A few weeks ago, our four-year-old daughter Lily uttered the most magical sentence possible.
“I’m not watching Dora any more — it’s for babies.”
I nearly dislocated my shoulder from the aggressive fist-pump I did upon hearing those words. For any parent who’s had to put up with Dora the Explorer — or her slightly less annoying South American cousin Diego — you can understand my joy in this situation.
Now at first it’s cute to watch your little girl find a connection with Dora when they’re 18 months old. You might even dress them up with a little backpack and a map for Halloween. You’ll marvel at the way your toddler can count to five in Spanish. And if you watch Go, Diego, Go!, you’ll be blown away at your child’s ability to identify marginal animals such as pygmy marmosets and red-eye tree frogs.
But something happens to adults with prolonged exposure to Dora — and this usually happens once you’ve watched about 15 episodes. That joy of watching your child bond with a cartoon character is replaced by sheer rage.
You start to imagine verbally berating “The Map” because of his repetitive nature.
“Lazy River, then Crazy Mountain and finally Grandma’s house. Yeah, I got it the first six times you said it, you stupid moron. And by the way, most people are moving to a GPS system these days.”
You start questioning why an eight-year-old girl is walking around with a backpack filled with tape and rope. In Mexico, this just seems to be a kidnapping incident waiting to happen.
And then there’s that freaking Swiper the fox. Just when you’re trying to teach your impressionable toddler about the values of sharing, they develop a phobia that a sly fox is going to steal their most precious belongings. If there isn’t a “Swiper Complex” identified by child psychologists, they had better get on that.
When you have two daughters like we do, you have to deal with this annoying Dora phase on two different occasions. All those stupid songs that got stuck in your head five years ago are back — and more annoying than ever. “The stick, the stick the magic stick …the stick can do a magic trick.” Trust me, the second time around, you just want to shove the magic stick in your eye socket.
So when I heard that Lily was done with Dora, I was absolutely ecstatic. We could say goodbye to the mountain of useless and poorly-made Dora collectibles that we had managed to acquire over the years. And good riddance to the collection of Dora DVD movies — which somehow were able to stretch the drama of a single episode into a 60-minute feature.
But then last week, I heard that familiar theme song coming from our living room. I thought it was a mistake at first; maybe I was just having a hallucination. (I did just eat a whole pack of Big League Chew). Surely Lily couldn’t have picked a Dora episode to watch after swearing off the show, right?
To my astonishment, Lily was fully engrossed in the show. She looked at me with the perfect mixture of happiness and shame and said, “Don’t tell Elissa I’m watching Dora.”
It turns out, once her big sister went to school for the day, it was the green light for Dora to return. The forces of sibling pressure — which apparently are greater than a parent’s will — had made her pretend to hate Dora. But the minute Elissa leaves the house, it’s okay to love Boots again.
I was so close to having her out of my life but, like a cockroach or a persistent telemarketer, you just can’t get rid of Dora.
This bond between Dora and toddlers is dysfunctional and I’m not sure how to break it. I even fantasize about sending her to a clinic where she can get clean.
I would wheel her into the waiting room and yell, “Just get her hooked on Calliou — I don’t care!”
Photo by zbigphotography via Flickr.