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Dealing With Dad Characters On Cartoons When You're A Single Mom

This morning I was talking with a fellow single mom, *Jane at Story Time at our local library. While JD and *TJ played blocks on the A-B-C rug, Jane mentioned that she loves and hates the Nick Jr. channel best known as Noggin. I couldn’t believe this, because I adore this channel. I recently raved to my mom that JD dances with the Fresh Beat Band, counts and identifies shapes with Geo on Team Umizoomi, helps Dora on her missions and repeats Spanish words with her. I mean, my kid doesn’t watch a lot of television, but when he does, I don’t feel bad about having Nick Jr. on—it’s so interactive! After lunch today, JD danced and sang with the gang from Yo Gabba Gabbawe gotta jump-shake-shimmy them out-get the sillies out! But then she explained why Nick Jr. doesn’t fly for her. And I got it.

“All of the cartoons feature mom AND DAD," she said. True. Jane’s ex has met TJ and spent on-and-off time with him, but it’s not consistent. TJ is JD’s age and since he met his dad a couple of times, he wants to see him more. “I want a dad!” he once said to Jane. JD and I have had simple daddy talks but it never went that far—I guess because JD never met his dad.

I understand where Jane is coming from, because JD asks daddy questions while watching shows like Olivia, Little Bill, Little Bear and Franklin. I always keep my answer pretty simple, saying some kids live with their mom and dad like Olivia, but other kids live with just their mommy, like Little Bill’s friend Dorado—he lives just with his mommy, like you! I also love the show Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends. Even though there’s a dad in this cartoon, there’s also adoptive buggies, Shimmer, Bounce and Dragon. This helps JD to see that families come in all shapes and sizes and no one family is alike. Dino Dan is another fave, because although Dan does have a dad, the show only shows Dan's relationship with his mom. I've never seen the dad once!

Jane was surprised when I pointed these things out about the cartoons. She also couldn’t believe one of my favorite movies to watch with JD is Disney's Finding Nemo. For those of you who don’t know, Nemo is a little fish who is raised by his single dad. I said DAD. I am not scared of the word dad. Dads exist and even though I sometimes (not always) change dad to mom when reading to JD, I don’t shield him from the reality that kids do have dads.

Finding Nemo might as well be called Finding JD. The fish lives with a single parent. The fish is loved unconditionally—I mean look at the lengths that Nemo’s dad goes to, to find him! When we watch that film I tell JD that Nemo is kind of like him, only instead of living with just his mommy, he lives with just his daddy. I love the Toy Story movies too! Andy and his mom have such a sweet relationship (I cried like a baby at the end of Toy Story 3).

I wish I lived in a world where a congresswoman didn’t get shot in the head. Where terrorists didn’t fly planes into buildings. Where people didn’t kill their kids. Where everyone had a dad that cared. I don't and I don’t want my son to grow up naïve. I loved Erin’s Parenting Post blog yesterday about how she sometimes fights with her husband, Nick in front of her kids Alex and Nora. She wrote: It’s OK to fight, it healthy, it’s normal. I want my kids to understand conflict (and, more importantly, conflict resolution).

I feel the same way about JD understanding our family. I don’t want him growing up thinking that living with a single mom is the end all. I want my son to know that while awesome modern families exist, so do families with moms and dads living under the same roof. I hope JD sees me as an example of courage, strength and that he knows that giving up and running away isn't how WE roll. I want my son to experience a loving, stable relationship one day and give me grandchildren I can spoil—and that’s why I do talk to him about dads. I mean, dads are awesome! Mine is (just ask JD)! Alex and Nora's dad is! Maddy's dad is. I bet your kids' dads are awesome too! I don't want my son to associate dad with guy who ran away. Because my son will never be that kind of dad. So, let JD see how rad Olivia's piggy daddy is! Cartoons, movies, books—they actually help, don’t hinder me. Eh, just my .02.

Single parents, how do you feel about programming and books that depict a mom and a dad? What are some of your favorite shows, movies and books that depict single parenting? Not a single parent? I still want to hear from you, so puh-lease share! XO

I'm on Facebook and Twitter @JDSMOM2007.

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