This week's blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who
lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with Professor
Foster (his non-white, non-dad wife), their daughter Viva, her
toys, and her toys' many emotions.
I didn't sleep well last night. It wasn't for the usual reasons
you might expect from the father of a toddler. I wasn't changing
the sheets in a wet crib, or cradling the victim of a bad dream, or
tending to a little fever. I spent the night turning the house
upside down because a 2-inch-high action figure of Daniel Tiger had
wandered away from his friends.
Miss Elaina, Prince Wednesday, O the Owl, and Katerina Kittycat
were all safely tucked into a mixing bowl, snuggling one another
just feet from talking versions of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Gang,
figurines of the denizens of Sesame Street, plush companions to Doc
McStuffins, a handful of Cabbage Patch Kids both vintage and new,
and roughly one million other toy people and animals.
But WHERE WAS DANIEL TIGER?!!!
Left to my own devices, I wouldn't have given Daniel's fate much
thought. He'd turn up, likely in the refrigerator of the play
kitchen, in the hayloft of a Little People barn, or perhaps stuffed
in the toe of Daddy's boot. But when is a parent ever left to their
own devices? I had a screaming 2-year-old terrified that Daniel was
lost, alone, and scared. The fact that he was inanimate was lost on
Now, I don't blame her delusions on her age, her intelligence or
an overactive sense of empathy. I blame it on the children's
entertainment industry, and Disney especially. There's rarely a day
that goes by in which I don't see some kind of story about a plucky
anthropomorphized object, heartbroken by rejection and/or on a
brave journey to return to its owner.
Think of the many stories that fit the trope of "toy trying to
get home," "toy come to life," or "toy protecting its owner":
The Velveteen Rabbit. Pinocchio. Raggedy Ann, Winnie the Pooh, The
Indian in the Cupboard, The Nutcracker.
And worst of all, the Toy Story franchise and almost every
episode of Doc McStuffins.
Of course my child was screaming for Daniel Tiger to be found.
She's only 2 and she's already being inundated with the notion
that, when no one is around, toys come to life, commiserate with
one another, and have existential crises about no longer being
loved, often to heart-wrenching songs performed by Sarah McLachlan
(Queen of Sadness). I'm a little old to be deeply emotionally
attached to the Toy Story movies - I was already in college when
the first one premiered - but when the third one came out, I
watched my college students completely fall apart at the notion
that Andy (not a real person) would give his toy cowboy (not even a
real toy cowboy) away (to another fake person). "The thing that
makes Woody special," said Andy in the final reel, "is he'll never
give up on you ... ever. He'll be there for you, no matter what."
Meaning, your toys will never give up on you, so NEVER GIVE UP ON
YOUR TOYS... MAKE YOUR DAD SEARCH FOR THEM ALL DAMN NIGHT.
I know that the relationship between toy and child in Toy Story
is meant to be a story about friendship, but in the movie itself,
it isn't a metaphor - the toy will literally never give up on you,
and if you give up on the toy, or give it away to a day care
center, it goes insane and turns evil, like that fuchsia bear
My daughter hasn't seen the Toy Story movies yet - that spider
thing with the doll head is too scary for me, I can't imagine what
it would do to her - but she does watch Doc McStuffins on the
Disney channel. One recent episode had a cuddly stuffed bunny
distraught over the fact that she'd been put in a garage sale.
"I can't believe [your owner] Alma would put you in a yard
sale," said Doc to the bunny, "she always loved you so much." Don't
put your toys in a rummage sale, the episode tells my child, you
will break their hearts. No matter how many toys you have, or how
much you've outgrown them, never get rid of them, ever. Keep them
all forever in cushy toy beds until every square inch of your
parents' house is choked with dolls. Hoard toy friends. Pamper
them. Protect them. Oh, and never move out.
It's no wonder Americans are have the most stuff, the largest
carbon footprints and probably the least amount of self-awareness
of anyone on earth. Who can worry about melting ice caps or drone
strikes when somewhere a plastic baby might not being lying
So, please, Disney, and everyone writing books and making shows
for kids, give a Dad a break, and ease up on the psychic baggage
you're piling onto the little ones. Don't create that nagging doubt
in my child's mind that while she's sleeping, Daniel Tiger is
huddled cold and alone in an alley after having been accidentally
thrown out, crying a tiny glycerin tear and feeling betrayed.
I've got enough to worry about... and I need some sleep.
UPDATE: Daniel Tiger was found in an oven mitt
hanging from a kitchen cupboard handle. He is currently in therapy
for his abandonment issues.
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