Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
I recently made an observation that sounds ridiculous, but the more I think about it, it might be accurate, so I’ll start there and then explain how we got here:
I think Blippi (real name Stevin John)—the children’s educator and kids’ YouTube personality—is, essentially, Eddie Murphy to my (almost) 2-year-old (ATYO). If you have little kids, there’s a better than 90 percent chance you’re familiar with the orange-and-blue clad Blippi, who has videos that show him doing any manner of things that entertain and bring hilarity to children.
Don’t judge me, but the ATYO has an iPad. Now, I didn’t get him an iPad, nor did my wife (his mother) or any of our friends. But there are many kids in this house who do have iPads, and in my wife’s former job, she was given an iPad and I had an iPad mini. I didn’t think these things still worked but we plugged them in and #wallahmagic, they powered on. Since the big boys play with their iPads often, ATYO often tries to play with theirs, I’m guessing, to try to understand the wizardry he witnesses. Anyway, one day he picks up one of the iPads and one of his brothers hits that YouTube Kidz button, and well, that was all she wrote. Since then, he’ll bring the iPad to me asking me to put it on YouTube Kidz (more like gesturing) and then he’ll sit laughing at Cocomelon or whatever thing that brings him joy at that moment.
One of his favorite things to do is go on car rides with me. He gets in his rear-facing car seat and I put his iPad in a holder and he flips through videos with little laughs every so often coming from the second row. But sometimes—yes, sometimes–the kid is straight weak. Like uncontrollably laughing, looking around, laughing like a big kid, hoping somebody else is looking at the thing that is bringing him the jollies. And almost every single time he does this, Blippi is on his screen.
Now Blippi does some funny stuff. But, I mean, I don’t quite laugh as hard as my kids do. Even the bigger kids have found him to be GOAT-level based on their reactions at times. But ATYO takes that comedy response to a whole new level. Just yesterday, we were riding in the car, and out of nowhere, the most guttural and sincere laugh I’ve ever heard him make came from the seats behind me. I had to look, and there was Blippi playing with a ketchup and mustard bottle like he was about to stick it up his nose. ATYO was in shambles. It’s like he found the funniest, most pivotal comedic sketch of all time and he was different after he watched it. In fact, it affected him so much that he didn’t want to watch Blippi anymore that day. He just scrolled to Baby Joy Joy and a Sesame Street video or two.
It’s funny thinking about the things that bring happiness to your kids. For instance, ATYO isn’t quite articulate at this point so he hasn’t shared why Blippi makes him laugh so much. And by the time he’s able to do so clearly, he’ll probably have moved on to more age-appropriate videos. Like I wonder what kind of things specifically make him so tickled and draw such raw, fun emotion. There are songs he gravitates towards; we know this because sometimes he’ll start singing along with the videos, and you’re like, “Hmm, I wonder why that’s his jam?” You can see tastes and preferences forming already but I have absolutely no idea why or how those things really hit ATYO in the ribs. Ah, the joys of parenting—so much guesswork.
For now, though, Blippi is Eddie Murphy to ATYO, and I can appreciate that. I love a good laugh and clearly, he does, too. Plus, it helps to know that if I put on a certain personality or cartoon or show that he will automatically be invested and thus get some value out of it.
Ah, the joys of learning your kids.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).
Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.