Grownups Come Back???

life-lessons-finalHas anyone seen the new kid on the PBS block, Daniel Tiger?

He’s the cute little brown-and-orange striped tiger that took over for the late Fred Rogers on the hit PBS show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Now it’s called Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and overall I really like the show. My four-year-old has watched it a few times and he likes it too.

But recently I really didn’t agree with one of the episodes.

At the beginning of the show, Daniel’s parents were heading out on a date for the night and he was nervous to be at home with a babysitter. So, the tiger couple talked to their son and told him that grownups always come back.

They even sang a catchy little tune with the lyrics: “Grownups come back.” And sure enough at the end of their date, when Daniel was in bed almost asleep, his parents came back and tucked him in.

Then later in the episode Daniel’s father was taking him to preschool. Daniel was nervous about being dropped off at school and wanted to stay with his dad. His dad broke into song, reminding his son that, “Grownups come back.”

I couldn’t help thinking, what if a grownup doesn’t come back?

My children have all had serious problems with separation anxiety, and I have had to get creative on how I help them cope with their feelings, but I don’t think I would ever sing them a song about grownups always coming back.

Maybe I’m a pessimist, but what if things don’t go according to planned and a grownup doesn’t come back?

Now I’m not saying that it happens very often, but what if you tell your child that grownups always come back and then there is a car accident or medical emergency that makes it so that a grownup can’t come back. Or worse, what if, a grownup simply chooses not to come back?

Or, on a less serious note, what if you tell your child you will always come back and then get stuck in the grocery check-out line, or hung up at a doctor’s appointment? Maybe you want to come back to pick them up, but are delayed.

What if you have promised your kid you will be there but end up having to send grandma, or the neighbor to pick them up instead?

I remember when I was pregnant with my fourth baby, having lost my third at 37 weeks gestation, my oldest son kept asking me if we were going to get to take our new baby home this time. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him yes. What if I told him that everything was going to be all right with this baby, and then it wasn’t?

I guess my past experiences have made me wary about making promises I don’t know if I can keep.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe it’s cute that Daniel’s parents crafted a little jingle to help their son deal with a stressful situation.

But I still don’t think I’ll use the “grownups come back” phrase with my own children. I think it’s an exaggerated blanket statement that could occasionally lead to more stress or heartache.

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elise
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 09:58:16

    We use a similar way of thinking as Daniel Tiger’s parents, but ours is a tad more realistic. We ask the kid(s), “when have we ever NOT come back?” We talk about it, one of the kids usually reminds us that sometimes we’re late, so we remind them that even then, we still came eventually. Then we tell them something like “we will do everything we can to always come back to you”. But I’d be wary of being too pessimistic about it – I wouldn’t want to remind them too much that bad things can happen – that might make the separation anxiety worse – they might start imagining all the bad things that can happen when they’re not with you. Just a thought.


    • Natalie
      Dec 06, 2012 @ 10:07:22

      That’s a good point Elise. I don’t want to scare them. I try to take the more realistic approach like you. I try to let them know that someone will be there for them, even if I am running late or have a change of plans. Hopefully that works.


  2. Wendy
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 12:13:51

    I think, a little more literally, that grownups will always come back…it may not be the grownup the kid is expecting, but it should be safe to assume that they’ll never be left alone, which is what I think this episode is trying to get at. Maybe that’s too optimistic, but it seems like a good explanation!

    I guess because I don’t have kids, but I didn’t realized Mr. Rogers was gone…how does a cartoon replace the guy in the sweater? That’s a bit sad to me.


    • Natalie
      Dec 06, 2012 @ 13:21:42

      You are right Wendy, some grownup will always be there for my kids. I don’t know why this episode really got to me. Maybe it was the cheesy song that went with it 🙂

      And about Mr. Rogers, I was sad they don’t air his episodes anymore too. Daniel is pretty cute, but he’ll never be the same to me.


  3. Amanda
    Feb 12, 2014 @ 06:09:35

    I was looking for someone else to have a problem with this song!

    My problem is-watching it with my 4 year old foster daughter. Meaning her mommy and daddy aren’t coming back. At least not anytime soon.

    Between accidents and illnesses, removal from the home, death, arrest, choice or a million other reasons grown ups don’t come back- I can’t imagine WHY the writers thought this was a good idea.


    • Natalie
      Feb 13, 2014 @ 22:32:20

      I don’t know why this song rubbed me the wrong way! It makes me feel better that someone else felt similarly. I can see where your foster daughter would have a hard time with the song. Sadly, sometimes grown ups do not come back 😦


  4. awkwardkyarii
    Apr 21, 2014 @ 09:27:22

    I just came across your blog, this song is actually currently playing, I want to turn it off, but my son loves this show. I hate this song so much. I did not have my father growing up after the age of 6, he was in prison until I was 18. Before that he was in the army, so I didn’t see him anyways. Also growing up in a military lifestyle. I saw so many children who’s mom/dad did NOT come back. When I was 19, I babysat a little boy who lost his father, who just took off and wanted nothing to do with them. He was so scared to then loose his mom, and she could not find a way to break that anxiety, I dunno if it helped in the long run, but while I watched him. I would tell him a vague “You’ll never be alone” and “Your mommy and everyone else love you” he would calm down for a little bit, and I would have to repeat until his mom came to pick him up. My son luckily has both my husband and I here, and we will always do our best to return to him. I find this song is very poor taste. I’m glad to see, my husband I are not the only ones with issues of this ridiculous song.


    • Natalie
      Apr 23, 2014 @ 21:52:40

      Thank you for your comment. You are right, I think this song was in poor taste. Maybe it does help some kids and maybe it is true a vast majority of the time, but sometimes grown ups don’t come back. I am glad I am not the only one who thought it was a little difficult to listen to.


  5. Jenny
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 23:03:44

    Amen! I have 2 little ones adopted separately out of foster care. My 4year old adheres to the messages on this show like it’s her bible and for the most part, I’m all for it as most of the messages are spot on and useful, ie practicing calming down in appropriate settings, remembering to show appreciation and stopping play to go potty when necessary. She repeats each episodes’ message to herself aloud over and over for days. But my baby girl not only lost her parents at birth, she had 4 homes before I found her at 19 months. To her, grown-ups, trusted and seen as parents, usually DON’T come back. Should she feel they do for everyone but her? Love this show, was very frustrated by just this one episode. I hope the producers get these messages and stop airing this one, assumedly well-intended episode that just missed the mark.


    • Natalie
      Aug 07, 2014 @ 09:32:18

      That’s so hard! My son was watching Daniel Tiger on Netflix the other day and this episode came on. I skipped it. It drives me crazy!!!


    • Katie
      Nov 14, 2015 @ 21:19:35

      I see it very differently, my 4 year old child with attachment disorder who was moved 4 times before coming to us desperately needs to hear even more that mom is coming back every time I drop him off at preschool or even put him to bed at night, he needs to hear that I am planning on coming back to him BECAUSE his experiences thus far have not been that, he is SOOO afraid of being left somewhere that saying “mom is coming back to pick you up right after she goes to work” is the difference between a horrible anxiety filled day and one that he was able to participate in group and not act out.


      • Natalie
        May 25, 2016 @ 10:08:07

        It sounds like you are doing exactly what your child needs. My oldest son has been dealing with some anxiety for the past couple of years and it’s been hard to figure out what helps him best. Best of luck!

  6. Kate
    Jan 09, 2015 @ 03:04:30

    This song bothers me immensely. I’ve dealt with an abandonment by a biological parent and a step parent, both occurred before the age of seven. So, naturally, this song is completely unrealistic in that aspect.


  7. tinyears
    May 14, 2015 @ 16:28:03

    Glad I’m not the only one who thought this. I got the point they were trying to make, but just kept thinking about all the kids who have lost one or both parents who will never be coming back, and how confusing this episode would be for them.


  8. Valerie
    May 23, 2016 @ 08:31:44

    The producers should NOT stop airing this episode. They purposely wrote the song as, Grown Ups Come Back and NOT, Mom and Dad always come back for a reason. They recognize not every kid has a parent that comes back, but there is always going to be a grown up there. Which even in Foster Care or Adoption, there is always someone there. Unfortunately it’s not always the desired person but it is an ADULT.

    And the biggest problem I have with your blog and more so wtith Jenny’s response is, saying that the producers missed the mark or should stop the episode. Because it doesn’t apply to all children and isn’t sensitive to each child’s situation. However there are many songs in the show that don’t apply to other children, yet because they don’t apply to your children or you aren’t aware of it, you think it’s okay.

    When we do Something New mentions going to the doctor. The point of the song is that He doesn’t have to worry about going to the Dr because everything will be okay, but in reality it is NOT always going to be okay for every kid.

    I Can Be Anybody – Saying they can be anything they choose. Not true. A blind kid can’t be a pilot. A deaf kid most likely can’t be in music theater. Kids in wheelchairs can’t be triathletes and so on. Even kids with NO disabilities can’t always be what they choose and raising kids saying they can be whatever they can choose isn’t realistic.

    And so many more, Nevertheless, ALL of these messages have some validity and truth and can be used for parents to help their kids. If it doesn’t ring true to someone else, that is okay and no one says you have to like it or use it. But to say they should stop airing it because there are some kids who it won’t apply to is ridiculous and why shows are less intelligent and deal with less real issues. People take things too personally.

    The first episode of Mr. Rodgers has Prince Tuesday talking about his parents possibly going to get a DIVORCE and Mr. Rodgers talks with a kid who is a QUADRIPLEGIC not by birth but because of a surgery he had to remove a tumor! So if you think Daniel Tiger isn’t being sensitive, maybe you should revisit Mr. Rodgers. I loved his show because it dealt with even more than you see in shows now.


    • Natalie
      May 25, 2016 @ 10:04:56

      Hey Valerie. I never really thought about the fact that the song says “Grown ups” instead of Mom and Dad. I like that you pointed that out. It changes my outlook on the song and episode. Because really, if something were to happen to mom or dad there would still be a grown up to fill in. Thanks for sharing your point of view. I loved Mr. Rogers too!


  9. Ian
    Aug 24, 2016 @ 05:36:02

    While it is a fair point that some grown-up will virtually always come, they will not always come back. More to the point, if one has to explain the song to adults, it seems likely to be at least confusing to young children.

    My youngest son was left on a street corner, abandonned by his biological family. Somebody came, but nobody came back. On one occasion he was upset that my wife had left for a while, and a friend tried to reassure him by saying that mommies always come back. It broke my heart, but I really don’t know if he noticed.

    I don’t hate the episode, nor do I think that children’s shows should address every possible situation, but I the song certainly made me a little uncomfortable.


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