Mr. Rogers


Something very Mister Rogers-esque about this short stop-action video of an Eleven O’Clock trolley trip, shot by the Eleven O’Clock Dad here in Barcelona. Don’t you think?

I loved Mr. Rogers, and I loved the beautiful tribute to him written by the amazingly articulate James Poniewozik of TIME magazine after Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer at age 74, back in 2003.  As Poniewozik points out, “Mister Rogers was softer than anyone else in children’s TV because so many of the messages he had to impart were harder. That your parents might someday decide not to live together anymore. That dogs and guppies and people all someday will die. That sometimes you will feel ashamed and other times you will be so mad you will want to bite someone. He even calmed fears that may seem silly but to a child are real and consuming — like being afraid to take a bath because you might be sucked down the pipes. Mister Rogers gently sang, ‘You can never go down/Can never go down/Can never go down the drain.'”

I swear one of the hardest things about mothering is knowing how to help your kids manage their reactions to the sometimes frightening (or just bothersome) realities life throws at them.  In fact, I suspect any one of them could come up with a short list in about ten seconds–that some friends’ priorities are different than yours; that feminine hygiene products NEVER want to fit right; that siblings go through confusing stages that can throw you for a loop; that parents do actually age.  And on it goes.

Fred Rogers had the proportions just right–equal parts straightforwardness and gentleness. Delivering a necessarily truthful message to a child, whether he’s five or fifteen, works so much better when it’s done with a soft touch.  Kind of cool to realize, so long after the fact, that Mr. Rogers was talking to the adult me–the one with four sensitive, delicately wired children–as well as the elementary-age me.  From the Neighborhood, he mentored us both.

Not many people you can say that about.

(Homeschoolers: check out John “melodysheep” Boswell’s very cool mash-up in collaboration with PBS–it’s an homage to Mr. Rogers. Also visit Boswell’s “melodysheep” channel on YouTube, where science gets digitally musical–and therefore a lot less opaque.)

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