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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

Open Sesame!

The content for the original Sesame Street is not suitable for young children. I repeat, Sesame Street is not kid-appropriate. I know! The Classic show we all think about as being the ultimate kid show, the classic reference point, what we all know and love and remember from growing up, and … now it’s not appropriate for our kids? I think we need to explore this a little bit more.

Let’s talk about all of the supposed faux-pas of our beloved Sesame Street: We have mood disorders (Oscar), hallucinations (Snuffleupagus), gluttony and eating disorders (Cookie Monster), and potential homosexuality (Bert and Ernie), and even inner-city poverty and slums. And this is, apparently, not appropriate for our youth. I dunno. I didn’t watch a lot of tv growing up (much to my husband’s chagrin) but Sesame street was definitely one of my few options when given the possibility to watch; and I think I turned out okay. Makes me wonder, perhaps are we now overly-sensitive to what our kids can and will be exposed to? It seems as though we are turning our kids into pillow-encrusted, technophiles with an inability to be exposed to anything potentially ‘different’ or unaccustomed. That doesn’t, though, seem like a setting that is going to appropriately prepare our kids for the real world which is full of diversity. Where is the lesson in that?

I have an idea. Why don’t we try this: instead of turning on the tv, send them outside to play. Give them a book to read. Or give them a box of generic non-kit legos to assemble … without instructions. Sometimes, a kid just needs to be a kid … without instructions. They need to live life and experience things outside of their ‘normal’ every day life; differences in backgrounds and experiences are amazing. Experiencing diversity is a learning experience. Seeing people of different skin colors and beliefs and habits is a real life thing, and something to be embraced, not avoided. Or adult-edited. Many of the things that happen on Sesame Street are real life things. I think this goes back to the ‘gritty’ kinds of experiences that kids have, and benefit from. Not every part of life can be one unified skin color and same socio-economic status. And happy. Sometimes imaginary friends are the only friends our kids have for a period of time; maybe you just moved to a new post and you haven’t yet had the chance to explore other playdate options. Having an imaginary friend can be a healthy way for a child to express themselves and to practice social skills. Maybe your child is going through a particularly grumpy stage (relax, it’s just a phase); does that mean he or she has a mood disorder? And tell me you haven’t had one too many cookies in one sitting at least once in your life. Okay, maybe you are a neater eater than Cookie might be but … that doesn’t mean he has a disorder.

Are we creating a generation of ‘softies’ who can’t handle the rough and tumble Sesame Street world? Let’s stop that right now. You know what our kids can do? Pretty much anything they want to. So let them see what is out there. Let them use their imagination and have friends that you can’t see, have a grouchy day, or meet people who room together and potentially have different preferences. Maybe even let them eat a lot of cookies (okay, maybe not every day). I am never going to suggest that watching tv is better than having an in-person experience, but I am also never going to suggest that having one’s experiences all be Pollyanna happy and Stepford-like would be beneficial, either. Crayola doesn’t sell boxes of 27 same color crayons, do they? Every color is beautiful in its own way. When topics come up – be they on Sesame Street or any other program, or in real life – especially those your child may not be familiar with or that you are uncomfortable with, sit down and have an age-appropriate discussion with them. At any age but especially as they get older, you can explain the different things about the topic that you know, maybe look up the things you don’t, and then you can leave it at that. You don’t have to give your kids your opinion; they are allowed to make their own, and it’s okay to believe different things. Super Grover would approve of this option. And this has been brought to you be the letter S.

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