Monday, March 19, 2007

Confessing Member of the Mr. Rogers Cult


The greatest man I never actually knew.


I introduced Patience to Mr. Rogers today.

I don't know what took me so long. But it was definitely the right time because after watching one episode, she was hooked.

"More," she demanded.

Mr. Rogers is the iconic cult leader for children like Patience. He's sensitive, quiet, calm, touchy-feely, wise, and perfectly brilliant because good grief charlie brown, he's the exact grown-up Patience would design, right from her very head, if she could.

He's very into make believe. And so is Patience!

He likes to learn how things are made and how things work. And so does Patience!

He's not into busy, loud, crowded, flashing, fast, or crazy. And neither is Patience!

He likes animals. As does Patience!

His house isn't sensorily overwhelming but is full of interesting things. Who wouldn't want the magic picture or trolley through the house? It's the Patience dream house!

As I watched the show I haven't seen in years and years I was suddenly struck by the knowledge that Mr. Rogers is largely responsible for many of my beliefs, morals, attitudes, and well, frankly, much of the way I am today.

As you would expect me to, I carefully analyzed the show as we watched it today and identified key characteristics of the show and Mr. Rogers himself to see how I---the grown-up---measured up. I was pleasantly surprised.

Little editorial aside: I also think Dr. Sears owes some credit or royalty to the Rogers foundation (if there is one).


Here's what I found:

1. Sing a little made up song, often.

Oh yes. I admit it; I do this. Every member of my family---pets included---has a unique theme song. Words and lyrics by moi. I frequently sing. Badly, but uniquely and entertainingly. They'd show me on American Idol auditions, no doubt. I'd be right between Greek Girl and Bad Hair Guy. Luckily, I'd never be foolish enough to believe my singing would impress anyone. That doesn't slow me down one bit, though. I sing about laundry, dishes, children, aggravation, and so forth. I suppose you could call my style traditional bard/folk.

2. Remove your shoes and clothes and get as comfy as possible as soon as you walk through the front door.

Absolutely. Basket for shoes right by the door. Slippers directly next to it.

In fact, don't stop with shoes. Remove anything uncomfortable and binding and revert to PJ state as quickly as possible.

3. Look around and assess the surroundings while talking out loud about what is going to happen next.

I got into this out loud habit for Patience, who transitions very hard. I keep up a running commentary of where we've been, what we did, where we are going, what we are doing, and put it all into a timeframe she understands. It's not that hard; I just do out loud what my brain does anyway.

Hey, who doesn't like an agenda?

4. Quote liberally from the new age-y warm fuzzy book about accepting one another, acknowledging feelings, accepting feelings, and in general, living an "I'm okay, you're okay" life.

You bet.

Until it comes to driving, you know, on the road with other people. In which case, you? The other driver? You are so not okay, and my feelings towards you? Are so not warm and fuzzy.

However, out of the car, with my children, people around me probably gag out loud (but I can't hear what with all my constant talking) to hear me all the time with, "Let's name our feeling, not use mean words. Do you feel disappointed? Yes? I can understand that..."

And you already know my stance about love your sisters in the world and your brothers too.

5. Give positive, but sincere, strokes to others.

Absolutely.

Based on my own non-scientific anecdotal study, I say adults get about 1 positive comment for every 10 negative ones. If you are a parent, it changes to 1 positive comment for every 50 negative.

Therefore, I seize every opportunity that occurs to me (abstract survey rough estimate=38.6% of the appropriate and available times) to offer positive feedback to other adults. Silence indicates I can think of nothing nice to say, and is not included in the estimate for missed opportunity.

Abstract survey rough estimate for children=56.2% of the time after averaging number of positive comments and negative comments (which roughly balanced)

In other words, I do my level best to be nice out loud when I can.

6. Indulge in wonderings, ponderings, and make-believe.


Every single morning that I wake up and say, "Today will go smoothly and be a good day!" is indicative of just how much time I spend on make-believe.

Joking aside, I'd guess that I spend a great deal of time on all three of these. Some vignette, in a restaurant for example, will catch my fancy and it will all start with wondering and end with a completely fictionalized account of an event. Or, I'll direct it towards myself and imagine myself as something else, or imagine other people imagining me.

I encourage my children to follow suit in this magical thinking/Walter Mitty style imagining. Patience is very adept.

I don't think the Party Warehouse guy will ever recover from the time when he mistook her for a child wearing a cat costume instead of understanding she was an actual cat in that moment. You do not know the hairy eyeball this child can spear you with.

Like Mr. Rogers, were Patience and I to ever tour a factory where they made umbrellas, we'd both wonder if the workers ever wondered about the people who would carry the umbrellas. (Then the been-around-the-block part of me would snort, "Yeah, like these people care. They are balancing their checkbook mentally, like any responsible grown-up would. Not engaging in flights of fancy about other people under an umbrella." Then the Rogers Devotee part of me would protest, "No, really, someone might, you would! Wouldn't it be nice if it was all true and we really did live in such a content, happy and wondering world? It could be!")

7. Like to live in our neighborhood, where we know the people, their business, vice versa, and spend some quality time shooting the breeze with folks.


That's one of the best aspects of where we live.

8. Use a kind, calm and gentle voice and manner.

You know, I think loud and dramatic people have a place in this world. I really do. And as one of them---maybe even their spokesperson---I think we are occasionally harshly judged. Someone has to live with a fire under her ass in this day and age.

Although Patience and I both fell into a soothed, trance-like state under the quietly nurturing voice of Mr. Rogers...I'm not sure either of us could manage to live it, or with it, for much longer than 25 minutes. I can't tell you how much I admire and enjoy it while it is going on, but let's be honest: we can't all be Mr. Rogers.

9. Talk to animals, puppets, imaginary friends, stuffed animals and, all in all, anthropomorphize inanimate and nonhuman objects.

I think more of me than is necessary still worries just a tad about the feelings of a stuffed animal. And don't even get me started about books. They are our friends. They want us to like them, not tear them.

And this blog? I'm still not convinced that you all are not figments of my imagination (which I've already admitted is quite vivid). Luckily, either way, it's all good. Mr. Rogers said so.

What you really ought to know is that sometimes? When I talk to the animals? They have been known to talk back.

No, I do not need to up my meds.

If you pay close attention animals can really communicate.

And anyway, (a) Shakespeare says to keep an open mind and (b) Mr. Rogers says to keep an open heart.

10. Live a life that is so fabulous that at the end you do not sit and cry to the heavens, as Henri-Frederic Amiel did, "Is all my scribbling collected together- my correspondence, these thousands of pages, my lectures, my articles, my verses, my various memodanda- anything but a collection of dry leaves? To whom and for what have I been of use? And will my name live for even a day after me, and will it have any meaning to anyone? An insignificant, empty life! Vie Nulle!"

I can only hope to be a pale shadow of Mr. Rogers and all the good that he did. I have no doubt that he was not perfect, but he certainly contributed more than we can probably quantify in the way of benefitting children in the world. Just look at me, today, realizing that---all my humor aside---he really did shape how I think of so many things, and I mean that in a really good, and appreciative, way.

How amazing that his show is still on for my daughter.

I hope she gains a little bit of wonderful from it---both directly from the show and indirectly from me, a confessing member of the Mr. Rogers Cult.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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11 comments:

IzzyMom said...

I liked Mr. Rogers, too. He was always so soothing to watch. And it was such a bummer when he died...

kim said...

Love the analysis.

"we can't all be Mr. Rogers."

I asked my son (he was five then) why he was acting so mean and he said to me "I'm not Jesus you know"

Mayberry said...

Blogger just ate my comment, but I am taking it in stride.

Loved this. I once saw Mr. Rogers speak at a conference and he absolutely mesmerized a huge auditorium full of adults. Touchy-feely adults like me and you, but nevertheless, he was charming.

Lady M said...

Interesting figures about positive vs negative comments. 1:50 is so extreme. I'm going to be more conscious of spreading around good will!

Mama Chaos said...

I love Mr Rodgers. LOVE him. We've recently started watching the reruns in the afternoon, so many good memories. :)

boogiemum said...

I used to love Mr Rogers. I didn't realize the show is still around. I will have to search the schedules and see if I can locate and share with my boys. Thanks for the wonderful post!

jen said...

this is all fantastic. i think there is indeed, a little rogers in all of us (waiting to come out, perhaps) but there.

you are so good. so.

Mad Hatter said...

This was lovely, Julie. Mr. Rogers has never really been a presence up here but we had Mr. Dress-up and The Friendly Giant for decades. Those 2 shows, I am certain, did more to shape mores in Canada than just about anything else.

Sorry to be so long away but work was insane for a couple of weeks and I had to cut back. I did keep up on my reading but not always on my commenting.

BTW, have you seen this post: http://andshewrote.com/2007/03/14/one-less-state-mandating-gardasil-shot-texas-house-votes-on-bill-to-make-gardasil-shots-voluntary/

kaliroz said...

Oh, Mr. Rogers.

I loved that show. I continued watching it well into high school just because, well, he was Mr. Rogers.

My kidlet really likes him too. For a while she called him the "Friendly Guy".

Julie Pippert said...

We need a handshake (can't be secret! no excluding!) and buttons, t-shirts, or something. ;)

Thanks, fellow fans.

P.S. Izzy, was actually really sad when he passed. I did get his book for grown-ups, his words of wisdom.

Mary-LUE said...

I saw an episode of Candid Camera several years back. They were putting broken televisions in hotel rooms during Critic's Week in Hollywood. I guess all the tv reviewers come into town and they pipe in all the new shows for review.

Mr. Rogers happened to be in town for something else and Mr. Funt (the son, not the original guy) decided to pull the gag on him also. Now, all the critics were completely freaked out (rightly so, to a certain extent--it was for their job after all) but when the Candid Camera guy apologized and told Mr. R. that the TV wasn't working, he just said it was fine, no problem, etc. So, Mr CC tries to get some sort of response. We are out of TVs... We can't get you another one, etc. Well, Mr. Rogers was just so polite and kept saying it didn't mattter, he doesn't really watch much TV, etc. Finally, Mr. CC breaks character and tells him it is Candid Camera and Mr. R. is all smiles and graciousness...

(I think this story is losing something in the translation.)

Anyway, it was so evident that Mr. Rogers was the same in real life as he was on his show and I loved that. It made me even sadder when he died. He was a special man.