Ugh. Today did not go quite as planned. What I had planned was to spend the day writing brilliant masterpieces while Alison was at playschool. Unfortunately I realised that this wasn’t going to happen as I sat looking at the blinking cursor, two hours later. If I didn’t know better, I would swear it was mocking me.
My evening proved slightly more productive as I played with Ali in the garden, then it was off to the playroom for a game of princesses and puppies. However, I must confess that there are some evenings where I just slump on the couch and turn on Disney Junior. Even though I sit and watch the programmes with Ali, I still feel that I’m letting her down by not being a ‘hands-on, 24/7’ mammy. Yesterday was one such evening, and after I’d put her to bed, I could still hear the theme tune of ‘Sheriff Callie’s Wild West’ (Ali’s current favourite cartoon) coming from the sitting room.
When Ali was small, I was determined to make sure that she would rarely watch TV, particularly cartoons. I read to her, I did puppet shows, we always had books and toys strewn across the living room floor. My husband was amused by my mistrust of cartoons. I’m not a big telly fan, and I detested the notion of Ali being glued to the screen all day, when she could be learning through play.
And then the inevitable happened – my body went on strike. I was waking up every morning in extreme pain, every inch of me aching from the effort of getting on and off the floor, spending hours crawling around playing with Ali. One particular morning, I was in so much pain that I just plonked Ali in front of Peppa for a whole hour. She loved it but I felt like the worst mother in the world.
At just over two-and-a-half, Ali has outgrown Peppa Pig and now her favourite cartoons are Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins and Sheriff Callie’s Wild West. Many parents note that their children’s behaviour is worsened by watching television, but I’ve noticed the opposite with Ali. For example, Sofia the First, who becomes a Princess when her mother marries King Roland, is constantly learning that being a true princess is all about how you treat other people. Sofia’s kindness and compassion towards others is often contrasted with her stepsister Amber’s selfishness and superficiality. In one particular episode, she risks missing ‘The Princess Test’ to help old librarian Mrs Higgins home with her books. As it transpires, Mrs Higgins is Fauna the Fairy in disguise, who tested all the princesses’ generosity. Sofia also learns that it’s important to be loyal to your friends and to consider the feelings of others.
When Ali’s not twirling around like a lunatic, pretending to be a princess, she’s a Doctor just like her other idol, Doc McStuffins (doctor for stuffed animals and toys). Doc has a magic stethoscope that enables her to talk to her toys, which in turn helps her to diagnose her toys with illness such as ‘stickiosis’ ‘mysterypox’ and ‘novrooma-tosis’. Doc teaches us invaluable lessons (often through song), such as the importance of staying hydrated, washing our hands, brushing our teeth and staying safe in the sun. And the most important lesson of all – everyone gets hurt sometimes!
Ali’s favourite at the moment is definitely ‘Sheriff Callie’s Wild West’. Through Sheriff Callie and her companions, toddlers learn how to be nice and friendly (Callie is the Sheriff of ‘Nice and Friendly Corners’), that telling the truth is better than lying, that it’s okay to ask for help and that there is no need to be jealous of others, because each and every one of us is special and talented… in our own way. Deputy Sheriff Peck and his best friend Toby often need guidance from Callie; for example, Toby learns that pretending to be sick is not the best way to get attention in ‘Toby’s Untrue Achoo’ and Peck learns that appearances can be deceiving when Dr Wolf comes to visit him in ‘Peck’s Bent Beak’. Ultimately, the message is to be fair to others and to treat them as you would like to be treated.
I fear that this article illustrates that both my daughter and I are shameless telly addicts, and that indeed may be the truth. Yet I have to say that I really enjoy cuddling up on the couch with Ali, laughing with her and commenting on each programme. And every night, before Ali goes to bed, I sing her this little song, as sung to a teddy bear called Pickles by Doc McStuffins:
‘It doesn’t matter what you say or do,
It doesn’t matter if your eyes are brown or blue,
I’m gonna love you, because you’re you.’
I’m off to watch a little adult TV now, at last.