Monday, December 15, 2014

a cool cat

I do not like cats.

Now, I realize that I’m alienating about half of my readership when I say this, but people, I have to be real. Your cats creep me out.

All of them.

Even the ones that you tell me are pretty much dogs. That doesn’t help at all.

Why? Because I’m scared of them. I don’t trust them. I think that they might scratch or bite me. Or hiss at me. And in my book, being hissed at is just as bad as being scratched or bitten.

So the other day, a very scary thing happened in our home. I asked Harriet which she liked better – dogs or cats. She answered instantly, pretty much before I even finished my sentence.


Okay. After I wrote “If My Child Marries Yours,” lots of people accused me of trying to force my children into a box, of trying to mold them to fit certain ideals. Those accusations were off base. I try to be very open and cognizant of the fact that my children’s lives may look a lot different from mine.

Except when it comes to cats. 

And here’s why…if my kids have cats in their homes, I will be afraid every time I’m there. Those of you who have cats and know me personally are now thinking, “Is she scared when she comes to my house?”

The answer is yes. A little bit, yes.

And you’re probably also wondering, “Does she hate my cat?”

The answer is no. I love that you love your cat. I love that you and your cat are friends. But the positive feelings pretty much stop right there. And for the record, it's totally okay if you don't like my dog. Oftentimes, I'm right there with you.

So when Harriet told me that she liked cats better than dogs, I tried not to panic. Instead, I cocked my head to the side, masked my panic with curiosity and asked her a question, “Why, honey?”

“Dogs have sharp teeth. Cats are nice.”

I thought for a moment, tried to control my bad mom impulses…and then immediately googled “hissing cat” on my phone.

I showed her a picture of a horrid looking cat baring scary (probably poisonous) fangs.

Crisis averted.

But there is one cat that has survived her change of heart. One cat...and a pretty cute one at that...who has stolen her heart, and for the most part, I'm okay with it.

His name is Daniel. Daniel Tiger.

Those of you who don't currently have toddlers may remember the original Daniel Tiger from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. PBS has recently revived this little guy and the rest of the characters from the Land of Make Believe. And this time around, they're supercharged with bright colors, catchy tunes, and lots of valuable life lessons.

Wow. PBS should pay me for that plug.

But seriously, Harriet has learned so much from Daniel and his little songs, such as "when you have to go potty, stop and go right away" and "when something seems bad, turn it around, and find something good." Drop offs at Sunday school are a dream because of the trustworthy lyrics, "grown-ups come back." And when Harriet has trouble sharing, I just have to sing the simple tune "You can take a turn, and then I'll get it back" for her to have a change of heart...well, most of the time.

In the beginning, I wasn't a big fan of Daniel Tiger. He and his parents were a bit too perfect for me. It drove me crazy how his friend Katerina throws "meow meow" at the end of every sentence. And I was annoyed by the fact that Miss Elaina's clothes are on backwards. I even googled "Why are Miss Elaina's clothes on backwards?" more than once. I still can't figure that out. But I did really like one character named O the Owl - the anxious, slightly chubby bookworm.

Go figure.

Harriet dressed as Daniel Tiger while watching Daniel Tiger...and eating candy...and apparently drinking coffee?
It didn't take long for the rest of the characters to grow on me either. And when Daniel's mom had a baby around the same time Gus and Louie were born, I found myself incredibly thankful for episodes focused on concepts like "when a baby makes things different, find a way to make things fun" and "there's time for you and baby too."

Harriet has all of these little songs memorized and brings them out when she needs them. Before getting a shot at the doctor's office, she sang, "Close your eyes and think of something happy." And I've used Daniel's tunes too. When I want to help her become more independent in one area or another, I sing, "Try to solve a problem yourself and you'll feel proud." And when I see her getting frustrated, I'll sometimes use, "When you feel so mad and you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four."

But then.

All of a sudden my daughter and this cute little tiger started teaming up against me. Now when I tell her I'm feeling frustrated with her behavior, she insists on doing the little song and dance "When you feel frustrated, take a step back and ask for help." And every time she wants me to eat something gross...which is far, far too often...she'll sing "You gotta try new foods cuz it might taste good." On more than one occasion, I've wanted her to wear something specific and she's insisted on her red jeans and red shirt. So she brings out the classic "Dress up any way you choose. Find a way that's right for you."

Well, can't argue with that, right?

Here's one that happens all the time because Harriet is highly skilled at stalling...especially when it comes to bedtime. "Hurry up," I'll say. "I'm not going to wait for you to build that tower...or put that baby to bed...or make a tiny mark on that piece of paper with each of your 165 crayons." And she'll remind me that Daniel says, "When you wait, you can play, sing or imagine anything." I mean, what am I going to say? "Oh! Well, in that case, I'll just chill right here and imagine you're going to bed."

I don't think so.

Yesterday, she was playing with my mom and I tried to join in. She sang "When a friend doesn't want to play with you, you can find something else to do." Oh...message received.

She wore this to my grandpa's 102nd birthday party.
Sometimes Harriet amazes me with what she learns from Daniel Tiger. The other day she told me I needed to have empathy. I asked what empathy is and she sang "think about how someone else is feeling...maybe you can help them feel better." Wow. My two-year-old understands empathy.

I don't think Harriet watches a crazy amount of TV. But some days I still feel guilty about plopping her in front of the screen so I can feed her brothers, take a shower or whatever. A social worker friend reminded me the other day that no one has ever come to her for counseling stating that they are struggling with the traumatic aftermath of watching too much TV as a child. Good point...and if she's going to be watching something, I suppose Daniel Tiger  isn't such a bad choice. We were going to take her to her first movie at a theater for her birthday, but the only cartoon available had machine guns in it. Machine guns in a kids' movie. Mind boggling. Watching that crazy trailer made me like Daniel even more.

You know what else I like about Daniel Tiger? It brings me back to the days when I was three or four, watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. I loved that guy. So many of us did. And why? I mean, it's kind of weird, isn't it? He was an older, kind of boring man with a monotone voice. The show moved at a snail's pace. The colors were muted, the set was dull, and the music was simple. But you know why I think we loved him?

Because he was gentle.

In fact, he embodied gentleness...something that children don't often get enough of. Something that my daughter didn't get enough of from me today, in fact. Is there a time to be tough? Yep. In fact, there are lots of times when we need to be tough. But there are also lots of times when perhaps gentleness would be just as effective...if not more effective...than toughness.

I'm learning that this week. From Mr. Rogers...and his little tiger friend.

Daniel and a few of his buddies hanging out with the fam in front of their new digs. And yes, that is a custom-painted Murphy figurine. 

If you have a few minutes, check out my "Won't you be my neighbor?" board on Pinterest. It's full of fabulous Mr. Rogers quotes that will change the way you interact with the children in your life.


  1. Ha!!! I love that Harriet is using Daniel Tiger to have things HER way, now!! Fighting fire with fire!! I have never seen DT, but I'm sure the day is quickly coming when I'll have to check it out! He certainly sounds less obnoxious than my cartoon/storybook arch-nemesis Curious George...cannot STAAAANNNNNDDDD that bratty monkey. Ugh.

  2. Um, we are the same parent with the same child. I could have written this post WORD FOR WORD. I'm not even kidding. The one way it's backfired for us is she has turned around the sharing song, so now if she wants Charile's iPad (to watch Daniel Tiger!), she sings "first I'll take a turn, and then you'll get it back."

    HA, not a chance kid.

    I love that show though. Love it. :)

  3. Ugga mugga, Daniel.

    I grew up rubbing noses with my mom on a frequent basis thanks to Daniel and Mr. R. This show will be part of our home with little Olly Man. :)

  4. I never heard of Daniel. I think my twenty month old may like this. Great post. And I'm not a fan of cats either for the same reasons you listed. Have a Merry Christmas.

  5. She is a hoot! I've heard lots of moms rave about Daniel Tiger and we've turned it on a few times. But my kids, and I too, haven't gotten into the show yet. Maybe we aren't giving it a fair shot. I'll have to try again because the catchy tunes are pretty great - even if they get turned back around on us occasionally. :)

  6. I have to admit that I'm not well versed in all things Daniel the Tiger... nor do I remember him from Mr. Rogers. Weird? But I love that Harriet likes kitties because of Daniel (woo! point for Team Cats). I still find it hilarious that your solution to Harriet liking cats was to show her a terrifying cat on your phone. Kind of cracks me up. My mother in law is the same way. She acts like my precious, fluffy, furball of a cat will leap straight across the room and sink fangs into her. I never knew people were afraid of cats until Sam and I started dating. I bet Everest could change your mind... you've obviously just had awful cats in your life. : )

  7. I adore this post. I laughed through the whole thing. We are always singing the potty song from daniel tiger in our house, potty training my two year old. I am new to your blog after reading "If my child marries yours". Love it !

  8. I loved mr. Rogers growing up and looked this show up and saw that it is on netflix, yay! We have watched two episodes so far and my son is hooked! I love the great lessons they learn rather than in so many kid shows there is violence or mischief that is condoned. Thanks for this and I enjoy your blog!

  9. That Tiger rules in my mind. I'm forever trying to get my 2 year old to choose Daniel over Curious George or Thomas the Train. He always learns something useful and amazing from Daniel & Friends. I learn something too, most of the time. I feel least guilty about letting him watch shows when it's Daniel. He also has his own "Tigey." And I suppose the Mr. Rogers nostalgia isn't lost on me either, not even slightly actually.

  10. We love Daniel Tiger too. My 2 yr old always rubs my nose (along with our pets and her toys) with hers and says mugga mugga!

  11. Ok, I'm still laughing at the customized Murph figure. I know that's not the point, but it's just... too funny! And that girl with her red. I love the sweater accessorizing the sassy tiger look. XO to you all.


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