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Elmo’s A Better Parent Than Me & Other Reasons I’ve Let ‘Sesame Street’ Take Over My House

by Kimmie Fink

As a true child of the '80s, I was raised on all things Jim Henson. I loved The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock, but Sesame Street will always have a special place in my heart. I learned to count to 10 in Spanish from María, and Snuffy helped me with my shyness. I suppose it should come as no surprise when, as a parent, there've been times when I totally let Sesame Street take over. Honestly, sometimes I think Big Bird and friends are doing this whole "raising another human being" thing better than me.

I was extremely wary of screen time during my daughter's first year of life, but as she entered toddlerhood Elmo gradually wormed his way into our family's collective consciousness. That happy-go-lucky muppet's name was one of my child's first words, and yet she'd only seen him in books and one Sesame Street Live! show. I started slowly with a few YouTube videos and an Elmo app, and now we've escalated to a nightly viewing of Sesame Street. I'm resigned to it. If she's going to watch something, it might as well be a show that's educational, inclusive, witty, and progressive AF. Sesame Street has tackled everything from breastfeeding to autism to gender expression in a way that is informative, kind, and accessible to young children.

I hate to use the TV as a babysitter, but I think it's OK in moderation. Sometimes mommy needs to leave the tiny human in the Sesame Street cast's capable, furry hands.

Because I Need To Travel

In my infinite wisdom, I decided to take my almost 2-year-old toddler to Europe to meet her daddy during his two-week deployment leave. If you're counting, that's more than 10 hours with a small person strapped to your lap. In preparation, I downloaded Elmo Calls and several episodes of El Mundo de Elmo. I fully handed my iPhone to my toddler somewhere over the Atlantic, and I would have given her my soul just to keep her happy.

Because I Need To Cook Dinner

It's not just hard to cook dinner while a small person hangs off your every limb — it's dangerous. The boiling water, sharp knives, and splashing oil all make it a toddler danger zone. If my husband isn't home to take my daughter outside to play, or if she's not going to entertain herself, I have no problem letting Grover take over.

Because Potty Training Is Hard AF

When it came to potty training, I was all about the Elmo. We got the Elmo potty book and the actual Elmo potty. My daughter is highly motivated by the little red monster. She can be reluctant to use the potty, but she'll do anything to get back to her BFF. So before Elmo's World is over, I press pause and tell her she can watch the rest when she's sat on the potty.

Because Bad Days Are A Thing

When my daughter and I have spent a day as the Evil Bitch Monster of Death (me) and the Dead Grumpus (her), sometimes we like to take some quiet time to cuddle on the couch and watch something fun. I actually enjoy Sesame Street myself, honestly. It's worth it just for Cookie Monster's parodies and the celebrity cameos. Janelle Monáe and Lupita Nyong'o? Yes, please! Plus, the singing, counting, and laughing together can really pull us out of a funk.

Because I Want My Baby To Learn Spanish

I minored in Spanish in college and lived in Honduras for a year and a half, so I'm fluent enough to raise my daughter bilingually. As a non-native speaker, however, I need an assist. That takes the form of Spanish immersion preschool and sí, Sesame Street.

There are so many options. There's the international co-production of the show, Plaza Sésamo, or Sesame Amigos for Spanish-speakers living in the United States. We subscribe to the Sésamo YouTube channel. Even on the regular show, kids can learn Spanish words and phrases from bilingual Muppet Rosita and Sophia freaking Vergara. Incidentally, it you haven't heard Ernie's version of "Despacito," you haven't lived.

Because I Get Sick

Being sick and having to take care of a small child is the worst. It's not that my daughter isn't sympathetic. She pats me and says, "Mommy owie." But she still wants her milk. Like, now. To save myself some sanity and reserve my energy for things that keep her alive, I will absolutely wave my magic wand and call upon Abby to keep my kid occupied.

Because Road Trips Happen

Nothing like an eight-hour road trip that turns into 11 (thank you, traffic) to make you blindly hand your iPad over to the kid in the backseat. It was a good thing my mom downloaded several episodes of The Furchester Hotel to her Netflix app, because no amount of fruit snacks and interactive books was going to get my kid through those last three hours.

Because I Have Work To Do

I normally work when my daughter is at preschool, but sometimes I have a pressing email, or something, that requires my attention. Usually, she'll sit on the floor of my office and read the special books that are in there, but I'm not above letting her watch ¡Elmo y sus amigos patitos! on repeat until I'm done.

Because Sometimes I Get Dangerously Close To Losing My Sh*t

When my toddler has taken her shoes off and then cried because she wants her shoes on for the fifteenth time in a single day, I basically turn into Kermit the Frog reacting to Elmo. A quick break can help me go from "Ahhhhhh!" to "Hi-Ho" faster than you can say, "Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away."

Because Bedtime Needs To Be A Thing

When my husband was deployed, my daughter and I got into the habit of watching a little TV before bedtime. When we ran out of episodes of her favorite reality competition shows (What? Girlfriend likes her American Ninja Warrior), Sesame Street seemed a natural choice. It's now a part of our bedtime routine, and I really like it. I can pick up toys or snuggle up next to her while she watches. When I put her in bed, she likes to tell me all the things she saw: "Uh-oh, Mr. Noodle." "Cookie nomnom." "Zoe night-night luna."

If I'm going to have children's television in my life, I'm glad there's an option besides Caillou and Yo Gabba Gabba. I'll forgive Elmo for always talking in the third person because, the fact is, sometimes I really need him.