I came across the following video today and it started the wheels a turning…
Indulge with me a minute will you? There are a few pieces I’d like to chat about within this just one instance.
First, the power of kind words in the face of adversarial actions and attitudes. Second, the power of positivity, and highlighting confrontation in a healthy way.
It’s incredible to watch with your own eyes how the atmosphere and mood shifts while our friendly, confident Mr. Rogers gives his testimony. It was never really about the money, he doesn’t even mention politics at all. He highlights that the original budget for his show was $30, and later grew to $6,000. And you know why that support came in? Because it was beneficial for the children. And yes, his education was that of a minister – but you didn’t hear any religious agenda there either. It came down to the developmental aspects of children, and overall, being a good individual – who ever you were.
Now I get it. I don’t have kids. It’s easy to speak from an outside perspective when you don’t live it everyday. I hear you. I do. But as Senator Pastore did, listen a moment and give an alternate perspective a chance.
1969, I wasn’t even a thought. I was born in 1988 when Mr. Rogers neighborhood had already been on air for over 20 years (the original debut was in 1963, rebranded in ’66 and picked up by US network debut in ’69). My parents were born in the early 60’s – they grew up with Mr. Rogers and in turn passed it down to their kids growing up in the early 90’s. That’s your first point on recognizing the pattern.
It was my first introduction to George Carlin as well, and let me tell you – my mind was BLOWN many moons later when as a young adult I was introduced to his stand-up comedy. Same with Bob Saget, and Robin Williams. I wouldn’t say I was shielded as a child, I was guided along the developmental process until I was at an age or mental capacity to understand certain differences and accept them as appropriate or inappropriate. Essentially the growth pattern of learning right from wrong.
Growing up in the (late) 80’s and early 90’s we didn’t have the technology that is around today. With great power, comes great responsibility. My parents understood that there needed to be boundaries and while not always scheduled entertainment, a healthy dose of reality and fun that grew as we did.
Again, parents, I get it. I don’t have kids. I don’t see on a day-to-day basis how hard it is when one is literally in his underwear refusing to put pants on for the day banging the pot thats on his own head while the younger one is running a fever and you’re doing all you can to get her to take bottle and go the eff to sleep for 5 minutes. Technology is a reprieve. Hand the iPad so the screaming stops and you’ll figure the rest out later. I commend you – there’s a reason I’m 29 without children currently. I couldn’t imagine doing it.
I also can’t imagine being in or sending your precious clones of yourself, that you worked so hard to keep safe, to school at this moment in our history. We used to joke about it growing up, “oh there’s going to be a tornado drill tomorrow during school”. You know what my dad would reply? “ha, put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye”. This was before Columbine, before the DC Sniper, before the 9/11 attacks.
I got my first gameboy in probably my preteens. Before that, giant floppy disks that were the size of my head to play lemmings on the family computer. You almost had to know basic coding to get into whatever you wanted. Well before the days of youtube and social media. Our way of learning? Go outside and play. Ride your bike, break out the sidewalk chalk. Find the neighborhood kids to learn social cues, teamwork, and confrontation. Go on an adventure to find out what this 3-leafed plant is… okay, that one wasn’t so fun to learn but you know what? WE LEARNED.
You know who else we learned from? Family TV. When allowed.
Take a look back at the 80s and 90s television. There was plenty before that, and I’m sure some kind of similar to it now but peak 80s/90s. We had shows like Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step, Home Improvement, Sister Sister, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Boy Meets World. These shows that ran at certain times like on T.G.I.F that you watched together. They highlighted family, and that even though there are arguments, and differences of belief…. sibling rivalries, bullies, friends, poor choices…. There is a positive outcome for each one. Nothing fully ended in unanswered questions, it always came full circle. Your second pattern.
Every ending showed growth and how to overcome the roadblocks. That’s not to say that there weren’t knock down, drag out fights between family members, or friends watching friends make bad choices and not being able to control the outcome for them. It’s going to happen in real life, so why not portray it on TV and give an alternate outcome besides the anger ruminating deep down until it becomes something worse.
There’s so much bullying and attempts at “playful” picking in today’s shows that it’s not always monitored or talked about after. Television is seen as a supplemental educational tool and not followed through on fully. We need to be talking about the events that happened in the show, why this happened, why this wasn’t the right way and how it was fixed in the end. Leaving malleable minds to their own defenses is a recipe for disaster. We have to pay attention to the signs. I’m not saying any one of these is the underlying cause – I’m saying communication is one of the answers.
Parenting is even harder these days. It would seem from first accounts of teachers, that children are not as prepared for failure as maybe past generations were. Here comes the “everyone gets a participation trophy” speech, did I get some growing up? Sometimes yes, other times no. If I did, it was an end of year commemorative trophy. If I didn’t, Yeah I was frustrated about not being recognized, and did it make me work harder after? Most times!
The teachers in schools across America deal with helicopter parents, and threats about the kids they’re trying to mold into upstanding citizens – yet constantly have to worry about the security of their own jobs and providing the adequate developmental items needed in the classrooms. Education is the most important weapon in every amory. It’s become a sad slippery slope of “if my child doesn’t get this grade, they won’t get into this college”. Well, maybe your kid didn’t earn that grade and needs to put forth a little more effort? Ever think of that? I had to take plenty of tutoring for some of my grades growing up.
In middle school we did our first active shooter drill. I was in math class, our teacher turned off the lights, closed the door and we all hid under the computer tables/our desks as instructed by Principal Bannister on the loudspeaker and he told the teachers a knock would come and to stay quiet. It was the first of its kind at that school and you know what happened? Someone knocked on the door and the teacher opened it. If it had been the real thing, I hate to imagine if I would be here today. Now you hear the stories of teachers having to jump in front of their students, shield them with their own lives – it shouldn’t have to be that way.
I recall during the D.C. Sniper rampage that everyone was on the lookout for a shady white van, The high school went into lockdown once because an unattended van parked outside the cafeteria… it was a delivery van for the daily lunches… I still think the same thing today when I see one of those vehicles. You know what I don’t think about? Oh hey, see this rusty chevy caprice/oldsmobile looking car over here? Yeah, someone could have drilled out the trunk’s lock mechanism, put the back seat down and is waiting for an unsuspecting victim….. Media can be a powerful tool if used correctly.
I was lucky being the middle kid. How often do you hear that?! But I was, I had an older sister who got in most of the trouble first so I could learn and avoid situations if necessary. I also had a built in play-mate, and a giant backyard, with two big dogs. So my imagination was given ample space to run wild. If I wanted to turn that old dog into a horse for my barbies, here came Barbie and Ken on their horseback ride around the house. (in reality they were just shoved between the dog’s collar and neck hoping they didn’t slide out and get left behind). You know what else I did as a child? Barbie bungee jumping. Yup, attach string to the Barbie’s necks and hang them from the bunk bed. Did I know anything about hangings or suicide? NOPE. It just seemed the most logical way for them to bungee because I knew they were top heavy (because everytime I tied the string around their waist they dove head first) and I didn’t understand that real-life bungee, the rope is attached to your ankles, so you went head first anyway. Were my parents worried? Probably the first time they saw it, but when you ask a child a straight question, you get a straight answer.
If you’ll notice today’s twist on overcoming obstacles and bumping up against uncomfortable experiences – it all turns into a song. A quick 4 minute melody to remove the malicious feelings and replace it with triumph. Look at Glee, look at High School Musical, heck, look at the Disney Channel or one of my new favorite movies The Greatest Showman.
Music can be a powerful medium. But it doesn’t always touch people in the same way. It can’t just be sweeping the feeling under a rug, or masking it with a sick beat and beautiful harmony. You have to listen and pull the pieces together for your own needs. This is why understanding mental health is such an important piece of developmental growth. When everyone’s heads are glued to their phones, drowning out the experiences of life around them, it’s easy to miss the signs. Or even ignore them when highlighted as is the case with this most recent tragedy.
We’re all constantly learning – growth is not age restricted.
It’s become common place these days to immediately fire back from the comfort and anonymity of our technology screens. But maybe we all need a scheduled blackout to remember these 5 simple actions for our lives courtesy of Mr. Rogers:
1.) Slow down and be Patient
2.) LOVE people for WHO THEY ARE
3.) Everyone is a neighbor
4.) There is always a reason to help
5.) Treat others with kindness
What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?
What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?
It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:
I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.
Mental Health is no laughing matter, and it doesn’t always look the same. Be open and kind – you never know when you’ll have reason to help or to ask for help.
We can be an end to this horrible, tragic pattern. Through love, and acceptance of each other while also standing up for truth and justice. The Children speaking out are the change. Are you willing to stand up with them?