Barney: A Love-Hate Relationship
What’s purple, bloated, has green spikes and an incredibly grating voice? I literally cringe just thinking about him. But these days, I have to put my intense loathing aside … Yes, Barney has found his way into my home.
I have long hated Barney. Y’all know who I’m talking about. That patently absurd dinosaur with hypnotic powers over kids. Who doesn’t despise him, except for children, of course, and his creators who are laughing all the way to the bank?
Years ago, “Saturday Night Live” ran a parody featuring basketball star Charles Barkley playing a pick-up game with the dino. As Barney sang his famous anthem (Oh come on, you know the one) “I love you. You love me,” Barkley ran into him and knocked him to the ground. It was kind of sick and twisted, but funny if you really didn’t like Barney, which I didn’t.
When I was pregnant with my twins Abbey and Jonah, my husband, Scott, and I vowed that our house would be a Barney-free zone. For the first two years of our kids’ lives, we succeeded in keeping that vow. We never watched Barney on TV. He didn’t sing through our stereo, or sit stuffed on a shelf, there were no flat appearances in the form of books or posters. Nothing.
Then somehow it happened.
That purple blob wormed himself into our lives. Maybe it was that play date at a friend’s house; when the
mom put on a Barney video, Abbey and Jonah stood absolutely transfixed on the screen. Maybe it was at their playgroup when all the moms chanted (in a Stepford Wives kinda way) “Clean up! Clean up! Everybody clean up,” when it was time to put the toys away. Everyone, it seemed, knew the song except for my kids and me.
The final straw was when my neighbor — who’s been fantastic about loaning me her sons’ outgrown clothes and toys — gave us a stack of videos, including some Barney episodes. In a moment of weakness during a bout with the flu, unable to bear another moment of Elmo or Blue’s Clues, I popped a video into the VCR.
There was no turning back.
Not only were the kids enamored of him, but they actually learned some good things, too, like the dreaded “Clean Up” song, as well as stories about sharing and make-believe. I hate to admit it, but the first time Abbey came over to me in her little squeaky voice and sang the “I Love You” song, giving me the requisite hug and kiss with verve … I melted. Not to be outdone, Jonah came over and gave me his rendition, complete with a hug and sloppy kiss. And I soon saw them imitating other positive things they’d seen on Barney, too; so I acquiesced and let them watch him on PBS. One afternoon, they lined up all their plastic kid chairs, sat themselves and their stuffed animals down and pretended to be on board a plane while singing a Barney song about airplanes.
Even I had to admit that as far as TV goes, this was a pretty good thing. I liked the way they responded to the show. I liked the things they were doing and were suddenly interested in. Barney as a role model was turning out to be pretty positive. So, much to my chagrin, this former Barney hater has begun to warm to the pudgy plum mass…even if I simply can’t stand to sit in the room when he’s on.
Meredith O’Brien is a freelance writer and mother of twin toddlers.
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