It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and as people everywhere consider the many things they’re thankful for, I have decided to do the same. Just not here. Instead, in honor of the holiday that’s all about being thankful, I’m inspired to write (not in a mean-spirited or cynical way, but a fairly joyous one) . . . about the things I’m not so thankful for.
The Manatee and I have listened to “Dora the Explorer: Party Favorites” over 1,789 times in the past two months. I’m not complaining about it – you’ll see why in a minute. And since I’ve listened to it so much, I have become quite the expert on this particular album. So today, I’ve decided to review the 6 songs on the Dora album that have made the biggest impression on us.
Let’s first understand that this is a party mix. Dora and her gang, in this case us, are going to a party. Or rather, la fiesta. We never actually discuss where this party is, but apparently it’s at least halfway around the world because we must cross the ever-falling London Bridge and travel through a rainforest. Along the way, we encounter various situations that just so happen to set up well-known children’s songs. All in the hopes that we will one day reach the party. Here are the six songs, not in order of appearance on the CD.
6. London Bridge: This is clearly my favorite song. Dora really lets loose on this one and seems to have a personal connection with it. There’s one point where she starts rapping. Yes, rapping. The lyrics of this rap are a call-and-response: “Why does London Bridge keep falling down? We don’t know!” She repeats it, over and over, but ultimately it’s in vain. Because no one knows why London Bridge keeps falling down. Or why anyone would write a song about a bridge collapsing.
5. Happy Birthday: This is one of the last songs on the CD. It turns out the fiesta is actually a birthday party for . . . I haven’t the foggiest, because Dora never tells us. We just have to accept that someone who is making this trip with us is celebrating a birthday. Anyway, I like this song because it is in English and Spanish. The Manatee really likes the Spanish part and sings it loudly. None of the words match what Dora is saying, nor any words that exist in any language. But I have to say this for her: She’s as committed as Dora is.
4. I’m a Little Teapot: This isn’t really that good of a song, but we have to sing it when our merry band takes a wrong turn and instead of ending up at London Bridge, we end up at Troll Bridge. Either Dora can’t read a map, or Map should change his name because I feel like Troll Bridge is a long way from London Bridge. Anyway, my problem with this song is the setup. To cross the bridge, Troll makes us solve a riddle. It goes like this: I have a handle and a spout and I make water really hot. Really, grumpy troll? This is the best riddle you have? All you do is guard a bridge all day. Don’t you have time to come up with a more challenging riddle? Why don’t you just put up a sign that says “It’s a teapot. Go ahead and cross.”
3. Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush: This song I skip. Because it troubles me. Do you realize how many things we have to do early in the morning, according to this song? Allow me to enlighten you. On one day, so early in the morning (around 2:30 am, I’d imagine), we have to: go around a Mulberry Bush (no one knows why), wash our clothes, iron our clothes, mend our clothes, sweep the floor and scrub the floor. Then, after we do all of that, we’re allowed to go to a party. All of this happens so early in the morning. Who has a party so early in the morning? And why do I have to do all that before I can go to a party? Will I even want to go after doing all of those things? No, no I won’t.
2. Itsy Bitsy Spider: As we continue on our way to la fiesta, we come upon Diego, Dora’s cousin. We are in a rainforest, and Dora asks Diego for help making it through. Which he agrees to – if we help him with a little animal rescue first. Guess you can’t help family without getting something in return, right Diego? When the Manatee hears that an animal needs rescue, she always goes “Uh oh!” Uh oh is right. Because it’s not an animal rescue, unless tiny spiders are now classified as animals. And speaking of that, anyone with knowledge of the song would quickly realize that we don’t need to help the tiny spider anyway because once the sun comes out, the spider makes it up the waterspout no problem. But we help Diego by singing the song, which is fine but not outstanding, and he helps us through the rainforest. Why are we in the rainforest again? Where the heck is this party?
1. If You’re Happy and You Know It: This version of the song is fantastic. It is the Manatee’s favorite song and the only one that will instantly stop her from crying. She loves the clapping, the stomping, and the saying hooray (“Uh-ray!”). We have listened to this song more than any other. You’d think it would grow old, but it doesn’t. Because when I look in that rearview mirror and see her singing, clapping, and stomping away with a big smile on her face, it feels like the first time I’ve heard it.
And that’s the real reason I never mind listening to this CD every time the Manatee starts yelling “Dora! Dora! Dora!” Here’s to another 1,789 listens.
“Daddy, did you ever bully anyone, and did anyone ever bully you?”
The question came out of nowhere. Chloe and I were enjoying a daddy/daughter date at a local coffee shop. We’d been telling funny stories and talking about acting, and we were in the middle of discussing how gross bread-and-butter pickles are when she asked it. I took a sip of my coffee and thought about it. It didn’t take long.
“Both, actually. In the same year. When I was in seventh grade.”
He was a new kid, and he picked me to bully. And as luck would have it, he was in most of my classes. Daily, he would mock me. About everything. Anything that I did, he made fun of it. Outside of class, he would find me and trip me up, shove me, or just ridicule me some more. I remember going to school each day, hoping that he would be absent. Those days were the most glorious days of my seventh-grade life. For one whole day, I would be free from his persecution. Unfortunately, he had really good attendance.
The days he was late were the worst. First thing in the morning, I would look back and see his empty chair, and a smile would come over my face. I could relax. Then he’d walk in with a late pass. I would slowly sink in my seat, waiting for the inevitable. This went on for the entire year.
“Why didn’t your friends stop him?”
“I guess the same reason I never stepped in when I saw someone else getting bullied. Better to be a bystander than a target.”
“Why did he bully you? Was he a bad kid?”
“I thought that then. But maybe he was getting bullied somewhere else, or maybe there was another reason that I never knew.”
“Humph.” She took another sip of hot chocolate and then looked up. “So if you were being bullied, Daddy, why would you bully someone else?”
“I guess I thought it would make me feel better.”
“Who was he?”
He was a friend. And he was far lower on the popularity totem pole than I was. Maybe at the bottom. I don’t know why, though. It could have been his looks, or that his family didn’t have a lot of money, or that he was socially awkward, or maybe it was just because he was different. For some reason, though, he was the one that no one wanted to be. Not even me. And he was my friend. We worked together, laughed together, and even silently felt bad for the other, I suppose. But one day, I forgot how much we had had in common.
It was recess, on a particularly trying day. My parents had talked to the principal about the bullying, which led to a meeting in the office with the principal. The principal yelled at my bully, he apologized, and we were sent back into the classroom. Instantly, he called me my name and told that me that he was going to get me back for getting him in trouble. He didn’t leave me alone the rest of the morning, and it seemed that the other students laughed even more that day.
At recess, I walked alone for a while and then took up with a group of kids that weren’t really my friends – they were more popular than I was – but I was with them that day. I don’t remember what we were doing, but at some point, the boy I would soon bully showed up. Everyone was goofing off and started making fun of him.
I wasn’t part of it at first. But I was there and didn’t say anything, so I guess I was just as responsible. Then at some point, I joined in and even began leading it. I remember the others pulling aside, almost as if they were spectators in the coliseum: the royalty watching the lower class duke it out. Only, he didn’t fight back. I followed up my taunts with a shove, and he fell. The other kids laughed – and finally, it wasn’t at me. For a moment, I felt vindicated. All the bullying that I’d had to endure that day, and every day before that, faded away. I was the victor.
Until he started crying.
I stopped, the bell rang, the other kids left. As he lay on the ground, I stared at him. He was yelling at me.
“Was he using bad words, Daddy?”
“Yeah. He was really mad. And embarrassed. But mostly hurt. I was supposed to be his friend.”
“What did you do then?”
I walked over to him and said I was sorry. He got up and ran back to class without saying a word, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I knew how he felt. Unfortunately, I was the one that made him feel that way. I remember thinking that I just wanted, for one moment, to not be the one who felt powerless. The funny thing was, at that moment, I had never felt more powerless. I spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for him, for myself, and trying to apologize. It didn’t go well, which I could understand. Even at 12.
“Did he ever forgive you?”
“At some point, I think he did. I don’t think he ever forgot, though. I know I didn’t.”
“Clearly, Daddy, you’re telling me now.”
I smiled. “Yes, yes I am.”
“It was pretty mean of you to do something like that.”
“Yep. I felt horrible afterwards.”
“You probably should have.”
“You’re right. So what do you think I learned that day?”
Chloe took a drink of her hot chocolate and looked off in silent contemplation. Then she said, “That no matter how bad you feel, you can’t make yourself feel better by hurting someone else. And you have to stand up for people. Maybe kick the bully in the knees.”
Um, yeah. That about sums it up. Not sure about the knee part though.
Here it is. Steven's blog, where his thoughts about things are revealed. Good luck.