T Rex Family

T Rex Family

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mr. Rogers...

Childhood was not my favorite time. For many reasons, but my parents' divorce when I was three was the biggest reason. They were married for 25 years. I always felt I was the impetus for the end of their relationship. Today I know better, but when you're three, understanding adult issues is obviously not expected.

My mom tried very hard to make my life a good one . She did an admirable job, I think. My sister, was a huge help as well. My sister did what she could, but lived thousands of miles away, was married, and in college. I had a tough time moving often from place to place, rarely with any semblance of stability . Looking back I know I suffered from untreated depression and likely acute anxiety. Even after both my parents remarried, it did not get any easier.

My step-mother and I did not get along. And I was actually scared of my step-father. (He was a former navy CPO - WWII era - so his voice always carried commanding tone to it.) My summers were spent in the Pacific N.W. with my father, and the rest of the year I lived in the deep South with my mom and step-dad. This, after having been born in the West. Confused yet? I was too.

My sister was always a positive influence in my life. However, she never lived close by. We corresponded often via mail. In an early letter, she suggested I start watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. She knew I would love the show and even suggested I write to Mr. Rogers himself. She said she used to write to him and that he always responded to every letter she wrote.

I took her advice. She was right, I loved the show and especially loved The Land Of Make Believe. "Daniel Tiger" was my favorite because he had a watch. And oh, did I ever want to be "Lady Aberlien" and live at the castle with the King and Queen! As challenges in my life arose, I would write to Mr. Rogers and share them. I remember telling him how I knew my step-dad made my mom happy but that I did not like him, however, I did not want to tell my mom because I knew it would make her sad. I remember telling him about the time I made my step-mom so angry she dropped a frosted cake on the floor right in front of me (it did not take much to make her mad at me). Once, I poured out my heart about the string of rabbit fatalities that I was having trying to keep rabbits as pets.

And you know what? He always did write back! I cannot remember exactly what he said, but I know it was something along the lines acknowledging what ever challenge I had written about, offering a bit of advice about it, and then always reminding me I was unique and special just because I was me. Let me tell you, just knowing that someone like him, someone so busy, would take time out his day to hand write a letter to me, did that ever make me feel special! The letters are long lost after too many moves, but I remember pouring over them time after time.

Recently, our son has been having some problems expressing frustration. Mostly, when something upsets him he will just fling himself on the ground. I thought it was a good time to start talking about emotions and seeing if we can find more productive outlets for his frustrations. We visited the library, checked out a couple of books, and searched for videos. We found a Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood video about dealing with angry feelings.

Until now, we've been pretty firm about a "no TV" policy because Bebe Sister is not yet 2. (American Pediatrics Society recommends limited or no TV for children under 2) However, there is simply no way for T Rex to watch a DVD unless she is around too. So we made an exception. This was the man who helped me through childhood depression and anxiety after all...

They LOVED the show. It has been so delightful to hear my son sing, "It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood..." And can you guess who is T Rex's favorite make-believe character? Daniel Tiger.

It has been a good outlet for discussing what to do when his sister makes him frustrated or when I ask him to do something he might not want to do (leave the park or eat his veggies). In fact, the other day when I walked into the bathroom after he and his sister had clogged the toilet with half a roll of toilet paper, he reminded me to "take deep breaths, Mama, like the slide whistle". (from the episode we checked out from the library) I still have much to learn so we're working on this together. But it's nice to have this Neighbor back in my life.

Thank you, Mr. Rogers'...you've touched so many lives with your work. But , I am most grateful you helped me with mine, and now my children's as well...


Jenners said...

What a tough and challenging childhood you had. I'm so glad that Mr. Rogers was there for you ... and so responsiv to your needs. I love that he is now helping your children like he helped you. This was a sweet and touching post. Thanks for sharing.

JKMommy said...

Wow I had no idea your childhood was so rough - you seem so incredibly calm, secure and confident today! It's at least good to see that you didn't let the difficulties keep you down.
I love this story about how Mr. Rogers helped you through these times! That is amazing! I have to say that I never had any childhood heroes like that and I'm not sure why... but I wish I did. It is very special that you can share this with your children! :)

Abbie said...

That is so great. I can't believe he wrote such a great letter back to you. So fun when our little ones pick up things that we loved when we grew up.

Abbie said...

That is so great. I can't believe he wrote such a great letter back to you. So fun when our little ones pick up things that we loved when we grew up.

Hope Ford said...

Wow! I had no idea you could write letters to Mr. Rogers and that he wrote back! That's amazing!

I'm so sorry to hear about your rough childhood but that's amazing that you had an outlet and it helped :)

Thank you so much for sharing something so personal! :)


Kim said...

I forgot how young you were when they split. I now imagine how hard it would be on Deaglan or T Rex and can appreciate how hard this must have been on little three year old you. I too always loved Mr. Rogers.

Crunchy Beach Mama said...

I loved this post. Getting to see a glimpse of you and the reminder about Mr. Rogers! I also loved visiting the Land and all the characters when I was a kid. I will have to see if there are any episodes at our library when I visit next time.