Tuesday, September 26, 2023

I Don’t Have a Kid… So WHY Can’t I Stop Watching Bluey? Is This the Best Family Show of All Time?

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She doesn’t have children yet somehow an Australian kids’ TV show has absolutely captivated her viewing time. Kelly Bertrand asks – Why can’t I stop watching Bluey!?

I’m sat on my couch surrounded by the detritus of my best friend’s son’s visit. Crumbs are everywhere, the carefully arranged cushions have been tossed asunder. Out of the corner of my eye I can see grubby fingerprints on the window, an (unlit) candle is lying forlornly on its side and there’s a suspicious sticky streak on one of the walls.

Normally this chaos would send me, child-free, anal-retentive clean freak Aunty Kelly, on a frantic cleaning mission to restore my tranquil, very un-kid-friendly home to its monochromatic, pristine glory.

The TV’s still playing. And I can’t for the life of me tear my eyes away from this bloody blue dog. Before I know it I’ve drained my glass of pinot and I’ve got through 10 episodes. I’m laughing. I’m almost crying. My partner is looking at me like I’ve lost my god damned mind. What is happening to me?

Fucking Bluey, that’s what.

How am I, a childless 30-something woman, obsessed with a show made for toddlers? Is it my long-dormant ovaries who suspiciously talk in my mother’s voice trying to tell me something? Have I finally lost the plot and my brain has decided that this is now the level in which new information can enter its cerebellum? Have I eaten the wrong brownies!?

Turns out the answer is no (thank God) and after a lot of canvassing my friends, a wild Google search and big self pep-talk, I am FAR from on my own when I say that Bluey absolutely slaps.

If you don’t know much about Bluey (where have you been) then I’ll enlighten you: It’s an Aussie cartoon featuring a family of Australian cattle dogs – dad Bandit, mum Chilli and daughters Bluey and Bingo. Each episode centres around a game the kids or the parents are playing, while exploring life, love, imagination and family. The doggos live in Brisbane (apparently) in a classic Queenslander and, quite frankly, look to have the best possible life in which to be a kid (or… puppy?!).

But it’s the adult humour, as well as the willingness to address bigger issues, that has parents (and aunties I guess) glued to the TV.

The Heeler family – Bluey, mum Chilli, sister Bingo and dad Bandit.

The gags!

Unlike other kids’ entertainment that makes me want to lapse into a peaceful coma (looking at you, Cocomelon) Bluey has been written for kids and adults alike.

In an episode called Stumpfest, when Bandit and some pals come together to pull tree stumps out of the backyard – which they call ‘Stumpfest’ which just really warms my heart because that’s exactly what old mate dads would do – Chilli and a fellow mum are shown downing drinks on the deck, all the while heckling their husbands. Relatable.

In Markets, Bluey says that she got $5 from the tooth fairy. Bandit – “FIVE BUCKS?!”. RELATABLE ($5 in THIS economy!?).

Or when Bingo is trying to figure out what colour Kiwi (the birds) are, and goes to her jigsaw puzzle of the map of the world for answers, but finds the piece with New Zealand and a kiwi missing. “Aw, not again!” cries Bandit. RELATABLE!

Or when Bandit reckons that being pregnant and giving birth isn’t a big deal in Dad Baby. Bingo asks his dad to pretend to be pregnant as part of a game, to which Chilli promptly rolls up a newspaper with a ‘I’ll just get this ready’.

“You. Have. No. Idea. What. I. Went. Through!” she exclaims, swatting him with the paper. RELATABLE. (Bandit completely knackered at the end of the episode after hauling around Bingo in a front pack all day is also tres relatable I’m sure.)

Bluey’s entire tone gallops along with a knowing wink towards the no-doubt exhausted parents who are also watching along. It’s joyous and funny and all-knowing. But it’s also honest.

The big stuff!

Bluey even covers the tough stuff – death, neurodiversity and deafness, all issues kids might be beginning to understand. But where it really shines – and where a few tears may have been shed (bloody pinot) is its acknowledgement of things that parents might be going through too. Separation anxiety is explored, infertility is explained through Chilli’s infertile sister not wanting to visit the Heeler family too often, and even the pressures of being a new mum, where Chilli gets caught up in the competitive nature of a mum’s group.

The heart!

But even as someone who doesn’t have kids yet, I watch Bluey with a pang of envy. Yes they’re animated dogs but the show shows us plenty of what I know all parents want more of for their kids – time.

Bluey is progressive simply by portraying dad Bandit as a realistic father. He’s at home with the kids more than Chilli is – she works at the airport, while Bandit works from home as an archaeologist – and he’s shown doing as much, if not more, household chores than Chilli. He’s often at the forefront of his daughter’s crazy games. Gone is the tired, repeated trope of the ‘useless dad’ and the long-suffering mum. Not these dogs. They’re a team.

Bluey shows those moments when Bandit’s trying to work and the kids are interrupting, and when he accidentally plays too rough with younger daughter Bingo. Bandit and Chilli are never shown as the perfect parents, but they are always there. They have time to indulge in their kids’ make-believe and hold down jobs and their house and friends.

Why can they do it? Because they’re damned cartoons of course. But as someone who doesn’t have kids but can barely look after themselves I totally get it.

Why can’t I stop watching Bluey? It’s how I wished I was brought up, how all kids wish they were brought up, and how I wish I could bring up my future kid in a world of colour and positivity and realism and time.

So thank you Bluey for stealing away hours of my child-free time and giving me optimism for not only my future parenting skills, but also the reassurance that my kid-full days will not consist of endless cycles of Baby Shark.

Oh. Ok I’ve been told that will, in fact, most definitely happen. Shit.

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