We’re our way to where the air is (bitter)sweet.

The warning on the DVD box set of the first two seasons of Sesame Street: These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.

What?

What exactly are the “needs of today’s preschool child”? How are they so horrifyingly different than those of the preschool children we were in the ’70s and early ’80s? I ask myself that a lot, when I wander the city and see so many mothers (okay, more likely nannies) with their precious little snowflakes, their wunderkinds, giving them options and asking them how they “feel” and carting them around in the Hummer equivalent of strollers. (Like you seriously need to cart a ginormous black plastic thing into the grocery store? It’s D’Agostinos, not a war zone!) This generation of children has been growing up in a plastic bubble, with Baby Einstein and LeapFrog telling them how to read and how to think and how to be a go-getter, while their parents give them time outs instead of a slap to the butt. They’re taught political correctness from the safety of their homogenized neighborhood, from behind the rolled up windows of an SUV that never slows down in a “bad” area. They play on the Internet and on a PS2 instead of in a park or the woods. Yeah, okay, maybe old school Sesame Street isn’t the right thing for them.

Old school Sesame Street is for kids who played in the dirt, who drank out of creeks and industrial pipes, didn’t come home until well after dark — and lived to tell about it. For kids who liked it a little bit psychedelic, weren’t scarred for life by invisible wooly mammoths, and didn’t wonder why Bert and Ernie lived together without any parents around until we were a lot older and a lot more cynical.

I have friends who have kids and have all the gadgets and the Stuff. Play dates and nannies and open dialogue. (How do you have rational dialogue with a three year old?) And, whatever. More power to ’em, but I don’t get how sanitized TV, twenty thousand electronic ways to educate your child, and an insular life spent indoors is a better way to make a successful adult. Most of us in my generation didn’t grow up like that and we’re ambitious, creative, and relatively sane. Sesame Street didn’t leave any lasting damage. Oscar the Grouch didn’t make me a rage ball, though he did teach me that it’s okay to not be happy all the time. The Two-Headed Monster taught me words but also taught me that it’s okay to disagree. Cookie Monster certainly didn’t make me a glutton or a diabetic. It was one of the first racially (and puppetally) mixed shows I ever saw. I learned Spanish, I met Maria and Luis and Gordon. I learned a frog could be a newscaster if he wanted to be. I learned it was okay to be outside and to talk to strangers (nowadays they’re ALL child molesters, aren’t they?). And I’m still here. My synapses are all firing. Maybe I have a little ADHD, but I’m certainly not taking pills for it (that’s one of those things a mom or dad would just smack you on the butt for instead). I ran around on the playground, I skinned my knees, I was bullied and tormented and nobody ever said “sorry,” and my parents certainly didn’t sue. And I’m still here.

So, yeah, I don’t get it. Why are kids today so special? So fragile? So in need of protection from something as gasp dastardly as Sesame Street — and from the actual world around them?

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4 thoughts on “We’re our way to where the air is (bitter)sweet.

  1. I am first generation Sesame Street, thank you very much and I agree that today’s kids are being weakened intellectually and emotionally by their overprotective, frightened parents. These people take the time to birth the kid but not the time to raise them.
    It makes me heartsick as I was a nanny once. BUT, the upside is that my kid is raising my grandson to be a critical thinker and he’s active as hell at nearly three years of age. He’s self reliant and he knows that he toes the line or he gets ‘pow pow’ as we call it, to his bottom.
    We do reason with him and speak to him like he’s a being with intelligence which is more than I can say for a lot of parents who spend more time worrying aobut the ‘right’ clothes and accessories than they do their kid’s ability to think for themselves.
    Thus ends MY rant. Good show, kid. Good show.

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  2. I’m not saying a 2 or 3 year old can’t be spoken to like they have a brain. I almost NEVER use baby talk when I’m speaking to a wee one. I get frustrated when parents seem to think their wee one has *choices*. ‘Cause, I’m sorry, given a choice, the kid’s going to run rampant all over the store while you don’t pay attention. This does not make him an ambitious future MBA. This makes him an obnoxious little ankle-biter with no concept of boundaries.

    There’s definitely a line between critical thinking and no thinking. The same so-called parents who let the kid run rampant all over the store are the ones who don’t let them play and plunk them down in front of a computer to learn anything.

    My parents read to me and spanked when needed and *also* let me watch TV. I didn’t turn out so bad!

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  3. I can dig it. Remember the days when before you entered a store you got ‘the look’ which basically said, ‘If you eff up, you’re toast. That is all.’ That’s all it took, man.
    I was read to, I read to my parents, I played outside.
    I got dirty, I got in trouble, I avoided trouble…I had a feckin’ childhood for cryin’ out loud and we were privileged. It’s the parents.
    It’s the fear.
    I say “F” that, man. You’re the parent; you’re the boss.
    Look at us: relatively sane, intelligent women with a lot of sass and spunk.
    And a blog.
    Dangerous in some quarters.
    Harmless by and large, though.
    I really do dig your blog.

    I’m gonna talk it up the next time I post.
    Get you some traffic.
    Who loves ya baby?

    OOOOH, I’m gonna make lamb samosas on Saturday.
    If you like…I shall save you some (pre-fried) for your freezer.
    Lemmeknow.
    I’ve been craving.
    (I had a yen as my friend’s grandpa would say)

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  4. Hey, lamb samosas sound DELISH, dude. Tell me where to find you and I would gladly pick some up. (Sort of like a drug deal, except with yummy lamb goodness).

    We’re *relatively* sane women, yeah. Eatin’ a little dirt and getting out butts slapped didn’t hurt us any! :) And I appreciate any traffic you wanna send my way.

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