Idol Worship: Daniel Tiger

Ronnie James Dio. Lemmy Kilmister. Tony Iommi. Rob Halford.

I could go on.

The Metalsphere has no shortage of iconic figures, both among the living and the dearly departed. But no matter their current mortal state, they all share one thing — the ability to inspire and motivate new blood to follow in their combat-booted footsteps toward new heights of metal greatness.

But idol worship isn’t limited to rock gods, y’know; Gorgonna and her kiddie cohorts have their own holy heroes. And I don’t mean the ones we’ve imposed on her — Gorgonna took to revering these ones all on her own. Maybe you’ve heard of them, maybe you haven’t — it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that some upstart fictional figures have usurped a large chunk of the hero-worship supply that Mama and Daddy used to receive.

I know — I had the same gut reaction you’re having now. (“How dare they!!”) But surely you can remember your own parents’ quizzical looks when they saw how into the kooky music video for “Holy Diver” you were, or their raised eyebrows as you stapled posters of some upstanding, pink-bearded gentleman named “Dimebag” to the plaster walls of your room.

As parents we have a right to be skeptic, but as mostly metal parents, who most certainly looked up to some freaky-deaky folk as youngins, we should know better. So I’d like to share with you my ongoing investigation into this whole… experience. Maybe you can see for yourself if I should be worried about Gorgonna’s latest obsessions, or if I just need to accept them as my new personal lords and saviors.

First up: Daniel Tiger.

The cast of Daniel Tiger.
Friendship. Oh, how I wish I were talking about the Japanese grind band.

Preaching the Good Word

“O, Daniel!” Any time, any place – that’s when you could hear this phrase in the MMD household. Gorgonna warbles it with the same frequency as an “amen!” or a “hallelujah!” not only when she sees his holy image at Target or in one of her books, but as a reaffirmation of her faith, AKA for no reason at all.

Locking the door and heading to the car: “O, Daniel!” Putting the laundry in the dryer: “O, Daniel!” Strapping her in her high chair for lunch: “O, Daniel!” Okay, we get it, you like Daniel Tiger. But by constantly invoking his name, she shows me just how much sway he holds over her. You can bet I’ll be keeping my ears and eyes open for any subliminal messages hidden away inside each episode’s upbeat songs and positive lessons about friendship and tolerance.

Houses of the Holy

For us metalheads, the concert venue is our temple. The stage is the altar, the mosh pit our pew. We bend the knee to riffs, and in return we are blessed with shredding solos and ripping rhythms. And yea, ’twas good.

There’s a key difference between the kind of worshipping we do and the kind Gorgonna does. Rather than seek out a place of worship, Gorgonna absorbed her knowledge directly from her everyday environment, by which I mean KPBS at Grandma’s house. God came in the form of a burning bush, and the burning bush is an LG flatscreen.

I’m a firm supporter of the Arts — always will be, I suspect. But I’m still battling with the idea of her being exposed to TV at all, even that transmitted by the liberal-as-fuck Public Broadcasting. Then again, maybe that’s just my own personal prejudice (paranoia?). After all, my wife and I haven’t had cable since we first started dating, and we don’t have any plans to change that anytime soon. Still, I’d rather Gorgonna not have Ye Olde Bewb Tube blaring at her for extended periods of time.

Eventually/inevitably, our own home became a satellite altar for her. We began bringing Daniel Tiger DVDs home from the library to pop on while she was sick (she sometimes got up to four or five a day). Then we started going on KPBS’s website and streaming them. Our internet isn’t the greatest, so the video stutters a bit, but Gorgonna doesn’t seem to mind. Now that she’s healthy (crossin’ my MFin’ fingers), we try to go a few days in between watching an episode here or there. Besides, the episodes don’t update very often, and if I have to hear about Daniel Tiger’s trip to the clock factory one more time, I’m gonna scream.

At the weekly mecca to Grandma’s house though — that’s when she starts pumpin’ out those prayers. I’m not saying she’s got the TV going all the time there, but it’s a lot less regulated. That’s what grandparents are for, no?

The Holy Relics

A pile of Daniel Tiger books.
Maybe, just maybe, there’s a copy of the Necronomicon in there.

It’s time to confess — we supported her idol worship at first. Even facilitated it. Wife bought her a Daniel Tiger plushie; I bought her a six-pack of DT books from Costco. Both have instantly become some of her favorite things. She takes the plushie with her on every excursion, and while the books aren’t quite as highly regarded as, say, a pocket Bible filled with raving scribblings, they are effective at getting her to take her afternoon nap. Or maybe they’re just that boring. Lord knows how many times I’ve fallen asleep during Sunday Service as a lad.

Conclusion/Benediction

I’ll always be wary of what my daughter chooses to focus on. I can’t help it. She brings us every piece of trash she finds at the park, including cigarette butts; I’m steeling myself for the day she hands me a hypodermic needle. Her recent reverence for Daniel Tiger is a slightly jarring change, but ultimately I think it’s pretty harmless. I mean, it won’t stop here, right? I’m already dreading taking her to her first boy band concert (do they still make those??).

I figure the more things she likes, the easier she is to distract. WITH MODERATION! And only when it counts, like when a pot’s boiling over and I absolutely don’t want her anywhere near that. We can’t control what Gorgonna sees or hears all the time, right? Besides, the Sleep Lady (whose work I’ll stand by) says “loveys” can help kids feels more at ease. And really, that’s the least I could ask for in this day and age.

Just remember — you may think a well-to-do anthropomorphic tiger-child carrying on the last will and testament of Fred Rogers is weird, but remember you first idolized a gay, motorcycle-riding poster child for BDSM with an glass-shattering falsetto. Just sayin’.

So, I gotta ask: what gods do your kids worship? Who else do I need to watch out for? Conversely, who should I support? I need to know who to cast my lot with in case there’s some kind of kids’ Ragnarok, and all the gods for both the young and the old clash to determine our eternal fate.

I failed, I cried, but I’m not a bad dad.

I’m writing this down in the event that I forget it, not because I want to remember it, but because I might need to remind myself that it happened at all.

I failed — again — at getting Gorgonna to go back to sleep. To our dismay, she had been waking up several times during the night all week long. Tonight’s was the worst yet — a 3 AM pealing scream that undid the one-hour spell of sleep I’d been under since the last time she’d woken up. But her cries were not just the usual wordless wailing — they had a want behind them, a desire. And my failure to grant her that desire is what broke me.

Oh, I broke all right. I unleashed a monsoon from my eyes tonight. My wife, bless this woman who has chosen to spend her life with such a neurotic, confidence-lacking man-child, is out on the couch with Gorgonna under what I hope is a million blankets because damn, is it cold for California right now. And I’m here, snuggled under the covers in our queen-sized bed, the cats curled up next to my hips and ankles, the soft glow of the WordPress window the only light around. Find someone who’d do for you what my wife does for me, and never let them go, man.

You see, “Momma” is ultimately what Gorgonna wanted, although that isn’t what got me a-weepin’. I’m used to her choosing Mom’s lap over mine, Mom’s soft embrace over my bony-armed wrap. I’m probably like hugging a thornbush, so I can’t blame her there. No, what got my tear ducts working overtime was Gorgonna’s cries for one very specific thing:

“Go-go.” Goldfish. Fucking Pepperidge Farms Goldfish.

These are her special snack that are, admittedly, not that special since she gets them several times a day. Goldfish became her first outward sign of brand loyalty, as she would prefer them over other, more healthy snacks. She could pick out the few crackers nestled at the bottom of her snack cup, the ones hidden beneath a veritable mountain of whole oat, heart disease-preventing Cheerios. That’s dedication.

“That” is also what caused me to bawl my eyes out at 3 AM. I’m not exactly sure why it brought out such an intense reaction, but I just kept imagining Finn’s face on that white and orange box as the sole cause of my problem tonight. How was I supposed to give Gorgonna what she wanted? I already have enough of a moral dilemma feeding her goldfish during the day — the fuck was I supposed to do about her wanting them at night? Cry, apparently.

I don’t think it was exactly the right thing to do, but it’s what happened. That’s a recurring theme here at Mostly Metal Dad, the whole “I know this is how things are supposed to work, but here’s how they’re going down tonight.” From feeding to sleeping to teaching her how to brush her teeth, the daily acts of child-like information rarely go the way they’re supposed to. And I guess sometimes that wears on me.

I need to remember failure. Because what I’m identifying isn’t really failure, more trial and error. But because my mind keeps labeling it that way (the way I keep labeling Mortichnia black metal when they’re really more post-black metal (oh, yay, a metal reference!!)), I may as well call it as I see it. So, yeah. Failure.

Failing sucks, but it will happen a lot more before I’m ready to feel comfortable about it. I may have some rough, stormy nights like this one, while others will be smooth sailing. At the end of the day (or night, as it’s now almost 4:30), the most I can do is remember the sweet, supportive wife I have and the daughter who, despite having some outlandish wants that I know are only just beginning, deserves everything wholesome and good in this world, and even some bad, like goddamn Pepperidge Farm fucking Goldfish.

I would try to turn water into wine and fish into bread to give her what she wants. Maybe I should turn Goldfish into whole wheat multi-grain toast.

I’m not down with this sickness.

So I’ve got this cough. Gorgonna, darling daughter that she is, gave it to me. And since my Priority Number One as a parent is to act stoked for whatever she does, I accepted the accursed common cold with feigned glee.

But not once has my cough sounded like “ooh ah-ah-ah-ah.”

Unexpected, I know. In fact, there are other unexpected things about being sick with a child you should know about. So let’s get a little disturbed, let David Draiman and Co. into our lives for a hot minute, and get down. Wayyyy down.

The sickness is rising

“I can see inside you / The sickness is rising / Don’t try to deny what you feel.”

You’ll see The Sickness coming, and you’ll think you’re safe. But you aren’t. Oh, no. The vitamins you’ve crammed and extra orange juice you’ve slugged to stave off its arrival will be in vain, for The Sickness will be knocking on your door soon enough. It just has to make a couple stops first.

The Sickness will weave, serpentine, through your family, striking the immune systems of the strong and weak alike. Your rambunctious child will suffer the most; she’ll Jekyll and Hyde her way through the day, alternating between states of feeling fine and feeling absolutely lousy. A post-lunch play session will end with mucus oozing from her nostrils — the telltale sign that things aren’t all right.

At least it hasn’t hit you yet, eh? Now that you mention it, you’ve had this tickle in your throat for a few days already. And as the week goes on, you start to feel The Sickness fully manifest itself.

Get up, c’mon, get down

Once The Sickness has infected you, your path is set. You’re in for a world of hurt.

“It seems that all that was good has died / And is decaying in me.”

You’re sick. You have to admit it now, because you can’t keep your usual pace. As your strength is sapped by the day, wistful memories will surface of when you were well and capable of moving. Running, laughing, playing — even staying awake will seem like the distant actions of another person. You can’t even remember what feeling good felt like, let alone see an end in sight. The Sickness is all-consuming, and it’s crippling you from the inside.

“It seems you’re having some trouble / In dealing with these changes / Living with these changes / Oh no.”

Once you start to feel better, you’ll feel like you can take on the world. You’ll start to want doing things again.

Don’t. Resist the urge to embrace life again, else you could suffer a relapse. Suffer for a while longer, maybe spin some misanthropic black metal — whatever gets you in the mood to close the blinds and stay indoors for a while longer.

Madness has now come over me

“You fucker / get up, come on get down with the sickness.”

Aside from the fact that I equally ironically/unironically love that song, “Down with the Sickness” serves as a decent roadmap for being sick with a child. The angst and frustration in the lyrics (not counting the incredibly stupid “skit” that always gets cut for the radio edit) are surely echoed by every parent who has ever felt the obligation of child-rearing yet feel so damn weak. It’s enough to drive one mad.

A side-by-side comparison of Disturbed's The Sickness album cover with my daughter, Gorgonna, heavily filtered.
Who wore it best?

But as I type this, the worst of The Sickness has passed; only an infrequent phlegmy cough remains. Like all things rough about parenting, these times will pass, until they rear their ugly, ugly heads again. (Kind of like Disturbed’s first album cover.)

Because come again, it will. The Sickness moves in a remorseless cycle, and you’ll inevitably feel its sting again. Will you be ready? Can you ever be ready?

I don’t know if I can. But the most we can ever do is just deal with it.