Parents loathe Caillou, and I’m no different.
Everything about that show makes my skin crawl. The characters consistently pronounce his name two different ways (Is it Ky-YOO or KY-yoo?). His whiny voice adds unnecessary noise to an already buzzing house, and the primary colored backgrounds make me feel nauseous.
Even my computer doesn’t want to talk about Caillou. It keeps correcting his name to “Callow,” confirming my hunch that no one likes him, except my daughter and every other kid under five years old.
Actually, she doesn’t just like him, she needs him, and so I reluctantly press play on the DVR when my daughter asks for him. I know a few parents who have banned the show like contraband, and I get that, but hear me out because your kid might need Caillou, too.
Screen time is alive and well in my house, so I’m well versed in most mainstream children’s programming. I can say confidently that Caillou fills a niche few other shows do. Caillou’s world is realistic and relatable for kids, despite his hairlessness and his parents’ never ending patience for his whining.
His storylines are grounded in a world absent fantastical details, and that’s surprisingly unique. His world doesn’t have speaking animals and objects, aliens or magic. He simply goes to preschool, plays and fights with his little sister, visits his grandparents and navigates friendships. Children get to watch him experience the emotional roller coaster that it is to be a little kid. While there’s certainly a place for more imaginative shows, Caillou’s recognizable world doesn’t distract kids from its main purpose, helping them process their confusing emotions. He’s a safe place. He just gets them.
His importance in my daughter’s life really came to light when I tried to watch Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with her. Since she’s obsessed with the Disney princesses, and the Snow White storybook is a regular in the rotation, watching the movie was the next logical step.
It turns out that the Evil Queen and Huntsman are terrifying to an almost three year old. Looking back, this seems obvious, but it had been a while since I’d seen the movie, too, and I forgot just how creepy it can be to see that kind of evil brought to animated life. As soon as the queen hatched her plan for cold blooded murder, my daughter started screaming, “I want to watch Caillou! I want to watch Caillou!” That’s when I realized just how comforting he is to her.
Caillou’s issues are banal to adults; his whining is maddening, but to toddlers, he’s a retreat. My daughter’s daily routine is punctuated with new and scary things that I take for granted as a grown up, and she relies on Caillou to say, “It’s not just you. I feel the same way.”
He’s her buddy. He’s her security blanket. He’s like comfort food that hits the right spot. He’s a warm hug that calms her down and lets her relax, even if he gets on my last nerve. Sometimes she’ll go a whole week without requesting him, and I don’t take this respite for granted. Not only because it means I don’t have to listen to the quivering voice of the show’s narrator, but because it signals that my daughter is having a really great week, and, for whatever reason, she’s feeling confident navigating her world.
While I’ll always encourage her to watch Sofia the First or Doc McStuffins or really any other show besides Caillou for my own sanity, when she needs him, he’s invited to keep her company.
I may shudder every time I hear the catchy but irritating theme song, but I understand how he helps her, so I’ll respect her choice.
I won’t disparage him to her, and I’ll consider this practice for the first time she brings home a boyfriend that I don’t like.