiom, although I've never ever heard it in my 11 years of living there.

So, for the cast and crew: You have a blue dancing fellow with a red blanket, who is normal enough despite being mute. His girlfriend is a Marilyn Monroe-type hussy, always lifting up her skirt for all and sunder, and kissing her boyfriend, said blue fellow. She doesn't say much either, other than her own name, which is probably all that can stay in her mind at any one time. Then there's this other strange creature, who does FA all day but blow a horn and push around a broken bicycle. He never rides the thing. Yet despite all that pushing, he still has the worst case of pear-shape you've ever seen. To make matters even more pitiful, he also has something like a stack of Krispy Kreme for ears and piled on top of his head. Actually, they are not donuts but rocks -- donuts are just wishful thinking on my part, probably subliminal -- rocks which he polishes every now and then. Yep, that's about all he does. That's his big contribution to the show. Aside from him, there is a miniature, pontifically robed family of ten. They are how I image the Pope's entourage under a microscope, cutely assembled in a miniature house where they all sleep head to head in their big red headdresses. All of this without even mentioning the lesbian triplets or the blimp thingamy that makes sounds like wet farts!

Who thinks up such shows, I mean, really? And where do they score their colourful assortment of hallucinogenic drugs? We tell our children JUST SAY NO, yet at the same time it seems we tell our programmers JUST A LITTLE MORE LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS, PLEASE. No matter. LGO loves the stuff. And the theme song is very mollifying if I do say so myself. I often find myself nodding off to it, stretching out in that boat 'no bigger than your hand' and lighting the little light. Here is the way to the garden in the night... It doesn't always have to be educational to be magical. And isn't the realm of the magical an essential part of fostering imagination? Isn't the realm of the magical one of the most precious and ephemeral parts of childhood? I see no problem revisiting the land of make-believe and gobbledygook through my son's eyes every now and then. I personally think it's healthy, not harmful. As long as he grows out of it, and off of my couch, by the time he reaches 30, that is.


  1. You are too funny! Gosh, I always have the tube on...am I terrible or what?!
    We get the Baby Channel from BBC....

  2. my kids love tv...drives me insane. It does give a little hush time though :O) Bad mama! They love me though!