How I learned to stop worrying and love Ni Hao, Kai-Lan

My daughter, SP, has a strong fear of conflict. And as a result, she refuses to watch basically any children’s movies known to man. (Little Mermaid? No. Wall-E? No. Ratatouille? No.) This can be very frustrating, for a variety of reasons. (Writing about how I’m worried she’s too sensitive could and will fill a whole other blog piece.) But one of the tangible reasons it bugs me is that it leads to her watching a lot of TV shows that are aimed at younger kids, which are not a lot of fun for parents to watch. (On the flipside, she isn’t into Hannah Montana or the like yet either, so that’s something.)

I get very annoyed and bored watching these shows with her. A particular non-favorite of mine is a new-ish show called Ni Hao, Kai-Lan. It’s about a little Chinese girl, Kai-Lan, her grandfather and her three friends – a tiger, a koala and a monkey. They have very calm adventures, learn valuable lessons on appropriate behavior and teach you a few words in Chinese. (Ni hao is “hello.”)

My biggest problem with the show (other than Kai-Lan’s voice, which is irritatingly singsong) is that it’s very simplistic. The problems are always solved instantly and conveniently. There’s never a twist or anything new. I know, I’m asking too much of children’s TV, but this show is particularly bad about this. (Oh, and I hate that Kai-Lan herself never has a problem. She spends her entire life helping her friends. Her best quality is, and I quote, “being a good friend,” while her male friends all have active traits like running, climbing and jumping. But I’ll save the feminist critique for another time!)

So I watch it with SP, but have been growing ever-more impatient with her desire to watch something so obviously for smaller children. Until this last weekend.

We were visiting her cousins, and the three of them were playing racecars. As they raced, her older cousin started needling the other two kids about how she was winning and she was so good, etc., etc., typical stuff. And my daughter, the little girl so scared of conflict that she doesn’t want to watch The Bee Movie, turns to her older cousin and says: “That’s bragging. That isn’t very nice.”

Now that, my friends, is a lesson straight out of a Kai-Lan episode. (And god bless her, SP’s cousin apologized and stopped doing it.) So I think I need to be more patient with SP’s desire for televised pabulum. She obviously gets something out of it. She’s learning how to deal with issues in her own way, at her own pace. And that makes me say Tai bang le! (super awesome)

– RBVH

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