CAN YOU TEACH MY ALLIGATOR MANNERS?

JeniLynn Knopp (234 Posts)

JeniLynn was born and raised in South Florida. Being so close to Walt Disney World, she grew up regularly visiting the Mouse and developed a fascination with the creativity of Disney Parks. Noticing that her happiest moments seemed to always take place in Walt Disney World, JeniLynn began trying to recreate the magic of Disney in her everyday life beginning in her pre-teen years. Adulthood, sixteen years of marriage, and three children later, JeniLynn continues to lead a Disney Driven Life and diligently works to pass her love for Disney on to her husband and children. She has blogged for Touring Plans and been a contributing writer for The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and she currently co-hosts Orlando Attractions Magazine: The Show; however, her primary focus has always been with the community that has grown around her own site, The Disney Driven Life. Through these venues JeniLynn strives to help other Disney fans stay connected to the brand that has served as a keystone in her family’s life.


Over the last four years, I have gradually become dissatisfied with the irresponsible attitude that sometimes dominates our society.  It seems like rather than doing what is best for civilization, the general consensus is to take the easiest road in most matters.  The worst part is that when it comes time to “lie in the bed that was made,” no one wants to own up to the mistakes and the consequences.   We hear, “It was someone else’s job” or “It was someone else’s responsibility.”

This atmosphere of job-shifting and fault-finding is disturbing to say the least, and yet we remain on this path.  There is little sense of personal duty.  There is little notion of accountability.  There is primarily a desire to push off the consequences of “the easy way” long enough for another institution, president, generation or individual to manage.

Thank God for Walt Disney World! It is comforting to know that there is a place that is a safe-haven for those who are weary of the “buck-passers.” Here is a realm where everyone feels a personal sense of responsibility to do his part in making society a better place.  So today I suggest to the kids that we take a breather from our daily routine, sit at our computer and temporarily escape into Disney cyber space.

Since our vacation is still six months away, the Disney website is the next-best-thing after physically stepping onto Disney property.  The graphics and sound bytes of the endless web pages are classically Disney.  And because a great amount of the website is interactive, it is uniquely able to give one an immersive experience that allows the exit from immediate surroundings and entrance into the utopian–albeit virtual–Disney one.

Elle insists that we investigate the Disney preschool realm.   But Margeaux suggests that we find something mature enough to hold her attention.  Miller remains neutral since he tends to find amusement in both simple and complex content while I remain happy as long as what we do is Disney related.  In an attempt to satisfy all requests, we collectively decide to watch an interactive video from “Can You Teach My Alligator Manners?”  All of us gather in front of the computer screen and get ready to enjoy this adorable and instructional featurette.

Like the many other times we have watched this short show, we listen to the introductory song where Mikey explains that he has an ill-behaved alligator for a friend.  If he has any hope of keeping Al, the alligator, as a pet, he must teach this reptile some manners so that Mikey’s mother can find the silly creature tolerable.

We watch on.  This time Mikey finds himself in quite a predicament at a movie theatre.  The film is rolling; the audience is taken in, but Al is making everyone irritable with his continuous mumbling, grunting, and calling-out to the characters of the big screen.  Mikey’s mom gives Mikey a disapproving glare, clearly communicating that he must get his alligator under control.  Mikey, in desperation, then turns to us and implores, “Can you teach my alligator manners?”

Normally, I am eager to participate with my children when we view Mikey’s interactive segments. It is a pleasure to lend a helping hand to someone in need.  Plus, there is always the bonus of personal life-lessons learned in the process.  And after all, sometimes it actually does take a community to raise an alligator.  But for some reason, today I do not quite hold that communal sentiment.  Something seems a little off with Mikey’s immediate plea for assistance before attempting to handle the problem on his own.

Nevertheless, I oblige Mikey and respond (along with my children) that, indeed, we must select the orange square that instructs Al to remain quiet in the theatre so others can enjoy the film.  We are successful in our endeavor.  Al grasps the concept and adjusts his behavior accordingly.  Yet, I can’t help but still feel a little bitter about being asked to manage a task that clearly belonged to Mikey.

When Al and Mikey’s movie experience is over, they prepare to leave the theatre.  We then see that Al has made a disgusting mess around his seat.  Wrappers and stray pieces of popcorn abound, and he is about to toss his half-full cup of soda on the floor.  Mom is ticked-off, and Mikey is overwhelmed with the task that is before him.  But rather than pushing up his sleeves and getting to work, Mikey immediately cries out to us for help and expects us to show his alligator the proper way to act.  The frustration bubbles up inside of me.

Mikey is “passing the buck!”  He has joined the ranks of parents who expect the school system to discipline their children.  He has come alongside the guardians who pawn off moral instruction to institutions like churches or other benevolent non-profit organizations.  Mikey now resembles Corporate America who looks to the “establishment” for provision or a bail-out of some kind as well as the apathetic politicians who avoid the personal responsibility of their elected positions.  It is almost more than I can take, for this mentality is pushing my buttons.

This is Mikey’s mom.  This is Mikey’s alligator.  This is Mikey’s problem.  Why should others be expected to manage this affair while Mikey takes a back-seat on the matter?  We don’t reap the benefits of having a pet alligator when all the work is done.  Mikey does.  In addition, it isn’t right that the community should suffer the consequences of an ill-behaved reptile when Mikey shirks his personal duty. The responsibilities of training this animal were given to Mikey when he desired to pursue pet ownership, not to the rest of us.  Therefore—with all this in mind–I conclude Mikey should take some more initiative and try to teach his alligator manners on his own.

We are once again presented with a blue square and an orange square illustrating what we, the audience, can choose to teach Al during this instructional opportunity.  “Can you teach my alligator manners?” Mikey asks in a sweet but manipulative way.   I feel something snap in my brain. “NO!” I scream at the computer screen, “DO IT YOURSELF, YOU LAZY KID!”

Stunned by my outburst, all three of my children turn and stare at me wide-eyed.  Apparently the frustration I hold towards Mikey and his lack of personal responsibility is entirely my own.  I suddenly become acutely aware that I am way too invested in this brief little skit.

I look around at my shocked companions and sheepishly apologize for my unexpected eruption of disgust.  “Perhaps,” I propose, “It is time to watch something less provoking like ‘Choo Choo Soul’.”

Contributed by: JL (NDM#1). JL is our Disney Driven Lifestyle Coach and creator of The Disney Driven Life as well as the Neurotic Disney People Community.

  • http://twitter.com/jjzmgailey Jackie Gailey

    This is really cute, JL! I can totally relate to the point you make! Very cute! :)

  • Dave Homrighouse

    I get the opportunity every once in a while to watch Disney Channel with my toddlers, and I agreee the Alligator shorts are a great tool to show young children manners and right from wrong behavior. But I don’t agree with your assessment on two points:
    The mom makes sure that Mikey is in charge of his pet, at most with a word or two to remind him when bad behavior happens. This is a good point in showing while the parents may be watching, there is no doubt they expect Mikey to handle any issue. If the mom provided more parenting, that actually would produce some sort of micromanaging, such that Mikey would believe that Mom will always take care of any issue with the aligator, and undermine the point of responsibility.
    The second point is that, since this show is for young kids, it is providing opportunities for the kids to interact with the decision. They look at both the bad and good behaviors, and having them choose the correct one. I like that the behaviors are mixed, sometimes presented in a different order, and with different colored boxes, to remove any chance of merely following a pattern rather than thinking about the behaviors.
    Mikey knows the correct behavior, for not only does he acknowledge the correct choice, he explains WHY it’s good behavior. This isn’t manipulative at all, but an interactive way to teach kids.

  • http://thedisneydrivenlife.com/ NDM1

    Dave, you are absolutely right. Please let me assure you that this post was written with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek (as most of my “true confessions” are). It was actually written to highlight my own ridiculous, neurotic nature at times . . . a way for us all to laugh at how silly I am. :) Yes, there is a point that could be made, but the example of this show is ridiculously matched to illustrate it. You were correct to pick up on that.

  • Genusu

    looooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeee it