If my toddler daughter has taught me one thing, it’s that Daddy Pig is a pompous asshole, Mayor Humdinger and his stupid cats are annoying, Madam Gazelle and her annoying “Ooooooh” makes my skin crawl, the original guy – Steve – from Blues Clues is a major creeper, Mr. Grumpfish needs to cheer the f*** up, and Elmo — with that voice of his — he can just go straight to hell.
Yeah, I get it. Some of these characters are supposed to be caricatures of annoying types of people we know. Some are supposed to be funny, redeeming, or just downright innocent. But for us parents with young children, these uninvited earworms live in our brains. Add a pandemic to this and the seclusion of being at home all of the time, they are pure torture.
When I get together with my girlfriends, oh, how the conversations have transformed from sharing stories of wilder times to now discussing how talented “Josh” is on Blues Clues, the latest antics at Bikini Bottom, and how the music on Bubble Guppies is actually pretty catchy. And yes, in those conversations too, Daddy Pig is still an ass.
But then there’s the smile these cartoons bring to my little girl’s face every single morning. One of her first words was “Peppa!” (or really, Bup-pah!). Her bath toys are the characters from Bubble Guppies, and our living room, which I swore to God before I had kids would never be strewn with kid shit, is now a small temple devoted to all of her cartoon favorites. When she wakes up in the morning and I ask her if she wants to have breakfast and watch her “cartoonies,” she lights up and the day starts out better than each day of my life before she was in it.
As parents, we all do things we promised we’d never do and endure things we never imagined we’d endure. We find ourselves very aware that we are living in a competing trichotomy of our own experiences: the immature people we were, the responsible adults we strive to become, and the living reflections of our own parents.
Yet, no matter how truly awful some of these cartoon characters can be, no matter how the mere sound of their voices make me wanna slam a handle of Titos, the joy they bring to my little girl reminds me how truly lucky I am to be in this cartoon club.
Kelli Smith, MBA, is a proud mother to four girls, wife to my best friend Kevin Smith, program director for local nonprofit cancer charity Life Is Good No Matter What, and lastly, she’s been a human resources professional for over 12 years.