As a kid, I was a devoted fan of Sesame Street. During my preschool years, I watched the show every single day and continued to watch it as much as possible through elementary school. It felt like spending an hour with my best friends and was a primary source of learning and entertainment during my childhood.
There was something about the show's characters and guests that always made me feel like I belonged, which I couldn't always say about the people who surrounded me in real life. Maybe that's because along with it's educational component, the show focused on the fundamental concepts of kindness and acceptance. Sesame Street was a community where everyone was welcome and where problems were addressed with love and compassion.
Growing up in a small midwestern town without much diversity, characters like Miles and Maria — who represented cultures other than mine — made me feel that it was okay to be different, whatever different looked like for me. Plus, I was constantly being introduced to new music, books, ideas, and maybe most importantly, people, which kept my young life interesting.
Besides helping me understand a variety of cultures and concepts, as well as my numbers and ABCs, Sesame Street was deeply woven into my childhood. The theme song was basically the soundtrack to my young life, and everyone I knew dressed up as a character from the show at least once for Halloween. I remember my mom singing Ernie's famous "Rubber Duckie" song to me each night at bath time before I snuggled into bed with my beloved plush Cookie Monster. And I held onto my Elmo costume for years. Perhaps my most vivid memory is witnessing Grover blast out of a cannon when Sesame Street Live! unexpectedly made a tour stop in my small town. And I'll never forget how my friends and I dubbed an especially memorable schoolteacher "Oscar the Grouch" for his uncanny resemblance to the furry monster.
I'm so thankful the show was such a prominent part of my childhood because it made learning fun and brought to life a world I wouldn't have had access to otherwise. It was a central force behind so many of my favorite memories. Each episode piqued my curiosity by featuring families and communities that were different from mine and encouraged me to transfer the admirable values, and of course all the fun, from the show to my real life.
As Sesame Street celebrates is 50th anniversary, I'm so glad I can pass its value onto my kids, who have already learned so much. It has remained relevant by continuing to be inclusive and teach about today's tough topics in a kid-friendly manner. Because of the show, my young kids have already been exposed to people who look and learn differently than they do, families who are built differently than ours, personal safety, and even foster care — all of which have sparked important conversations within our family. And that's on top of the show's educational foundation that is preparing them for school.
I'm planning to take my kids to see Sesame Street Live! for the first time in a few weeks and I just hope they remember Sesame Street being an integral part of their childhood just as it was for mine.