I once thought that when I had kids, I would never let them watch TV. But, like many well-intentioned Bohemian dreams, reality put a dent in that ambition. Toddlers are like drunks in so many ways, but mostly in the amount of energy you have to put into keeping them out of trouble. And so I often give my 2-year-old my phone and let her pick something for her viewing pleasure. She likes watching videos of people opening Play-Doh packages and toys. She loves British cartoons like Little Princess and Ben and Holly's
But her favorite cartoon is Peppa Pig. Peppa is an English animated pig with a daddy, mommy, and little brother named George. They jump around in muddy puddles or visit their grandparents. They have adventures or sometimes they don't, and every five-minute episode ends with all the characters falling on their backs laughing uproariously. My daughter can name all the characters and has even taken to speaking in Peppa's British accent.
So when I heard that there was a touring live stage show called Peppa Pig's Big Splash coming to the Fillmore, I knew I had to take my daughter. I figured it would make an entertaining story and make me the number-one dad in her eyes, at least until the next time I take the phone away from her.
So Saturday afternoon, I woke her from her nap, packed the backpack with a couple of snacks, and took the short drive to the Lincoln Road parking lot where half of South Florida's toddler population had gathered. With all the concerts I'd attended at the Fillmore, it was jarring to see strollers, diaper bags, and cotton candy being passed around instead of joints.
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We got to our seats exactly at 5 p.m., which was showtime according to the ticket. My daughter placed her doll on the part of the seat she wasn't occupying. She was amazed by all the action taking place around her, the kids her age and those a little older, the massive room and the red curtains on the stage. She was in awe until I could see she wasn't. I looked at my phone. It was 5:15, and I started having flashbacks from our first trip to the movie theater. We had gotten there early, and by the time the feature started, she was already saying, "Go home, Daddy. Go home!"
But since that time, she's gotten older and her parents have grown wiser. Mommy told me to pack some chips — they would distract her — and they did.
At 5:20, the lights dimmed and the curtains rose. Out came a Crayola-hued set, and the Peppa Pig theme song played. A woman dressed as a kid in overalls who introduced herself as Daisy came on to the stage and screamed, "Where are all my friends?" Life-sized puppets of Suzy Sheep and Pedro Pony giggled as they came into view. The crowd went wild. Daisy suggested to the crowd, "Maybe if we scream her name, she'll come out. One... two... three... Peppa Pig!" We did that several times. My daughter turned and smiled at me every time she yelled "Peppa Pig."
Out came Peppa, and my daughter clapped like she was the happiest kid in South Florida. But then began the show's first point of tension. The late-arriving crew sitting in front of us took their seats.
My daughter started moving her head trying to see. I stuck her on my lap, but it was too late. "Go home, Daddy! Go home!"
I tried to distract her. "Look, it's Mr. Bull!"
"Go home, Daddy! Go home!"
I took out the chips, but she pushed them away. "Go home, Daddy! Go home! Go home, Daddy! Go home!"
This is another example of how drunk friends are good training for parenthood. You have to save these toddlers from themselves. If we were to go home, there would be no more life-sized animal puppets. This, I knew, was something she didn't understand. So we went into the lobby and took a few rides up and down the escalators until that thrill ebbed and returned to find some empty seats with clear views ahead of them. We got back just in time to jump up and down to help get George's toy dinosaur out of a tree. We missed how it got up there, but I don't think it was too important for plot purposes.
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Onstage, Daisy asked for more jumping. My daughter did not disappoint. They asked for more cheering. She screamed, ran ten feet away and screamed again. I looked around the room. Keeping up was not just my struggle. It was pandemonium. This must have been like when Rome got sacked by barbarians. When the kids got their craziest, the show called it quits. My daughter saw everyone clapping, put her doll down, and joined in the clapping. As we walked out of the theater, the two of us recapped. We recounted Peppa and her dad jumping in muddy puddles and all the fun high jinks.
When we got home, Mommy (her mommy, not Mommy Pig) asked our daughter how the show was.
In a British accent, she answered. "Daddy and I went on an escalator."