Welcome to Parenthood: You’re Doing it Wrong

Kyle will find your pawprints.
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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?

Blue's Clues“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!”

Joe Burns (Donovan Patton)So it is Joe that we watch. Joe in his orange shirt. Joe, whose real name isn’t even Joe, but Donovan Patton. ((Why the lies, “Joe”? What do you have to hide?)) 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!“). ((More deception. Why do you even bother with the crayon, Joe? The whole thing is a giant farce with you.)) 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.” ((Because she’s not your dog, Joe! She’ll never be your dog! Blue will always be Steve’s dog, and I’ll bet that just eats away at you, doesn’t it?)) Joe, who must, must, must somehow be responsible for the abomination that is Blue’s Room. ((She talks! Blue talks! From what bizarre alternate reality did the notion that Blue talking would be a good idea originate? Are the strange beings who inhabit this universe also of the opinion that Chilly Willy, Snoopy and Charlie Brown’s teacher should speak coherent English as well? It’s madness!)) 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. ((Team Knight Rider? What kind of psychotropic pixie dust do you need to be snorting to believe that could possibly work?)) 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!

Steve BurnsTherein 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 ((Magenta’s owner, played by Shannon Walker Williams)) will forever be unspoken. Steve, who should never go off to college and leave poor Blue with his orange-shirt-wearing ((Joe also has a purple shirt, as well as a green one, but he is at his most duplicitous and untrustworthy when wearing orange.)) 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?

17 thoughts on “Welcome to Parenthood: You’re Doing it Wrong”

  1. I don’t even have a child of my own, but having seen significant quantities of Blues Clues in the assisted rearing of my nephews, I can say that Steve is simply inherently superior. None of this pscyhobabble about change and growth. Steve is the objective correct choice.

    That your son has eschewed the correct choice on more than one occasion is terrifying. What if this process continues? What if he undertakes the wrong career, or, upon growing up, mates with the wrong kind of person?

    I do not envy you, sir. Not one bit.

  2. I’ve never seen Blue’s Clues, but I can tell you this:
    I have always and will most likely always prefer Mike Nelson over Joel Hodgeson. Perhaps it’s because I saw him first (as in “I saw his episodes before I saw Joel’s”, not “Dibs! Hands off, he’s mine!”). Or maybe it’s his spunk and high energy, whereas Joel may be the deadest pan this side of Ben Stein. Final possibility: green jumpsuits are less threatening than red ones.

    Wait, is there some connection here? Green > Red/Orange?

  3. blob – It’s very tempting to dismiss this preference as a “phase” he’s going through, but that starts me down the slippery slope to denial and we don’t want to go there. Calling me “Mommy-Daddy” and Laura “Daddy-Mommy” is a phase. Preferring Joe over Steve is a disaster.

  4. G – I’ve seen enough Mystery Science Theater 3000 to know that I prefer Mike to Joel, too. You may be onto something with the whole color correlation.

  5. I, too, have experience that sinking feeling of “wtf did I do wrong?” Just the other day there was nothing on TV, so I thought I’d introduce my (soon to be) 3 year old to the magnificent world of Star Wars (A New Hope, obviously). He didn’t make it past the opening text crawl before he started crying and stated that he “ddn’t want this movie.” He also didn’t understand why you have to crank up the volume when the THX logo/theme plays. He actually told me to turn down the volume because it was too loud

    🙁

  6. SpideyStar Wars is a whole separate, scary can of worms when it comes to my young apprentice, and I still haven’t figured out how soon we’ll sit down and watch A New Hope together. I do know that he doesn’t like it when the television is too loud, so it may be a little early for the THX logo just now.

  7. Sam – You flatter me, sir. Actually, in looking through the footnotes, I see the one about Miranda (Shannon Walker Williams) sticks out like a sore thumb. I was planning to expound upon how (I imagine) Steve feels about her, but I didn’t want to get too lurid.

  8. Greg – Kyle still enjoys one of the Baby Einstein videos, Baby Wordsworth – First Words – Words Around the House. He’s at a point where he wants to know what everything is and his vocabulary is improving by leaps and bounds. I must admit to getting a bit of toy envy whenever I watch a Baby Einstein video; they’ve got some very nifty toys.

  9. Of course there is logic behind your love of Steve. It is the same for me, and for most sane parents (including the dark mistress, Mur). Simply put, Steve understood that much of the time parents are stuck watching Blue’s Clues with the kids. He would give a little nudge, a little wink, a little play on words that let us know that he understood… understood that he was stuck in front of a green screen talking to an imaginary dog, walking in place like some fool, but that we were stuck with him. And by God, he was still cool doing it.

    I can only hope, like my 2 year-old’s current insane love of Max and Ruby, that your boy will grow out of this need for the abomination that is Joe.

  10. P.G. – We all love Max and Ruby around here, but we’re treading dangerously close to a matter of choice that could once again cause me to question my worth as a parent: In the first and second season, Samantha Morton provides Ruby’s voice, but in season three she was replaced by Rebecca Peters. No offense to Ms. Peters, but I much prefer Morton’s portrayal.

  11. Yes, I agree about Samantha Morton. But for the love of God, I was a latch key kid, but Max and Ruby take it to an obscene extreme… I assumed that the Easter Bunny might actually be their Dad, but no… I guess it was the Easter Bunny, because parents just don’t have any input in these kids lives.

  12. Well im a bit skeptical about posting on this site, but since i stumbled upon it after seeing an episode with Miranda while watching with my 2 yr old son–who by the way doesnt prefer either main char over the other–and wondering just who was this “Miranda” lady b/c she looked familiar (and soon discovered she’s married or the fiance of basketball star Ray Allen and starred in a few minor minor parts in several movies like Girlfight and others…in case anyone else was wondering). *WHEW* run-ons are so much fun! Anyway, I decided to partake the the discussion of sorts about Joe vs. Steve (as opposed to Pros vs. Joes? hahaha). Personally I never saw blue clues before we started looking for good TV shows for our son, so I had no bias coming in. But I personally prefer Joe to Steve simply from the standpoint that Joe seems to always have a brighter demeanor than Steve, who is sort of “ho hum, been doing this for a while, yay, its blue’s clues…ho hum” attitude. Now admittedly, Ive seen some episodes where Steve isnt like that, but the majority I’ve seen he is rather drab, while Joe seems to be happier and that could be why someone could gravitate towards Joe more. I think Steve prob got burned out and his peppier moments were prob in the early history of the show from what I can see about his age, unless this feedback was provided him and he made changes in his demeanor. So thats my 2 cents :). JOE is it for me, but I must say, if Shannon Walker Williams ever decided to take over I’d prob find the show a little more interesting, hahahaha…

  13. seven — I must admit I’m curious as to why you’d be skeptical about commenting here, but thanks for doing so.

    My research into the life and loves of Ms. Williams (Walker Williams?) was rather limited, probably because I didn’t want to find any evidence that she was involved with anyone but Steve. Illusions, especially those based on the potential relationships of human characters in an animated children’s television series, tend to be somewhat fragile—well, the good ones do; evil, misguided illusions tend to stand up not only to scrutiny but to direct frontal assault, but that’s a topic for another day. My point (if it could still be called a point) is that Miranda is, in my mind, forever waiting for Steve to pluck up the courage and make the first move.

    Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. In my mind, the first, second, third, and indeed many, many moves have been made, none of which are suitable for the show’s target audience or most rational adults.

    But I digress and in doing so risk being branded a deviant. Let’s talk about Joe vs. Steve some more.

    You are correct that Joe is generally more ebullient than Steve, though I don’t necessarily agree that Steve ever presents a “ho hum” attitude. I suspect that Joe’s effervescence may play a part in why I actually prefer Steve who, as P.G. Holyfield points out, slyly takes the parents of his audience along for the ride into the land of pretend puppies.

  14. Hang on…thirty-somethings have their OWN memories of Blues Clues and Steve? My twenty year old grew up watching Steve, but…thirty-somethings? Didn’t you, like, watch Pee-Wee’s Playhouse or something?

    H.
    – from the generation just before Sesame Street and the Electric Company, but young enough to have driven her own parents nuts singing “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?”

  15. @Holly — Actually, I watched Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; my entire experience with Blue’s Clues has been as an adult. However, I became a parent at the ripe old age of 32 (and a half), and I have siblings and siblings-in-law whose children were of the proper age to watch Blue’s Clues when it originally aired and—like second-hand cigarette smoke—I was exposed without intent or even consent.

    So, yes, I have memories of Blue’s Clues and Steve, though not from my childhood. If we want to talk about what Sesame Street has become since I watched it as lad…well, that’s another topic entirely.

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