elmo loves you

He really is pretty cute

It is the day before Katie’s birthday party. We are out running some last-minute errands. She is currently agonizing over which rubber duck is more suited to the beach theme of her party favors – the one with the surf board or the one with the sunglasses. Decisions, decisions.

I wander over to the Sesame Street aisle, wondering if perhaps they might have anything that I can use to create the cake for Brooke’s party, just three weeks after her sister’s. Katie walks up behind me, still clutching the two ducks.

“Mama, whatcha doin?”

“I’m just checking to see if they have any Elmo’s World stuff. Brooke has decided that’s what she wants on her birthday cake, so I’m just looking to see what they’ve got.”

She turns to face me. I know what’s coming. The Look. The one that slips out when her guard is down. The one filled with desperate panic. The one that says, Please don’t do this. The one that says, This is SO embarrassing.

“For her cake at home?” she asks, clearly hoping that it’s not what she thinks it is.

A few weeks back, Brooke announced that she wanted the Teletubbies on her cake. And I may have kind of sort of panicked a little. And I may have kind of sort of suggested that perhaps she could have her Teletubbies cake for her made up on the spot ‘special birthday dinner at home’ and then wouldn’t it be fun to choose something else for her party cake that her friends might like too?

In other words, I thought, I’m all for letting my kid be who she is, but I’d also rather not send her off to school with a Kick Me sign on her back.

So I asked her if she’d like to have a second cake. And she was all for it.

“I would have the Teletubbies at home,” she said. “And Elmo’s World with my friends.”

Yup. Steinbeck said it – the best laid plans of mice, men  – and bumbling mothers – do often go awry. Or actually Robert Burns said it. But he said it in Scottish so it sounded different. Wait, is Scottish a language? Scotch? Scot? Scotius? Oh for the love of all things holy – I screwed up, people.

I turn to Katie.

“Actually, baby, she’s going to have the Teletubbies at home. She wants Elmo for her party with the kids from school.”

“Mama,” she begins. Her eyes are huge, pleading. “She’s going to totally get made fun of. She’s turning NINE. Nine year old girls are not watching Elmo’s World.”

“She is.”

“Mama,” she says, clearly wondering if it’s really possible that I don’t remember ever being a kid and that I somehow don’t get this, “you know what I mean.”

I put my arm around her and squeeze.

“I do, sweet girl. And I thank you for being concerned about her. You’re a great sister. The best. But I had an epiphany.”

“A what?”

“A moment of clarity.”



“A what?”

“I had a realization, baby. And what I realized was this: These kids know Brooke. They really know her. They know who she is and they know what she likes. They spend more time with her during the day than we do.”

She scrunches her nose as she does the math. “Wow, really?”

“Yup. Really. So for heaven’s sake, if they’re spending every dang day with her, do we really think that they’re going to be surprised that she wanted Elmo on her birthday cake?”

“Um, nope.”

“And do you think they’ll really care that she wanted Elmo on her cake?”

“Probably not.”

“Right.” I pick up an Elmo figurine. “This is what makes her happy, baby girl.” I hold Elmo out to her. “This is who she is. And the kids that are coming to the party are going to come because they think that who she is is pretty neat – Elmo and all.”


“Yes, kiddo?”

“I’ll bet some of them would like to have Elmo on their cakes. I mean, he is pretty cute.”

When I don’t answer she looks up at my face.

“Oh geez, are you crying, Mama?”

I wipe my eyes with my sleeve and take a deep breath.


She rolls her eyes and laughs.

“Yeah, right.”

I kiss the top of my soon to be eleven year old’s head and tell her for the gazillionth time that I love her.

Then I put my arm around her shoulder and lead her back to the ducks.

She’s got some big decisions to make.

28 thoughts on “elmo loves you

  1. Has she seen Elmo’s youtube video spoofing the LMFOA song? “I’m Elmo and I know it”? It’s hysterical! It’s may be too out of the norm for her but you and Katie would love it! Happy Birthday to your sweet girls!

  2. My 4th and 5th graders both learned of the LMFAO parody at school and love it!

    Ryan still has a few Elmos in his room. They no longer make the cut for his bed — only various stuffed NHL mascots and pillow pets do — but every time we ask about removing them he refuses. He IS pretty cute.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story and letting us know we are not alone out there. My 10 year old still loves Thomas the tank engine and Blues Clues and we stuggles with this many times but when he brought his Thomas cake to school for his birthday all the kids thought it was cool and his teacher said to me : they propably all wished they could have one !

  4. One of favorite things about having my son after his sister were already 8 and 9 was that I, underline I, got to have the pleasure of watching Elmo again!! I love that adorable red little monster and all he stands for!! I think we could all use a little more Elmo in our worlds!! Happy Birthday to both of your beautiful girls and may they celebrate the way that makes them the happiest no matter what it is!!

  5. I love this post….. I remember secretly watching tv shows that were definitely below age appropriate….I just loved watching them and just did not want to be embarrassed but I bet all my friends were secretly watching them too…..

  6. i love that brooke loves what she loves so much…to me, that’s a beatiful thing, it’s terrific. if only more people were as passionate about their likes…this would be a much better world.

    we could all benefit from being a little more brooke-ish. brooke-esque? brooke-ly? that last one sounds too much like brocolli, never mind. let’s stick with the first one.

  7. I would say that you and Katie make an excellent team. I love how you worked this through together. And it makes total sense. Math wise and emotions wise.
    And I know it’s why no one will bat an eye when we have a hot wheels cake next week for my son’s birthday. For the 4th year in a row. Not Star Wars, not Harry Potter. Not a care from me about it.

  8. Beautiful moment. Honesty, courage, love, and strength. The power and gift of your words with your Katie shared with us. Thank you.
    For us it is Little Einstein, Little People, Mickey Mouse, and Barney. I think all of our kids embrace “being a kid at heart”……oh, how they teach us.

  9. I have an idea. Watch Being Elmo – the documentary about Kevin Clash and WHY he does what he does; what the act of connection is really all about. It goes into what Elmo means to so many different kinds of kids. I dare you both not to cry. Several times.

    And you are the best mother. Really.


    • I had no idea about this documentary until I saw this comment, then found it on my Netflix recommendations list and watched this weekend. Two thumbs up, and well worth an 75 minutes of my time. Kevin Clash puts such love into the character, and yet even he is blown away by his impact.

  10. I am pretty confident that Blue will be with us for a long time. I often think about what is age appropriate, but my thought is I know this kid works so hard all day long. Therefore he can watch whatever he wants at home – my typical 13 year old niece often discusses the merits of all the preschool shows when she visits. I think they all secretly want to keep watching, they just feel like it’s not cool enough to admit it.

  11. I love that you are doing this for Brooke. I didn’t have the courage for my baby to do it. Elmo is still her favorite I know, but she can’t really answer “what do you want on your cake?” So Mama just does what she thinks is appropriate- like this year for her 5th birthday I did a princess crown & wand. She did say “pretty” when I asked if she liked it. Hopefully next year she can tell me & I will let her be her no matter what!!! Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  12. You are both right but being true to who Brooke is seems to be the best way to go. There will be many, many more ten seconds to think, opportunities over the years before you respond to your very socially sensitive big girl’s questions. You had better be ready.
    Nice balancing act you do…

  13. This is something I struggle with constantely….how to let our children be themselves, but not encourage the “kick me” sign on them. A few years ago my son wanted a “standings cake”. What, you say? A cake filled with numbers that signify the NHL hockey standings. Not exactly what all kids want on their cake. Compromise: hockey cupcakes for all. Not easy, but finding the balance is so critical. Well done. And for the record….I still love Elmo!

  14. Our dear Jeff turned 27 on Valentine’s Day….his room at his group home has shelves of Elmo in various configuration….Tickle me Elmo, chicken Dance El
    mo, YMCA Elmo etc……then on the wall he has a Lady Gaga poster……it’s what makes him happy!!
    Happy Birthday to your dear girls!!!

  15. Thanks for sharing this Jess! I had the same epiphany at Christmas. I worked through it & finally just realized that I don’t really care what others think, I want my sweet girl to be happy…and if that means that as a 13 y/o she’ll play with elmo, blue, or rolie polie olie than so be it! It was not an easy thing for me to come to grips with as I too worry about the “kick me” sign as well.

    We recently attended a birthday party for a boy in her class at the middle school and he had an awesome dinosaur cake. It was so fun to see all of their classmates super excited about the cake. There was a group of kids playing near us & an older boy remarked “Check out that awesome dinosaur cake…it is so much cooler than my plain cake from Costco”. That statement made me happier than most people will ever know!

  16. I am so happy she had a great birthday!
    I am so worried no one from my daughters class would even show up to her birthday party. We always go on a destination vacation for her birthday, but once she starts kindergarten we wont be able to do that.

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