As mentioned in a previous post, our 22-month-old granddaughter has developed quite a thing for Elmo.
And I’m beginning to think it’s gone too far.
When she was over the other day I put a Sesame Street video on after her lunch, to keep her occupied so I could eat mine. As I knew she would be, she was transfixed by the moving images, especially when Elmo appeared and started to sing in his unmistakable high squeaky voice.
Quickly finishing my meal and, feeling guilty about putting her in front of the TV, I tried to lure her away.
“Let’s play a game,” I said. “We can do puzzles, or read a book. We got a lot of books at the library today.”
She dragged her attention away from the video for a moment and looked at me. Solemnly she put a finger to her lips.
“Shh,” she admonished, pointing at the screen. “Elmo.”
(Yes, that’s right — my grandaughter shushed me for Elmo!)
That will go down in family lore as one of her very first full sentences – especially if you don’t count “He up,” which she said a couple of months ago while pointing at a squirrel climbing to the top of our fence.
Her preoccupation with Elmo means that all her old favorite books and videos have gone by the wayside. Now she barely looks up when Baby Beluga swims through the ocean. Old MacDonald doesn’t stand a chance of snatching her attention – he stands alone on his farm, spouting vowels and naming his livestock. And her old book favorite, Baby Ben, continues to cavort, clad only in his diaper, through all sort of adventures without her taking the least notice.
Talking to other parents, grandparents and even librarians I’ve come to understand that this fascination with Elmo is widespread. I just hope it doesn’t morph into a cult. Oregonians like me who remember the 80s know a thing or two about cults, thanks to the Rajneesh. Come to think of it, his followers wore red, too. Maybe not Elmo-red, but close enough.
Our son told us that our granddaughter recently woke up from her nap drowsily murmuring “Elmo.” If she had the motor skills she’d draw a big red heart and put her name and Elmo’s in the middle of it. Or if she was in school, she’d be scribbling “Mrs. Elmo” over all her folders.
Who’s going to tell her that Elmo is basically a furry red doll, manipulated by strings and sticks? Not me. She may have to endure similar heartbreaks when she’s older and can’t blame a puppet for her pain.
But there may be hope that her obsession will run its course someday soon. Lately, she’s shown a spark of interest in Curious George. Perhaps we can fan that spark into a flame with the billion Curious George books that are in the library. We’ll see. A mischievous monkey may be no better than a nauseatingly cute red monster.
But if, when our granddaughter hits her preteen years, there happens to be a boy band around that features a fuzzy-haired redhead with a squeaky voice, she may be reminded of her love for a certain Muppet.
If that happens, her current thing for Elmo, in retrospect, may look like a piece of cake.