Allow me to set the scene, fellow children of the 1980’s. Your living room. A shaggy, orange carpet. You’re in your favorite corduroy pants and turtleneck, a Cabbage Patch Kid clutched snugly in your lap. Mom is off doing her thing and you are watching television. The voice coming from the screen is soothing and he seems like he really gets it. He understands your little kid problems and he knows exactly what to say, so there you sit, mesmerized. That man is the one and only Mr. Rogers, and looking back, he paid us kids the kind of attention that simply was not expected of our parents at the time.
You may wonder why I am writing about Mr. Rogers today, so I will tell you. This video came up in my Facebook feed. It was posted today, in remembrance of his passing 12 years ago, by The Fred Rogers Company and Mr. Rogers recorded it only months before he died. Watch it and get choked up with me:
There is no show like this on television anymore. There simply isn’t. I think the reason why is that now, kids get that kind of constant and focused attention from their parents. In most ways, it’s a good thing, but I think our kids probably have less time to think and reflect on their own now. To absorb a message by themselves without us jumping in to explain it to them or color it with our adult perspective. I know when my kids were much younger, I made a point of watching TV shows with them and explained things as it went along. When I was a kid, I was usually watching TV by myself and I will never forget how it felt to sit there listening to Mr. Rogers spit the truth while my mom was around the house doing whatever it was she did while us kids were otherwise occupied and out of her hair.
Of course, our childhoods weren’t perfect and there are things our kids have that we never did. Nostalgia tends to color things in a way that we don’t see the flaws and all we remember is the good stuff. That said, I will always be sad that my kids didn’t have the solitude and independence that I had. Even if I do leave them alone, TV shows for children now are nothing like Mr. Rogers. Just a man speaking to children in words they understand, reassuring them that they are appreciated and unique for exactly who they are. It’s a message of love and acceptance that I don’t see on any of the programming aimed at young children now. The shows my kids watch now are more focused on entertaining them than comforting them and speaking to their hearts.
I also think that if my kids saw Mr. Rogers now, it would be white noise. I don’t think it would feel special to them at all, nor would it hold their attention. They already have me and their father listening to them and talking to them constantly, and I guess that’s a good thing. However, I still feel they could have benefited from daily alone time where they heard the words of a good and kind man, speaking directly to them in a way they can understand. I know it shaped me in ways I did not fully appreciate until I was grown with kids of my own. Thanks for helping raise me, Mr. Rogers. You did a pretty kick-ass job.
(Video: The Fred Rogers Company/YouTube)