TV and Growing Up

The boys and I were on one of our trademark car rides the other day when a vivid memory popped into Jacob’s 3-year-old brain and he had to get it out. 

J: “I was at Grandma’s and I was playing with Play Doh on the table. And Bennett [his brother, 17-months-old] was trying to climb on the table and I was crying because he was hurting my feelings and he was ruining my life.”

Me: “Oh, really? He was ruining your life?”

J: “Yeah….What’s a life?”

Me: “…..”

Luckily, since I was by no means ready to delve into the concept of life, at least from a definitional perspective, Scooby Doo was playing on the seat back video player and the theme song for a new episode was just starting up. And again, fortune was shining on me, because it was an old episode with the original theme song that I still know word for word by heart as opposed to the new theme song that I don’t really enjoy. 

Quick aside: I actually tweeted about this recently. You might have missed it because my tweets get so little traction I might as well just text my thoughts to myself at this point. To paraphrase, I said that I’m pretty sure I’m late by about 10 to 15 years, but it’s really disappointing that they changed the Scooby Doo theme song. The original was perfection. That part where it breaks down and picks up pace in the middle (“You know we’ve got a mystery to solve so Scooby Doo be ready for your act, Don’t hold back! And Scooby Doo if you come through you’re gonna have yourself a Scooby snack! That’s a fact!”), pure brilliance!

Anyway, to change the subject I started singing along: “Scooby Dooby Doo, where are you, we’ve got some work to do now.” Somewhat surprisingly, my tactic worked as Jacob dropped his line of questioning and instead launched into a withering critique of both my singing ability and knowledge of the song lyrics. 

While I was busy ignoring him, I started thinking about Jacob growing up and all the big questions that are just starting to surface, but will certainly begin to come more regularly in the near future. Also, I was thinking about TV. Specifically, I was thinking that taste in TV is perhaps an under-appreciated indicator of child development. Before I get into this, I know that TV watching by kids can be a hot-button issue, but it is what it is. This is a judgment-free zone. And after all, if kids don’t watch TV, how are they supposed to learn how to fill their time when they grow up?

I had noticed that Jacob’s preferred TV shows had started to evolve in recent months. Before, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was his go-to show. More recently, his tastes have expanded: he still likes Mickey, but he’s really gotten into Paw Patrol, Scooby Doo, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example. As far as I’m concerned, this is a wonderful development. I’m not very familiar with Paw Patrol, although I have heard rumors that I can neither confirm nor deny that they are on a roll, but Scooby Doo and TMNT definitely take me back to my childhood. One show (TMNT) was the show I pretended that I watched in order to fit in with the other kids, and the other (Scooby) was the show I really liked. 

As it turns out, this early training in how to be a social chameleon paid off for me in a big way later in life when I first started corresponding with my future wife. Once, we were discussing what we did over the weekend and in order to seem normal, rather than say I sat home by myself and watched re-runs of The Andy Griffith Show, I said I went and saw the movie Iron Man with “some friends.” I even paraphrased a review I read of the movie to make it seem authentic. Even though this caught up to me a little bit years later when she asked if I wanted to see Iron Man 2 and I was like, “Why?”––it was too late for her at that point. Game, set, match, Andrew. Some people use glamorized profile pictures or embellish their careers, my strategy was to feign interest in mainstream movies and create imaginary friends.

What was I talking about?

Oh yes, TV and child development. Take home point: Your child’s changing taste in TV programs is an excellent window into their ongoing development as a person. Or something. If not that, then at least you get to hear them sing new theme songs, which is fantastic and can provide some surprisingly poignant moments. For example, J trying to sing the TMNT song always reminds me of, well, me singing along to, say, Ms. Jackson by Outkast. Basically, what we do is string together a series of sounds that roughly mimic the cadence of the verse and nail the last word of each line about a half second after it’s sung from the TV or radio. Then we really bring it home on the chorus. The father-son resemblance is so uncanny it sometimes brings a tear to my eye. They sure do grow up too fast.