Play It Again, Barney! (#524)

Duhn duh dah, duhn duh dah, duhn duh dah der da der dah; dah der, da da da dader deh dah da der daaaaaa………. deh der da der deh dah do.
Words cannot convey the tune I have stuck in my head after hearing Charlie pick out a brand new song on the keyboard during his piano lesson today. His teacher makes all of the materials, from a special board to teach Charlie to identify notes on the grand staff to the sheet music; as Charlie is a very beginning reader of words, each song is identified by a picture. I just glimpsed an image of someone playing a guitar atop the new song and so did not know what it was until I heard Charlie sight-read it.

Duhn duh dah, duhn duh dah.

The image of a purple dinosaur, green-bellied and yellow-toed, was swaying in my mind, rows of smiling, singing children on either side of him….. It was the “I Love You” song or rather (before Barney and Co. co-opted it) “This Old Man.” I glanced at Charlie who was busy reading the notes, with a certain pull to his mouth.

My parents gave Charlie a “says 100 things” Barney for his first birthday and that battery-powered fleecey stuffed dinosaur, and his much larger incarnation on videos, was Charlie’s constant companion for years. Toddler Charlie’s fingers were not strong enough to press Barney’s hand so he would say one of those 100 things (“what sound does a cow make?”) and it was a great day (or rather a sign of how far Charlie, not yet diagnosed with autism, had then to go) when we heard Barney talking without our assistance, and found Charlie biting on Barney’s increasingly soggy hand. Barney occupied the spot between the wall and Charlie’s pillow at night; Barney, and a toy computer named Alphabert, were the two beings Charlie took with him, one in each hand, when he decided to walk down the street a block or two on his own (without, of course, informing us of this decision). For some time, Charlie appropriated a laptop case of Jim’s, the better to carry around his prized possessions.

All the while, Charlie (and Jim and I) watched a steady diet of some seven videos—“Shapes and Colors” was Charlie’s particular favorite—and I can still burst into “Hey Mr. Knickerbocker” and “Oh we are flying in an airplane” at any moment. The “I Love You” song and the music, sweet as Valentine’s candy, is permanently etched into my brain cells and, I suspect, into Charlie’s too: What was it like for him to play that song, with its 100-plus associations, today?

Because we don’t have Barney anymore, or any of the videos, all gone before we could make the move into DVDs. Sometime when he was six or seven years old, playing with Barney, watching a minute of Barney, became the prelude to head-banging. Charlie would just have poked the white plastic rectangle into the VCR and sat down to watch, and then there he was knocking his forehead on the hardwood floor and crying. It happened once, it kept happening, and may I be called Mala Mater, but Barney and those videos all ended up in the garbage, amid tears and screeches and doubt.

I now am understanding that something about the purple dinosaur had, perhaps, an over-stimulating effect on Charlie. It has only been in the past several months that we have been able to behold racks of Barney videos, DVDs, CDs, and merchandise and look at it all and just walk away. Trips to Target and, indeed, any store where something Barney might lurk had become laden with anxiety as we (Charlie included) knew he would have to go to see if the store had anything Barney, and then that he would have to wrench himself away from it. Now there is something much less tense, a bit freer, to Charlie’s demeanor when we go into stores and, indeed into people’s houses, free of the need to desperately seek Barney.

I am looking forward to hearing Charlie play the old familiar song tomorrow.

I love you, you love me, we’re a happy fa–mi–ly……

4 Responses to “Play It Again, Barney! (#524)”
  1. KC'sMommy says:

    I know what you mean by an over-stimulating effect. K.C. can’t watch certain videos or commercials. If he sees or hears something he can’t handle he’ll cover his ears and hide. When we went to the dentist office as soon as we walked in the door a video that K.C. can’t see or hear or should I say, can’t tolerate to see or hear was on. He sat looking away from the t.v. and when his name was called he walked side ways looking out the corners of his eyes to avoid the dreaded video. He seems to know what he can handle:) Charlie is amazing and his piano teacher sounds awesome!

  2. Lisa/Jedi says:

    Wow- I’m glad Charlie was able to weather the out-of-context Barney reminder! We steered way clear of Barney thanks to our youngest (now 16) goddaughter’s Barney addiction when she was a toddler. I can still hear her sweet little voice singing the “I Love You” song… (now she’s in the soprano section fo the choir with me :). B’s main addicition was Thomases, but the slow pace of the videos was not even close to over-stimulating 🙂 That said, he is very vulnerable to images he sees on tv, even in passing, so we have to be ultra-careful to prescreen whatever he sees, even today. No cable tv in our house…

  3. Janet Bowser says:

    Our Charlie has a hard time with some shows and they have ended up in the trash too. Finding Nemo makes Charlie want to run into walls. Monsters, Inc. encourages him to slam doors, smash into walls…we find that there are some movies that just get under his skin that way.

    Strangely enough Babylon 5 calms him. Except anything from season 2, for some reason. We don’t know why, we just try to keep up with the changes.

  4. Have never heard of Babylon 5—-after the Barney (mis)adventure, we have been rather wary of any TV and video shows and Charlie has not seemed to miss them. Mostly he watches ESPN when Jim has a game on. How old is your Charlie?

    Charlie’s optometrist has one Barney video and Charlie always requests it, though he watched it rather grimly—as if it was something he _had_ to do. He is “vulnerable” to the images on TV, indeed—Lisa, you put it very well.

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