As I write this, I am watching a documentary on the late, great Mister Rogers. About an hour in, the film, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” shows two parodies. One is a parody I actually enjoy and think is really funny. It’s a Saturday Night Live skit with Eddie Murphy called “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood”. It’s basically a black Mr. Rogers giving bad advice to kids. Having said that, according to the documentary, Eddie Murphy got to meet Mr. Rogers and was in awe meeting “The real Mister Rogers!” Talk about respect… The other parody was a faux boxing match between a celebrity chef and Mr. Rogers on “The Battle of the PBS Stars”. That one, I thought, was more mean spirited.
So why do I bring these two parodies of a legendary human being up? I’ll tell you. After showing the “mean” side of fame, it shows Fred Rogers listening to a comedy record. He then says something that I, as a person on the Autism Spectrum, can absolutely agree and identify with. Bear with me here, since the quote is a little long. “It’s a laugh record. I used to play one like this when I was a young boy. You see, I felt that the adults around me were pressuring me to be what I couldn’t be yet. ‘Act like a grown-up’ I’d hear them say. Well I was afraid they’d laugh at me when I tried. So I found a record like this, and I could make the laughs start and make them stop whenever I wanted to. For someone who hated to be laughed at, it was a good feeling to be in charge of at least this laughter.”
Directly after that inspiring quote, Mister Rogers says during an interview, “I think that those who would try to make you feel less than who you are…I think that’s the greatest evil.” And you know what? I couldn’t agree more! I think so often, people-adults with their younger kids or family members in particular-kind of pressure them into this sense of “ I HAVE to succeed!”/“I HAVE to get a good job!/“I HAVE to do good in school!/“I HAVE to go to college!/“I HAVE to make my parents and family proud!” And while I can sort of see the “I want my child to succeed” aspect—who doesn’t?—that’s a lot of pressure for kids. I think it can be maybe almost overbearing. Look, parents…I get it. Unless you’re a total dick parent, you want what’s best for your kids. Hell, I’m not a parent, but as I get older, I do think about when I have kids. And sometimes I myself even fall into this mentality.
But the I take a step back and think of my upbringing. To an extent, my parents were like that when I was in school, particularly High School. But my parents NEVER ONCE held me to this, in my opinion, almost unrealistic career standard of “Why aren’t you a successful doctor/lawyer/et cetera?” I graduated High School in 2009. I tried college, but ultimately decided it wasn’t for me.
But I digress… Going back to the Mister Rogers quote, I think there is some aspect of childhood that never dies and always sticks with us. Mister Rogers knew that. He knew we never really lose that sense of awe and wonder and amazement. He was one of those rare people who saw kids for what they are…KIDS! To end his show, he would always say, “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world, and I like you just the way you are.” That’s such a powerful thing for anyone, let alone a child, to hear. “You’re perfect just as you are.”
I know this post is long already so I’ll just leave you with this last quote. This one is from Mister Rogers’ final broadcast on TV before he passed. “It’s such a good feeling to know we’re lifelong friends.” Thanks for reading, my friends! Do you agree with these quotes? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!