Thursday, April 5, 2012

Being Elmo's Mom

As a mom, I was never really into parenting books. I barely picked up parenting magazines…I preferred to make my way trying to find solutions for situations that actually plagued me as opposed to looking for situations that may not even exist in my life. That said, I do depend heavily on stories from other mothers on how they raise their kids, what they did well, what they didn’t do well, lessons learned, etc…and those stories are the ones that I store in my mind and I reflect on them when I need to.

Several weeks ago, I had the chance to watch “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.” I was captivated. Not only was the story of this big guy who plays the voice of a small, furry character interesting, but in everything he did as a child, I was looking at his parents. As a child, Kevin Clash was always interested in puppetry. Building his own sets, creating characters, acting them out, watching the programs, and in his mind he was dreaming about how he could do that job one day. He had the passion, he had the creativity, he had the drive, and clearly he has the heart…but one key element that he had that made it all possible…he had the parents.

Sometimes I hear parents creating a path for their children, steering them in a direction that they want them to go in. Sure their children may be interested in something by default (a dentists' child will surely know a lot about teeth)…but do they LOVE it? Do they have a passion for it?

In “Being Elmo,” I watched all of the video clips of Clash as a kid putting on community puppet shows and I saw many photos of him and his characters. I heard him speak about all of the shows that he put on and how he had to search for the right fabric and sewing technique for his puppets. As a 10-year-old, I can’t say that he would have been able to do all of that if he hadn’t had such supportive parents. His parents were the ones allowing him to set up a show in the middle of the living room (surely disrupting normal “living”), his parents were the ones helping him pick out and purchase the fabric that he needed, and his parents were the ones who were holding the video camera or taking photos of his sets and his characters. Clash felt supported, justified, celebrated and he felt like he COULD do it…that is why he did.

I am a sucker for a good documentary. I am. This program is fantastic and I know that different people will get different things out of it. Whether it is seeing how the puppets work, what the Sesame Street scene looks like behind the cameras, or learning about how one puppeteer is living the dream…I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Now, I’m off to hang out with my kids, and I’m going to see what THEY want to do today…as opposed to what I want them to do today.

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