Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Zoe vs. Zoe Monster

It’s not Zoe Monster per se who Zoe dislikes. It’s any Sesame Street character who’s not red and furry with a high-pitched voice and who responds to the name Elmo.
If two-year-olds had a powerful voting bloc, I believe the cult of Elmo would be nigh unstoppable. His capacity to enthrall his tiny minions reaches even into their dreams. Elmo is the first word out of Zoe’s mouth upon waking and her last before bed. What can mere parents do against such influence? We’re the people who can’t even get them to leave the park when it’s time to go.
Before I realized her Elmo obsession I feared she was racist because whenever Chris or Gordon got screen time she yelled, “No want!” Was she aware Elmo’s creator was African American? What if she found out? What if she discovered Elmo was only a puppet, not a furry red three-and-a-half-year-old who loved her? But she reacts the same way whenever Elmo is off screen, moaning and complaining and clamoring for Himself, though occasionally she tolerates Ernie. I’m not sure why. Elmo’s ways are mysterious.
How did this happen? We hadn’t even meant to let Zoe watch TV. Like many parents, we’d made this now-hilarious but well-meaning decision. No TV. A half hour, tops, we said. However, it turns out the Red One’s sheer shrill power to enrapture leaves us free to pursue leisurely activities, such as making dinner, folding laundry, and going to the bathroom (in private!).
Now we thank Elmo for On-demand, and the ability to fast-forward at the highest speed to the final twenty minutes of Sesame Street, devoted to “Elmo’s World.” And then we’re a charmingly inept red crayon drawing and a “la-la-la-la” away from Zoe becoming docile. Standing or sitting still, eyes focused on the screen, mouth open, perhaps some drool, and I have Twenty Minutes to Myself (not as exciting as it sounds, see list above).
I’ve also found I can get Zoe to cooperate by imitating Elmo’s voice and issuing commands to the tune of “Jingle Bells,” which Elmo co-opted for his theme. “Put on socks, put on socks, pu-u-ut on socks!” Lo and behold, she lets me put on her socks. Even though they don’t have little Elmos on them. Unlike the rest of her clothes, which are all so red they bleed in the wash, insidiously spreading their Elmo-ness to the rest of the laundry.
Elmo-ness has spread in other ways. We’ve bought all his books. All his DVDs. I even buy food with his face on it. Her Elmo doll’s face smells because she likes to feed his face with the food with his face on it.
I have to say I thought I’d grow tired of him, begin to lose my cool at the sound of his squeaky voice, but I guess that’s how it is with cults. She loves him, so I love him. I cannot break free from his fuzzy red grip, and soon I won’t want to.
Zoe: 2; Universe: 0

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