It was nearly noon on a Wednesday a few months back when a welcomed Colorado blizzard closed schools and offices. My 4-year-old son and I were still in our cozies, enjoying lunch while we worked on his favorite puzzle. A PBS cartoon played in the background, but neither of us paid much attention to the TV until we heard the familiar theme song for Curious George.
Immediately, we tossed the puzzle and our lunches aside and scrambled to the couch to snuggle up, eager to see what George would get into this time.
Curious George is, well, curious, and each episode depicts George exploring something new. Whether it’s engaging in a recycling competition, building a rooftop garden or constructing a gigantic sandcastle at the beach (only to learn about tidal flow as he watches his masterpiece wash away), the monkey is always discovering something new — and so are our kids — and so can we.
As a parent, Curious George reminds me to try new things and to encourage my son to do the same. Although the show is geared toward preschoolers, everyone can learn something from George’s investigative spirit, lighthearted attitude and friend-to-all feelings. I certainly have.
Here’s what the veteran cartoon monkey taught me:
Problem solve creatively
George is constantly getting into and creatively out of trouble. His silly antics and the imaginative ends that he takes to solve his problems caused me to consider how I tackle my own issues. Generally, I take the safest route — which can also be the smartest — but sometimes you need to solve problems with a creative push. Rather than taking my usual approach to getting around tight bends, George inspired me to look at a difficult situation from varying perspectives. Sometimes, you can get a better view by turning the whole thing “Upside Down.”
George never gives up … never. Even when the odds are stacked against him and he’s up against what seems like the most impossible of tasks, the little monkey, fueled by his tenacious spirit, presses on and completes his monkey missions.
When faced with gigantic tasks or goals, we can often fall into thinking that they’re too lofty or we don’t have what it takes to persevere and push on through to completion. I know that I’ve been there. But, a little reminder from George, the monkey who accidentally dropped the Man’s yellow hat down the garbage shoot and tracked it all the way to the dump, can inspire a shift in thinking. If a monkey can track down a hat in a big city, I can certainly complete a difficult task. Like George, I just need to believe that I can.
George is generous and thoughtful. In nearly every episode, George is concerned with the well-being of his animal and human friends. He strives to ensure that everyone is happy, comfortable and enjoying their time. His willingness to give his time and energy to his friends serves as a pleasant reminder to us all, who can occasionally get caught up in the world of, “I can’t make everyone happy all the time.” And, yup, we probably can’t, but maybe we could follow George’s lead and try to be a little more giving of ourselves.
George is always on the move and trying out new things. Granted he is a fictional monkey, with little to lose, but how much do we have to lose, really, by trying something new? Oftentimes, we feel like we’re not coordinated, smart or good enough to try out something that secretly interests us. We shy away, afraid of potential negative outcomes, depriving ourselves of living a life that is full. George’s life is full and although he makes mistakes, as we all have and will continue to, his ability to take chances showers his life with excitement and possibility. His joyous call to take action inspired me to take a Bikram yoga class next week with a friend who’s been goading me to join her for months. I’ve been afraid that it’ll be too hard, make me sick or that I will be unable to complete the class in the 105 degree heated room. Maybe I will get sick, maybe I’ll need to leave. But, maybe, just maybe, I’ll love it …
George explores constantly. Whether it’s on a farm, at the beach or in his city apartment, that monkey is in everything … all the time. Granted, his exploration oftentimes causes him problems — which he solves creatively and with perseverance — but his explorations also open up a world of discovery. He learns, albeit sometimes the hard (yet fun) way, how things work, grow and live. He looks at the world anew daily and really sees what’s around him. George reminds me to open my senses and engage and play!
For some reason, as we age, many of us lose our silly sense. Preoccupied with work, housework, kids and financial obligations, it’s easy to fall into “serious land” and forget how to play. Thankfully, my 4-year-old inspires me to get silly daily, and so does George. So, take one last tip from the veteran cartoon monkey and do something totally silly today, just because you can. Roll down a grassy hill, sing a silly song with your kids (or by yourself) in the grocery store as you cruise the aisles, happily high-five a neighbor who you’ve never spoken with. Whatever feels right for you … do it … just keep it silly.