Mister Rogers and I go way back. Every day, we’d spend an hour of our afternoons together, he and I. Not in person, of course, but through his PBS show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which I loved so much even as a very young child and especially into preschool-hood. From his
somewhat OCD routine of changing sweaters and shoes at the beginning of every show, to the fascinatingly-named people he’d meet (Mr. McFeely*), the visits to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, feeding his fish in the fish tank, and the themed issues he’d talk about (going to school for the first time or going to the dentist), I was entranced. Watching him on YouTube just now, I felt the same way – he was just so kind and calming – an excellent teacher for preschoolers.
No contest, my favorite episode was his visit to the Crayola factory to see how crayons are made- thank you YouTube for allowing me to relive my childhood for 5 minutes:
Yep, to this day, I’m mesmerized by production machinery and enjoy finding out how things are made.
I already have a soft spot for Mister Rogers (who passed away in 2003 after 32 years of making Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood), so when I read an article about his connection to adoption recently, I was reminded of all those warm fuzzies that I always associated with him when I was a kid and I figured this would be a great thing to talk about during November, since it’s National Adoption Awareness Month. In a video on the Fred Rogers Company website, Mister Rogers explains that he became a brother when his family adopted his sister. In very simple terms, he explains that it’s not necessary to be exactly alike to love someone – and even biologically-related families are not exactly alike. He reads a book called Exactly As I Am, which goes through each member of the family commenting on how “I’m not exactly like ______ , but I love him/her.” It’s simple. It’s repetitive. But it might be the thing that helps a preschooler really get it.
Below the video on that page, there are some other thoughts about adoption – particularly in relation talking to kids about adoption. There is no direct advice, but suggestions: begin the discussion early, even before the child really understands the word – like when he or she is a baby or toddler. This helps to normalize the word. Rather than ignoring their natural curiosity, continual reassurance on the part of the adoptive parents about the child’s birthparents is also important at various stages in the child’s development. Affirming that their adoption is forever – that they will never be taken away and they are a permanent part of the family is also very important. There are also some thoughts about adoptive parents coping with their own feelings about adoption – as referenced in the quote on the right.
Toward the bottom of the page, there are some other helpful hints about talking to children about adoption and the importance of celebrating a child’s adoption in a memorable way – marking the day they became a permanent family member.
This “article,” as the Fred Rogers Company website calls it, is an excerpt from the 2002 Mister Rogers’ Parenting Book, which we apparently should own. Goodreads says “Reassuring and wonderfully accessible, full of child development insight and practical ideas from a trusted friend of both children and adults, this innovative book is a valuable resource for all parents of 2 to 6year-olds who are faced with a variety of new and challenging situations. Charmingly illustrated, it addresses everyday experiences such as bedtime struggles, mealtimes, going to the doctor, as well as difficult times like divorce and death.” So I guess adoption is one of those “everyday experiences” tackled in the book.
Good ol’ Mister Rogers. Of course he will accompany us into parenthood. It just makes sense.
And for the rest of you nostalgic nerdy folks out there – you can check out one of Mister Rogers’ trademark red sweaters on display at the Smithsonian. At the start of every show, Mister Rogers comes home singing his theme song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, and changes into tennis shoes and a zippered cardigan sweater (he stated in an interview for Emmy TV that all of his sweaters were knitted by his mother – how awesome is that?!)
*McFeely, incidentally, turns out to be a family name – it was Mister Rogers’ maternal grandfather’s last name (and his middle one), so saith Wikipedia.
Image credits – Mister Rogers’ shoe-in-hand: http://blog.syracuse.com/family/2008/03/celebrates_mr_rogers_birthday.html; Mister Rogers’ Parenting Book: http://www.overstock.com/Books-Movies-Music-Games/Mister-Rogers-Parenting-Book/421434/product.html; Mister Rogers’ Sweater: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fred_Rogers_sweater.jpg