Mark vs Cancer

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Making Peace with Barney

I used to be a hater. I used to curse and spit venom whenever I saw His Purple Cheery Chubbiness flash across the TV screen. The eery, vacuous smile. The fingernails-on-chalkboard of his chuckle-headed voice. The social propaganda. The ubiquity.

There was a Barney conspiracy afoot, a brainwashing of an entire generation, presumably to activate, as some future time, a latent hypnosis, and then Barney's indoctrinated childhood minions would be led like lemmings off of some socialist-worker cliff. I was on to it. Others recognized it to, and reacted with similar antagonism. Barney, it was said, must die.

But that was many years ago, before I had children of my own, before I was given a glimpse of the world through their small, innocent eyes.

Without fail, each of my three children, when between the age of one and two, has shown an innate affinity for Barney, despite our best efforts to the contrary. His size and giant, semi-lunar dentition don't seem to frighten them. They sing with Barney. They laugh and dance with Barney. My youngest, Justin, in particular loves Barney. In fact, one of his earliest words was "Bonnie," which means Barney and which has become a frequently repeated (as in fifty times an hour) refrain.

We do our best to ration his Barney exposure: no more than one thirty minute episode a day. But there are times when a little bit of Barney is just the right medicine.

Take last night, for instance. Poor Justin has had an upper respiratory infection for a few days, and last evening became feverish and fussy, pulling at his ears. We knew he had probably developed an ear infection, but it was late at night, and there wasn't much that could be done at that hour. (Today, I brought him into my clinic, confirmed the ear infection, and started him on antibiotics.) He was inconsolable and exhausted, and so were we.

Then, a lightbulb appeared over my head like a giant purple bioluminescent blob: Barney could comfort him. Thanks to the magic of On-Demand, Barney was soon chuckling and clucking his way across the screen, and little Justin was instantly pacified. We watched together as Barney saccharinely championed toothbrushing and the pure fantastic fun of visiting the doctor's office. (Okay, so I even felt a little subtle gratification that Barney held my profession in such high esteem.) Soon, Justin was sleeping peacefully in my arms as Barney sang away with unyeilding affirmations into the flickering shadows of my family room.

I'll admit it freely now: I've grown soft on the Gianormous Purple Dinosaur. I've come to find his message innoucous, and his demeanor, if not charming, then at least not nauseating. And I appreciate the comfort he offered my son in his moment of distress last night.

But B.J. and Baby Bop? If I see their vile visages one more time, then I may have to throw a brick through my TV.

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