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2018 Sep

Just the Way You Are

Who’s your hero? More importantly, who are your children’s heroes? Perhaps they are too young to give you a ready answer, but they’re not too young to be influenced by the “heroes” they see on TV. You know, the ones with superpowers and weapons. Sure, they might be fighting the forces of evil, but should kids be exposed to all that violence and conflict at an early age?

Recently my husband and I, along with our son Jasper, saw “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”—the bio-pic about Fred Rogers, who produced and starred in a PBS show for preschoolers, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” from 1968 to 2001. Some people thought the program was too slow and old-fashioned. But I have to confess I loved the show. I watched it with all my kids and always felt a special connection with Mister Rogers. When he said, “I like you just the way you are,” he sent a powerful message of acceptance to children—and to me!

Fred Rogers recognized that childhood can be scary, and his goal was to make children feel loved, accepted, and glad to be alive. He shared simple stories of people in the neighborhood, the jobs they did, and the things they made. But it was his warm, sincere personality that I fell for. This man exuded love and understanding. Compare that with other children’s television shows that were (and still are) silly at best and violent at worst.

I long for the simpler days when there were fewer electronic options for kids. Sure, a little TV is OK, especially with careful monitoring, but the fun really starts when you plan hands-on activities with your kids. Maybe it’s an art project or a batch of cookies you bake together. What about simple building blocks and Play-doh? Even better, head outside and make mud pies, splash in puddles, and climb trees.

Kids just want to have fun. They don’t need stress and conflict, bright colors and lights, screens with images that appear and disappear in the blink of an eye. Mister Rogers understood that kids do better in a calm environment, that kids want to talk about things that are bothering them, that sometimes they just want a reassuring hug.

This month let’s try to create a calm environment for our kids: fewer electronics, less screen time, and more human interaction, like eye contact, real conversations, and lots of hugs. Our kids need more tranquility in their worlds—and so do we.                                            

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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