Saturday, January 21, 2006

What we can learn from Cartoon Parents - Dora's mom

My kids are small, and yes they watch a lot of TV. Maybe more than they should for their age, (yes occasionally my TV is the babysitter, so I can get dinner done, or take a shower, or have a conversation free of interruptions). However I will say that I am discriminating in the shows they do watch. And I don't make my judgments based on magazines and other such things, but according to my own personal taste, and that of the kids, although my vote is the only one that counts. (No one said my house was a democracy).

Recently I have been doing a great deal of thinking about Parental figures in cartoons. (They really are very interesting characters). Then my line of thinking progressed to how cartoons have changed since I was a child. This whole intellectual discourse began with my 2 year old daughters fascination with Dora.

Dora is really a cult phenomena. I don't know what the heck it is, but people of all ages are drawn to her (okay, so I like Doooooooora too.) She has this presence about her, something that so many of us wish we possessed-fearlessness. Dora is one to be looked up to, she is intelligent, courageous, confident, dependable, and so on and so forth. Dora is in short, a role model. (Well I wouldn't mind if my kid was like her.)

You see I want my daughter to be confident, and courageous and dependable, I want her to be a good friend, and to be resourceful. What I do not want however is for her best friend to be a monkey, or for her to go traipsing through the jungle by herself, (even if it is to return her library books). This is where the parenting comes into play. Dora seems to come from a stable two family home, with ties to her extended family (her abuela, cousins (Diego, Alicia and Daisy)), yet she still has a monkey for a best friend, not a pet, but a friend, and he talks (nothing against Boots; besides they fact that he is a talking monkey). She is also friends with Isa the Iguana Benny the bull and Tico the squirrel. Two questions. 1. Why does she not have any human friends?, and 2. Why does her mother let her go off into the jungle with these characters? (Which is really at the heart of her parenting.)

I can't tell you why Dora doesn't have any human friends; (I guess that just isn't the arch the writers were going for). As to the second question; my theory is that Dora's mother is trying to nurture in her daughter a sense of independence and self-confidence that is rarely seen among young girls today. The demeanor that you can do anything, and that you don't have to be afraid of your surroundings, go out and explore and find out what the world is, but be wary of the people that will try to harm you (the Swiper the Foxes of the world). She also wants her to know that it is okay to have friends that aren't the same as you, ( Boots, Benny, Isa and Tico). And to always be prepared for the situations that life may present to you; (that Backpack sure comes in handy).

The problem with Dora's mom is that she lets her do all this stuff. Mind you, Dora is at most six years old, and that is pushing it. Where is the parental supervision? Is this the new school version of sending the kids out to play all day, to keep them from underfoot? I don't know. What I do know is, that if she were in America, they would call it neglect and Dora would be in foster care, and probably not the lovable little girl we see, so full of confidence.

I will not notify the Department of Family and Children Services. The child seems to be well-adjusted, loved and cared for. Although she wears the same clothes everyday (as do quite a few pre-schoolers), she does not appear to have missed any meals and she looks very clean. Besides how can I call the authorities on someone I want to be like.

It wouldn't matter if the authorities were involved anyhow, remember Dora has attributes so few of us equip our real daughters with, (confidence, resourcefulness, and independence.) In any given situation, Dora believes that she can solve a problem, and she never goes to her mother for help, because her mother has given her the gift of thinking for herself and not doing everything for her. She's not afraid of being lost because she has a Map (literally and figuratively) to guide her, and she knows that she will always be able to get home. Dora is trusting, but not gullible, nor is she snide or sarcastic. She is a balanced little girl, thriving in her world.

Her mother is obviously doing something right. I hope I am as well. Maybe I can call and schedule a playdate. :)