My First Huge Failure as a Parent

August 25th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  16 Comments

elmoSpeaking of solipsistic television personalities, I have a confession to make: My daughter, Sasha, despite all my efforts to keep her unaware of his existence, has fallen in love with Elmo.

This actually began several months ago. We’d be walking down a street and pass a toy store, and she’d see him in the window, wearing a leather biker jacket or just his plain old magenta fur, and she’d squeal “Elmo!” I don’t even know how she learned the name. Perhaps from her diapers? No, we never told her the Muppet’s identity. Maybe from school or at a playdate—who knows?

However she learned of him, Elmo is lodged in her consciousness. One of Sasha’s first complete sentences, in fact, was “It’s Elmo!” Ah, the elation, the defeat! Emphasis on defeat, for we’ve now given ourselves over to the fuzzy preschooler. Sasha now owns “The Best of Elmo” on DVD, and watches it with the kind of rapt attention she usually reserves for, well, nothing else. It’s like Ritalin for toddlers.

I try to look on the bright side. Sasha now recognizes Ernie, Cookie Monster, and, with surprising difficulty, Big Bird. (Come on, it’s a 7-foot yellow bird, a big bird, right, Sasha?) And she as yet possesses no Elmo toys, though I imagine the demands will arrive one of these days, screeched on the F-train as she spies another child with the Tickle Me edition. And then we’ll see how well I hold up.

Why do so many of us hate Elmo so much? I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it’s less the gratingly high-pitched voice and the tendency to refer to himself in the third person. Or maybe the latter is a symptom of what makes Elmo so distasteful to me—his utter narcissism. In the Sesame Street world, everything revolves around the feelings and desires and talents of this overly cute little Muppet. Everything. Elmo hangs out with the stars (e.g., Julia Roberts) and is a genius painter whose masterpieces everyone covets, and fantasizes himself as the greatest tap-dancer who ever lived, and when he writes a song, he calls it “Elmo’s Song”:

  • This is the song—la-la la-la—Elmo’s song.
  • This is the song—la-la la-la—Elmo’s song.
  • He wrote the music,
  • He wrote the words.
  • Thaaaat’s El-mo’s sooooooong!

Worse is when he invites Snuffy and Big Bird to sing along, substituting their own names for his. It seems natural, but then at the end they all wind up back to using “Elmo” and showering praise and attention on the creature, at the same time demeaning their own abilities. “I wish I’d thought of that,” says Big Bird, not at all sarcastically. It’s Elmo’s world—they just live in it.

Perhaps the worst part of this DVD (which Sasha only gets to watch once a day, at most) takes place near the end. Having given away all but one of his masterpieces, Elmo is confronted by a Honker who feels slighted at not receiving one himself. But, Elmo worries, if he gives the Honker the painting, what can he deliver to the Monster Art Show? He asks the “audience” for advice, and finally determines that the feelings of a friend are more important than the gallery show. Good! But as soon as the painting’s in the Honker’s hands, the mood turns again—now Elmo’s sad! Oh no! The little monster can’t go two seconds without maundering about his own circumstances. I hate him.

But I suppose my efforts to hide him from Sasha were all in vain, as are most attempts to shield our children from the realities of the world. And in the end, it probably doesn’t matter. After all, as a kid, I wasn’t allowed to have G.I. Joe toys, and look how I turned out.


  1. Seattledad says:

    August 25th, 2010at 10:02 am(#)

    Great post Matt. We had the same thing happen to us, absolutely no exposure at home, but came home from Daycare with an Elmo obsession.

    It was with the Chicken dance Elmo. You think regular Elmo is annoying, get one of those.

    It’ll pass after several months though. Good luck.

  2. TechyDad says:

    August 25th, 2010at 10:04 am(#)

    I mainly resent Elmo for taking screen time from other characters. I can’t hate his voice, though, as Kevin Clash used the exact same voice for Baby Sinclair on Dinosaurs. I half expect Elmo to hit Big Bird with a pot while screaming “Not the momma!” only to get tossed across the room, slam into a wall, get up and exclaim “Again!”

    Plus, Elmo might be bad, but it could be worse. She could like Barney or Teletubbies or (*shudder*) Boo Bahs.

  3. fotodad says:

    August 25th, 2010at 10:05 am(#)

    It could be worse. Can you say Barney? The oversized, over jolly purple dinosaur! “I love you, You love me…La La La La La

    Rock on Elmo!

  4. Matt says:

    August 25th, 2010at 10:12 am(#)

    Very true, guys, it could be much, much worse. And actually, I need to use this as a springboard to get Sasha interested in other Sesame Street characters, like Ernie and the undisputed master of Muppet comedy, Grover:

    In fact, we’ve got a vintage (i.e., never thrown away) Super Grover doll lying around here somewhere. Better find it fast!

  5. Marty says:

    August 25th, 2010at 10:44 am(#)

    We don’t like Elmo in our house either. One thing to consider is the Classical Baby series. It’s just classical music and cartoons of art work. While it’s fluff, it’s our toddler crack that helps soothe him no matter the mood.

  6. Didactic Pirate says:

    August 25th, 2010at 10:46 am(#)

    I’m with Fotodad. Elmo is by far the lesser of several evils. If I had to choose between being trapped on an island with Elmo, Barney, The Teletubbies or Dora the Explorer, I’d go with Elmo in a heartbeat. Any of the others would have me reaching for that shotgun with the one bullet left.

  7. scottstev says:

    August 25th, 2010at 11:50 am(#)

    I can’t tell you how much of a mindf**k it was to see Mr. Noodles as horrifically heartbroken man in Rachel Getting Married. I half-expected an unseen chorus of children screaming “No, that’s not how you mourn!”

  8. Matt says:

    August 25th, 2010at 11:54 am(#)

    @scottstev: Are you sure that wasn’t his brother, Mr. Noodles?

  9. Chris Rugen says:

    August 25th, 2010at 3:20 pm(#)

    Our little girl turned into a frilly pink-loving princess around 2 y.o. She knows all of the Disney princesses by name, all in spite of our efforts and having only ever seen Cinderella. Eventually, we realized that this is just reality and you have to learn to roll with it a bit. She’ll watch Miyazaki’s ‘Totoro’ or Baryshinkov in ‘The Nutcracker’ too. As things progress, we just try to keep her mind open to a diversity of options, rather than lock it down to only the ones we choose, which is fruitless anyway.

  10. ZenKimchi says:

    August 25th, 2010at 10:24 pm(#)

    No G.I. Joes? Tell me that you at least had Transformers. Every kid should at least have an original Optimus Prime with his legs broken off.

  11. Dan says:

    August 26th, 2010at 2:03 am(#)

    wow this is interesting, We’ve had one elmo board book so far in our 25 month old’s life, and it was amazing how quickly she responded to him. That was months ago and it only lasted as long as the book was in front of her.
    For better or for worse, the only videos -so far- over which our little one has had the opportunity to obsess has come from youtube –
    So now when the computer is near, she yells for “head shoulders knees and toes” or “i like the flowers,” or boney m.’s “daddy cool” which might be worse than elmo

  12. Matt says:

    August 26th, 2010at 9:45 am(#)

    @ZenKimchi: I definitely had Transformers—lots of ’em. And I don’t think my parents realized that Hasbro, those war profiteers, produced both Transformers and G.I. Joe. Oh well!

  13. TechyDad says:

    August 26th, 2010at 10:46 am(#)


    Yay! Another Grover loving father. When I was growing up, I had a stuffed Grover doll that I dragged around everywhere. I’ve always secretly hoped that my kids would like Grover the best too, even going so far as to locate a Grover stuffed animal for them. Sadly, while my kids do like Grover, he isn’t their favorite.

    Maybe this video will help ease the Elmo pains. It shows Kevin Clash’s other role as Baby Sinclair (as I mentioned earlier but didn’t have a video link):

  14. jennifer says:

    September 7th, 2010at 7:24 am(#)

    At least Sasha isn’t into that insufferable Abby Cadabby. What a know-it-all.


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