Could there be a better time for a movie about Fred Rogers to be released than at what has sadly become the most stressful season of the year? Perhaps no one in modern times has dealt more successfully with what Fred referred to as “the mad that I feel”— an expression he’d once picked up from a child. He simply radiated kindness, patience, and understanding to the children on his television show and to those watching it from home.
As a young mother, I sometimes watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with our two little daughters. It happened only occasionally since their TV time was also my catch-up time. But once in a while I watched the show, too, for the simple reason that I needed to.
Parenting young children can take a lot of patience, and there were times when I found mine becoming frazzled. Nothing was a greater support to me in sending out positive, nurturing vibes to our children than the model Fred Rogers provided. I never had to suppress negative feelings towards the kids after watching his show. They weren’t even on the radar screen for days afterwards. And if they started to reappear, I now had a way to deal with them—thanks to Mr. Rogers. His lessons in getting control of one’s feelings may have been targeted at children, but I found they were a priceless gift to parents as well.
Some years later I had a memorable opportunity to pass this blessing along to someone else. In the supermarket where I was shopping, loud outcries from a small child were resounding through the entire store, as were the sharp, angry words pouring out of his mother. This disturbance continued nonstop. I found myself praying, “Dear Father, if you want me to say or do anything, put them in my path.“
A few minutes later, their shopping cart rounded the corner right in front of me. I had no idea what I was going to say, but there was no ducking out now. What came to me in that moment was a message of love that surprised me as much as it probably did this mother. I found myself addressing the child: “Your mommy loves you very much. She’s just having a bad day. She doesn’t want to be angry at you, but right now she can’t help it. If you can stop crying, you can help her be the mommy she wants to be.” Evidently those were the words they were meant to hear because that dear mother thanked me, the little one quieted down, and peace reigned from that point on.
That feeling of stress, anger, and impatience tends to flare up when we feel under pressure, and at this time of year it’s easy to feel that way. The last thing we want to do is to convey that sense of pressure to young children who are under our care. Bless Fred Rogers for empowering children and parents alike to get control of emotions that are damaging both to our relationships with others and to our own self-esteem. We don’t have to let them spoil our Christmas season or, for that matter, any other time of year. We can let love starve them right out of existence. Thank you, Fred Rogers, for showing us how.