I expected to cry for the 15th time as midwives and nuns helped to deliver babies, and I didn't hide my tears watching a humble, good-hearted man and a haughty, well-bred woman stumble through pride, war and social barriers toward love and family life. When a red, adorable puppet talked to a burn victim about what to do with bad emotions when things get very hard, I couldn't help my emotion...and gratitude that such a conversation exists for children in the maelstrom of mindless media. Yet, with all this precedent, I certainly didn't expect to cry one evening about industrious beaver families building a life for themselves. I was surprised even to find myself tearing up as my preschooler sang me a song one afternoon that he had learned in a neighborhood of talking animals.
Such is the power of PBS. Such are the stories it tells, and nothing has yet to match them. While other networks keep fishing for the latest reality-TV farce, the next supernatural crime drama, or the status quo sex-is-cheap sitcom, PBS continues to tell us our history - or that of beavers. It continues to give us beautiful and vibrant visual interpretations of the greatest stories ever written or provide period dramas with subtle social commentary on days gone by. We travel to Antarctica, China, Turkey or Ireland on a dime - and not always to enjoy the view but often to learn more about the human condition.
Lately, the guilt had been bugging me like a pesky full-body rash; I had not supported my local public broadcasting station in some time. There is no excuse. My favorite Mom's Night In television is on PBS: Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Call the Midwife, and almost every other Masterpiece Classic or Masterpiece Mystery show.
I've also joked more then once that I have raised my kids on PBS. And why? Because their children's programming teaches little ones about love, compassion, friendship, family, healthy ways to deal with emotions, saying thank you, washing hands properly, safety, perseverance, good choices - really, just name a positive lesson for your kids to learn, this station has it covered. Knowing that - how grateful I am for all it has given my kids in educational television - caused me the most guilt. What really put me over the edge was when Daniel, my preschooler, came up to me one day and sang this line from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood (based on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood):
for everything you do-oo!"
And gave me a big hug and smile to boot. What in heck was wrong with me that I had not supported something that taught my preschooler to express gratitude? Entertainment is not just entertainment when it comes to kids. We try to give them age-appropriate, quality fodder for their young minds, and, obviously, my favorite station was doing just that. (Of course, this doesn't mean any of us think it's healthy to just sit our kids in front of the TV all day - no matter what is on. They need books, games, projects and plenty of outside time, too!)
Now I know we're frugal in this family, but I swallowed my ridiculous reservations and talked to my husband about my guilt, pointing out everything our family gains from such a quality public service. I should have done it much sooner. He's a good man who recognizes a good deal. It was an easy sale.
So this morning as I watched Sesame Street with my four kids - yes, even the 11-year-old who told me I had to come watch because they were talking about cellphone addiction - I was grateful to feel pride, not guilt, as we all laughed at the antics of people and puppets alike, enjoying the storytelling with a message that makes PBS a Mom's best friend.