Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Barney Rides Again!

Early this Sunday morning I dropped off our daughter Joana at her High School, Grosse Pointe North, to embark on a 4-day Choir trip to New York City. She and her schoolmates will not only be treated to see the sights, take in a couple of Broadway Shows and have the total NYC tourist experience, they will have the honor and privilege of singing in Carnegie Hall! Joana has been away before on church youth retreats and regional school events, but this trip is the opening of a new chapter - those preliminary signs that another Jackson Eagle will all too soon be leaving our comfortable and protected nest and heading out on her own. As this thought whirled around in my head, I was comforted by another strange idea - "At least I don't have to deal with Barney anymore!" When Joana was much younger, that overpoweringly Pleasant Purple Reptile lived up to his species name, Tyrannosaurus Rex - King Tyrant - by ruling our home with a Velvet purple fist for almost 2 years as Joana went from toddler to elementary aged child. Not a day went by during that period without Barney's effusive charms being in full display for hours of video on end! Any attempt to squelch his reign was met by a hysterical scream for , "BARNEY!! BARNEY!!" The King had his way again! I remember the absolute joy I felt on the fateful day Barney's reign ended. "Daddy" Joana began matter-of-factly, "I'm too big for Barney. He's for babies and I'm a big girl now!" If I had been thinking clearly, I would have realized the bitter-sweet nature of the moment. Instead, I was so consumed with Barney loathing that I missed the true significance of the moment and almost jumped with glee in celebration of his retirement form our home. Barney was through, and our lives would be back to normal!

13 years later, this Barney memory was fresh in my mind as I drove away from Grosse Pointe North High School on Sunday and contemplated Joana's amazing transformation from a child to a young woman with so much to offer and so much to enjoy. I also smugly considered that now that we have another toddler, how fortunate we were that kid's programming had so much more variety and sophistication now and Barney was old news - or so I thought.

Joana's being away has allowed our daughter Victoria to grow up some on her own and to establish a little independence. She has quit the bottle, insisted on helping us with household chores and shown a greater appreciation for the variety of ways she can choose to learn and be entertained. She can choose everything from Noggin to Playhouse Disney to the Nick, Jr. with countless choices of wholesome "edutainment" that we can all enjoy together. An amazing variety of programming available at the touch of a button. Nothing could have prepared me for the programming choice she made on Sunday evening as we settled down for some rest and some family TV time together.

"Mommy and Daddy", she stated confidently, "I want to watch Barney!" "OK Sweetheart", I replied, "we'll tune it to...BARNEY!" "What do you mean BARNEY?" My brain had suddenly locked up and I was in disbelief. Attempting to recover, I blurted out, "DO you mean Lem Barney, the Detroit Lions legend?" She looked at me with the strangest look and simply said, "No Daddy, Barney the Purple Dinosaur!" I turned to Luz and asked, "How did she hear about him? You mean, he's still on TV?" Luz calmly responded, "I guess so. After all, On Demand has a ton of classic programming including children's standards, so why wouldn't they include a program as classic as Barney?" I was speechless. Somehow, Barney was riding high again and now Victoria had 24/7 access to him via On Demand programming. How did he do it? How could he manage such a comeback?

After what seemed to be an eternity of the Purple One, when it was bedtime, Victoria asked for story from her Children's Bible and we opened up to the account of Jesus and his love for children. It's a very familiar passage where children rush to Jesus with delight and the disciples recoil in horror attempting to mute their fun and to keep Jesus at arms length. Jesus rebukes the disciples and forcefully commands them to let the children come to Him because their child-like faith is the kind of faith God desires for those who serve Him. Then Jesus embraces and blesses the children. When I settled down with Victoria and watched Barney on the video, it occurred to me that Barney has a wonderfully welcoming demeanor that children recognize and are drawn to. Barney is always ready to play, teach and to affirm in a way that is vital to a child's well-being. As I looked at Victoria's young face and thought back to Joana's face at that age, I realized, contrary to my personal preferences, I needed to encourage her enjoyment of Barney, not resist it. In fact, as the weather warmed up, I even found myself emulating Barney and joined Victoria at the playground, swinging on swings and sliding on slides - really acting like Barney - without the Dinosaur suit, of course! The importance of this attitude really hit me when Victoria and I got home. As we approached the end of the day, Victoria ran and got her children's Bible and asked me to read another story about Jesus. She was eager to hear what the Bible said, because she had seen it applied in very simple terms in our time on the playground Barney style. Imagine - a theological application from a purple dinosaur! So now, I am thankful for all the rich variety the Lord has allowed in my life, including that Purple Reptile who always has time for children. If Barney can carve out some time for kids, we can too! Let the children come to you and bless them all you can. You'll never regret the silly, child-like moments that yield a lifetime of healthy, loving grown-up fruit. Until next time,


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