For 48 years, PBS’ perennial favorite TV show, Sesame Street, has illuminated living rooms around the world like a ray of sunshine beaming from the TV set. Generations of children have delighted to the songs and antics of friendly, colorful monsters who entertain and teach. How many of us can credit the show for helping us learn to count with the Count or understand concepts like big and small, colors, and more?
The light of learning extended from Sesame Street onto our streets has reached beyond just academic subjects like letters, numbers, and colors. Instead, the show has always served as a kid-friendly platform to learn about social issues, diversity, good citizenship, disability, and more. The show has proudly featured episodes about breastfeeding, racism, death, and other sometimes heavy topics in a way that is safe and nurturing to developing young minds.
Sesame Street has also often been a trailblazer by casting unique and diverse characters, such as Juila, a puppet who has autism, an HIV- positive puppet named Kami, and an Afghan puppet named Zari who educated viewers about girls’ rights.
Stepfamilies can now enjoy their moment in the sun as a brand new puppet, a cute little orange monster named Rudy, debuted on the show! What makes Rudy’s role on the show significant? Rudy is introduced as the stepbrother of Abby Cadabby! The program has created television magic, once again, by opening a place around the table for blended families to become part of the conversation and be normalized.
Whether a child from a blended family, or not, attention to this population is a beautiful opportunity to explain to all children what it means to be part of a stepfamily. The more children are exposed to the variety of people in our world and the families they come from, the more that others who are “not like them” are welcomed and treated as equals.
Whether a child from a blended family, or not, attention to this population is a beautiful opportunity to explain to all children what it means to be part of a stepfamily.
Abby and her new stepbrother demonstrate what stepfamilies already know of the “blending” process. The two new siblings note that they do not look alike because she is a fairy and he is a monster; but, despite initial uncertainty about one another, they have discovered that they have some unifying common interests, like soccer, that help them bond together.
For a young child, watching a favorite TV show and seeing her own life represented is empowering and reassuring. She now knows that she is not alone in becoming part of a new family dynamic, and she is encouraged to hear that even if she does not initially click with new stepsiblings or stepparents, they can yet overcome those obstacles and develop meaningful bonds!
I can’t help but think of my own son and stepson when my husband and I first introduced them seven years ago. My children have brown hair, and my husband’s kids are all blonde. We had different last names, they attended different schools, and they were very unsure of how to embark on a new relationship. For the first several months, these two boys didn’t care for one another. They didn’t quite understand what was happening to their families or what was expected of them. My husband and I continually pointed out all of their similar interests and crossed our fingers that they would finally accept one another.
Today, one would observe these two young men and conclude that they are brothers. They are. They are inseparable. They get one another’s similar and unique humor. They accept one another. They miss each other when with their other parents. They enjoy the same activities and share a beautiful connection. There is an unspoken love between the two that did not require biology; but, it took patience, building trust, and overcoming many misunderstandings.
There is an unspoken love between the two that did not require biology; but, it took patience, building trust, and overcoming many misunderstandings.
Although my boys are now too old to enjoy Sesame Street as they would have many years ago, I am moved that my kind of family, a representation of who we are, and the love we share is now part of the Sesame Street legacy! I can only imagine that having had a tool, in the form of a favorite TV program, to introduce the concept of stepfamilies and help my children prepare for and understand this huge life transition would have been immensely helpful. My heart can be warmed simply imagining a new set of little stepbrothers sitting down together to watch Abby and Rudy learn to become a family!
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