Over the past two years, my young apprentice has been a source of amusement, joy, amazement, wonder and, above all, pride. He has also been a source of frustration, befuddlement, more frustration and, on occasion, disappointment. Not disappointment in him, mind you, but disappointment in myself; in my clear failings as a parent.
I have to believe that every parent experiences moments of fear, denial and confusion when their offspring makes a choice that goes against every tenet of their upbringing. When, as parents, we witness these blatant affronts to our values, the question that echoes endlessly in our thoughts must certainly be, Where did I go so wrong?
And so it is with my young apprentice and his preference for Joe.
Yes, Joe. Not Steve, but Joe.
Where did I go so wrong? Did I not read to him enough in the first twenty-four months? Was I neglecting him in some manner crucial to his development? How can this have happened?
“Boo’s Coos!” he exclaims. “Boo’s Coos Joe!”
“How about Steve?” I ask, hopefully, poised to queue up “What Experiment Does Blue Want to Do?” or “Snack Time”.
“No!” is his reply. “Boo’s Coos Joe!”
So it is Joe that we watch. Joe in his orange shirt. Joe, whose real name isn’t even Joe, but Donovan Patton. Joe, who can’t even be bothered to draw in the notebook himself; instead, the clues simply appear in the notebook, then sing about themselves (“I’m scrunched up eyebrows!“). Joe, who, at the end of each episode, sings, “Me and you and our friend, Blue” instead of “Me and you and my dog, Blue.” Joe, who must, must, must somehow be responsible for the abomination that is Blue’s Room. Joe, who isn’t fit to sit down in the thinking chair and think, think, thi-i-ink.
Admittedly, we thirty-something parents are a little protective of our own precious memories, and the idea of our children latching on to some obviously inferior reimagining of our favorite childhood icon (e.g., Transformers Animated, Ruxpin: The Next Generation, any Star Wars film produced after 1983) chills us to the very core. But that does nothing to explain the bias I have with respect to the hosts of Blue’s Clues. The show came along well after I had stopped watching Nickelodeon (apart from SpongeBob Squarepants) and well before my young apprentice started; I had never really watched it prior to becoming a parent, and by the time my progeny arrived Joe had been the host for four years.
Despite the fact that my bias does not spring from the fear that the kids today are trampling all over my beloved childhood, I am biased. Perhaps it is basic human nature: an inherent belief that change is something to be feared and the original will always, always, always be the best. I don’t know; I’m neither psychologist nor social anthropologist. I am, I suppose, just a caveman, one who assumes a threatening posture and shrieks loudly whenever he hears Joe sing, “Come on in. What did you say? A clue! A clue!”
Therein lies the uncomfortable truth: there’s simply no logic to my preference for Steve. I feel a surge of hope on those all-too-rare occasions when my young apprentice says, “Boo’s Coos Steve! Geen Steve!” and a few seconds later, there he is: Steve in his green shirt. Steve, who somehow makes finding three blue pawprints a true adventure. Steve, who skidoos into a book or a painting like no one else can. Steve, whose true feelings for shy Miranda will forever be unspoken. Steve, who should never go off to college and leave poor Blue with his orange-shirt-wearing younger brother.
But all too soon it will be time for so long, and as Steve sings just one more song, I find myself fearing that the next time my young apprentice wants “Boo’s Coos” he will once again demand to see Joe, and the dreaded question will once again spring to mind: Where did I go so wrong?