Do you remember "The Elephant Show"? I remember it so well that I can sing the entire song and do the hand motions all without consciously thinking about it.
Aside from all that khaki and perms everywhere being seared into my brain, the feeling that resonates most when I think of "The Elephant Show" is love.
The funny thing is, treasured among my childhood nostalgia- the likes of TMNT, Ultraman, Anpanman, Nick at Nite, Ghostwriter, Wishbone, MMPR, I don't actually remember specific episodes or moments of "The Elephant Show" aside from the song and dance. In my brain, it's just three old hippies and an elephant running around and me as a kid feeling loved without having to ask for it.
And I was thinking about that.
If I can still recite the theme song to "The Elephant Show" even though it wasn't one of my favorite things, think about how important that means the things we watch and feel as a kid are to your emotional growth.
Amongst the violence and sadness of my childhood, I was still able to feel loved unconditionally in some sense, and reminded I have value, all because of kind strangers on TV.
As adults, we often poke fun at children's programming, but it may be one of the most important pieces of television programming we do. There are so many ways that we fail to reach the people who need us the most, but with shows like Mr. Roger's, Sesame Street, The Elephant Show, we still have a lifeline to telling a kid that, "Hey, your feelings matter. You're worthy of love. I see you." And if you really sit and think about it, that's kind of amazing.
It makes me want to apologize to Barney for laughing at all the jokes at his expense. Sure, it's cool when you're 12 to make fun of the purple dinosaur, but you don't know that at 37 you'll be awake at 4:30AM crying because you realized how much that fucker loved and saved you.
Just look at what happened when Steve from Blue's Clues sent that loving message out to his tv kids now adults. It's not that we're all too soft. It's that the world is so hard and lacking in love that we're all desperately clinging to any memory of feeling it. As we drown in cynical and shallow YouTubers and influencers, the need for formal children's programming is more apparent than ever. Less Jake and Logan Paul, more Mr. Roger's and Elephants.
This started as a post about the things I'm grateful for. It was going to be a list. But as soon as I sang the theme song to myself, I felt briefly safe, loved, and happy. And I realized that it deserves more than a spot on a list. I need to properly tell all the PBS, Nickelodeon, and Fox Kids tv that was there for me as a kid, thank you for speaking to me when no one else was. Thank you Mr. Rogers for celebrating my empathy. Thank you Oscar for letting me know it's okay to be a grouch and you can still be a good person. Thank you Sharon, Lois, and Bram for telling me everyday that I am and always will be worthy of love.