January 1, 2007

Elmo's SAHD Joins Military, Deploys To... Somewhere


In the Sesame Beginnings DVD's, Elmo's The Dude-like dad Louie stays at home to take care of him, gives him baths, even schedules his playgroups. [Clearly, that last one is a fantasy.]

Now, in a new Sesame Street special which started airing last week, and which will be available on DVD, Louie loses the 'stache--but keeps a soulpatch--joins the military, and gets deployment orders. When Parents Are Deployed features characters from The Street and real military families talking about how they deal with deployment and separation.

Producers of the show estimate that more than 700,000 kids in the US have one or both parents deployed overseas right now, many of them--obviously--in Iraq and neighboring countries.

"The one thing I learned is that the military kids tend to be pretty resilient," [Sesame Workshop CEO Gary] Knell said. "They seem to born into a culture that's made for resiliency."

One veteran talks proudly about how he had left behind a large glass jar filled with little messages from him for them to read, one a day, while he was gone.

His daughter sits bravely beside him as he talks until she can't take it any more. She dissolves into tears at the memory.

Yeah, sounds real resilient. I want to be positive about this, and it sounds like an important and useful resource for families, but for me, it just highlights the invisible cost of the war, which is being borne by people with no vote or say in the matter at all.

And it also highlights a lack of resources for military parents and families, whose challenges should come as no surprise to the government that called them up. And yet, it's only four years into a war that we get one 30-minute Muppet video [sponsored by Wal-Mart] and meanwhile, families in Maine are left to make giant Flat Daddy cutouts on their own; soldiers run around scavenging enough phonecards so they can be conferenced in to their childrens' births; and PTSD, baby shaking, and a panoply of other challenges face them on their return.

Exceptionalist "resiliency" here sounds like the kind of thing adults praise to minimize the real gravity of the situation. If it's what military parents have to say to themselves, that's one thing. For most anyone else, though, it sounds like too easy absolution. Or dereliction of duty.

Mom or Dad Goes Off To War
Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families During Military Deployment [sesameworkshop]
Louie, Elmo's Dad [muppet wiki]


I started to watch the special last week and kept crying. My dad was sent to the Gulf War when I was in high school. Six months after his first grandson (my son) was born he was sent to Iraq. And now, he is leaving for Afghanistan on the 11th.

I couldn't watch the entire thing, it made me very emotional (how resilient am I?), but I saw it set up as a kind of guide that helps families who are going through that experience, and maybe as a help to the neighbors and friends who have no idea what it is like.

Today's technology is so much better than when my dad was in the Gulf War. We didn't even have email then. Today kids can web conference with their parents and maybe speak with them often. You are correct, it is a very grave situation and I really hope that the military brats of today are given the chance to properly express themselves and their feelings due to the situation their families are in.

terribly moving essay in the NYT yesterday by an editor whose husband -- father to their small son -- was killed in iraq. very, very tough to read:

[ed: agreed. posted here, with non-expiring link.]

less wrenching (no death!) but superb essay, in brain/child magazine, about daddy being deployed

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