Today is Big Bird’s birthday and he is turning 6 years old, again!
Since I was an 80s infant I was enthralled by Sesame Street. As young as 6 months old my parents would put me in front of the TV and as soon that old familiar theme song started my eyes would glue to the set and would not peel away until the end credits. My favourite character was in fact Big Bird. Still as an adult with my own three children, that big tall bright yellow bird, with his childlike innocence and a giant heart of gold has taught me so much about life.
1. It’s OK to make mistakes
As a perfectionist this one is so hard. As a parent to little people who depend on me, I really don’t want to make any mistakes that will mess my kids up! The reality is that we all make mistakes regardless of how vigilant we are. As Big Bird says, “If everyone in the whole wide world makes mistakes, then why can’t you?”
2. Ask questions and be eager to learn
I truly believe that the point of living is to learn and that the moment we stop learning we might as well stop living. If you think you know it all, then you really know nothing and the biggest thing you lack is wisdom. My favourite part about my job as a birth doula, postpartum and infant care doula is that there is always more to learn. Every birth, baby, family and their journey is unique and I am constantly facing new and exciting challenges and learning from them.
Big Bird probably asks the most questions than any other character on Sesame Street. He reminds me of that toddler who repeatedly asks “Why? Why? Why?”. Kids have no fear of asking questions, of admitting that they don’t have the answers, and of potentially becoming annoying! Asking questions is key to gaining knowledge.
3. Depend on others
Being a perpetual six year old orphan Big Bird really needs to depend on others to take care of him, help him to learn, to grow, to explore the world and feel safe. I have learned over my decades on this planet that beyond childhood I really need the support of others too. As an introvert, it’s easy for me to shut myself in and away from others. While I don’t need many friends, I need quality friends whom I can trust and lean on during those times that I am in emotional, physical and spiritual need, just like Big Bird.
4. Don’t lose your ability to use your imagination
For many years on the show Big Bird’s best friend Snuffleupagus (Snuffy) was his imaginary best friend and the representation of all children’s imaginations. In the mid 1980’s after Snuffy was revealed as real to the grown ups, Big Bird still had a wonderful and active imagination. As a parent, I am amazed at the creativity of my kids’ imaginations. I love watching them play and interact, and I marvel at how they view the world. It has helped me shake off some jaded skepticism and to live imaginatively again.
“Imagine, imagine– Big Bird’s Song “Imagine With Me”
That you are all grown with maybe a job and some kids of your own
Close your eyes and think about the way you’ll be
Imagine, imagine, imagine
5. It’s OK to feel BIG emotions
I will never forget the episode when Big Bird learned that Mr. Hooper (who he often called Mr. Looper) had died. It was especially moving because the real life actor Will Lee did pass away. The creators of the show could have easily glossed it over by writing in the script that Mr. Hooper had moved or retired, but they decided to tackle the subject of death on a kids show.
They also had episodes focused on many issues such as bullying, Maria’s pregnancy, September 11th and Hurricane Katrina. No matter what the emotion: fear, anger, frustration, sadness, guilt, or joy, Sesame Street talks about it and breaks it down for kids (and grown ups) to understand and know that it’s okay to express your feelings.
6. Be inclusive and accept others
It is amazing how easy it is to forget this basic lesson, especially in our torn up world today. When Sesame Street hit the air in 1969 it was one of the most inclusive and revolutionary shows out there. The show was geared towards all types of families, the creators worked to inspire their viewers, to take time to understand other people and the world around them. Big Bird taught us all about diversity, cooperation and how we are all alike no matter what colour our feathers are.
It’s amazing that one show that has been on the air for almost 50 years and has shaped so many children and adults. Now broadcast in over 140 countries, Big Bird has made an unforgettable and meaningful impact on the lives of millions (maybe even billions) and has taught us all so much. On behalf of the world, today I say a great big thank you and Happy Birthday to you Big Bird!
On behalf of the world, today I say a great big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you dearest Big Bird!
Sarah Baker is a the co-owner of Lifetime of Love Doula Services. She has been supporting families for almost a decade as a birth doula, postpartum & infant care doula and childbirth educator. She is mom to three boys, twins and a singleton.