There is a new obsession that dominates our days, one which I swore I would never allow my children to take part in. While we were in France, we forgot that most restaurants don’t even open until 7pm–the hour where at home, we’re cleaning up after bathtime and everyone (including me) has put on comfortable elasticized pants. To reduce whinging in public, I put an episode of a cartoon on my iPod for Maggie. Then a few weeks later, forced by viral pestilence while Tom was in Munich, I downloaded the whole season to ensure that Maggie would stay. in. one. spot. please don’t move. while I prayed for Gatorade and a swift death.
It’s true. My children watch “Mickey’s Clubhouse” now.
This is a favorite of my nephew Owen, which is how I knew about it in the first place–we haven’t had cable in years, so I’m not really up on kids’ shows. As cartoons go, I find it quite a bit more tolerable than, say, “Dora” or “Blue’s Clues,” both of which I only know from my time babysitting in the early aughts. The nice part is that the show’s music is by They Might Be Giants, whose kids’ mathematics album “Here Come The 1-2-3s” is a huge favorite (sneaky math learning! Yay!) and includes the theme song and closing “Hot Dog!” dance.
Rare is the morning that Maggie doesn’t request starting her day with a “Hot Dog!” dance at breakfast. Moira puts such a wiggle in her Hot-Dogging that I can’t say no. Maggie is allowed one episode every few days and one or two on weekend mornings, and despite the initial introduction where the intent was to occupy Maggie’s attention while dinner came, here’s where I’m going to make the most whopping justification in the history of justifications:
Mickey talks to the kids. And Maggie answers.
Certain speech patterns of Maggie’s have flummoxed us; aside from a brief period when she was first learning to speak she has rarely repeated what we’ve asked her to repeat. There have been huge leaps followed by regressions (her loss of “I” in place of the third person “Maggie” or second-person “You” when referring to herself was particularly painful, but helpful in getting professionals to take our worries seriously), plateaus, and other social language difficulties. Maggie is incredibly intelligent and a capable spatial problem-solver, but you can see the frustration in her eyes when she tries to express herself verbally–you can see her chin jut and jaw work as the words sit at the back of her tongue but refuse to become speech. We are awaiting on a clinical psychologist to weigh in with an evaluation, but she’s begun speech therapy and a planned set of social activities at school to get her to dialogue and process questions effectively. Part of that is learning (or re-learning) how to appropriately answer questions. We have seen incredible progress.
And damned if Mickey doesn’t help. Watching “Mickey’s Clubhouse” is not a parental tune-out sort of activity. Oh no. It’s a fully interactive family event. Mickey reaches her in a safe way: a non-threatening, colorful animal who isn’t in her face, whose volume can be adjusted, and who is asking for simple things that she can answer without a lot of difficulty (especially if Mama and Daddy are there with the pause button to give her more time). It’s a confidence booster and she needs that now.
So. TV. The Disney Marketing Machine. It’s my last choice for an activity. It’s the most special of special treats. It bugs me that Moira’s here watching along. However, one of the more interesting aspects of raising a child that the Educators/Doctors That Be have determined is in need of extra assistance is that it is actually quite freeing: if it helps your child, whatever it is, even defying conventional wisdom about screen time/junk food/sleep habits/whatever the hell…you do it. Your child and you have gone off the path of convention, so embrace it. Do whatever it takes.
Right now, the siren song of “Oh Toooooo-dles!” and Mickey’s Mystery Mouseketools help. It’s such a small thing we can do for a little person who works so hard. So pass me my iPod…we’re going to do the “Hot Dog” dance again.