You’d think grandparenting would be more like riding a bike — you just climb back on, and it all comes back to you.
That’s true of the most essential skills of wrangling tiny humans — appeasing their howls, juggling damp Pampers and stashing the cookies well out of reach. Some real-life lessons you never do forget, like not packing Kix to distract a wiggly toddler in church, or — if your family harbors cats — always covering the sandbox. (Round cereal, when dropped, ricochets under the pews like a handful of hypercharged BBs. The logic behind the latter should be self-evident.)
But other things have changed greatly since our daughter flew out of the family nest, and Russ and I are still playing catch-up with weird matters that pass for progress. Go-Gurt, for instance — whose idea was it to package such a slimy pastel snack in a toothpaste tube? Or consider the so-called “educational” chip-equipped toys that giggle and beep and babble in icky-sweet voices … the demonic scourge of the modern toybox, powered by an infinite number of double-A’s.
All that paled, though, when the World’s Leading Grandchild uttered her very first portentous word: “Peppa!”
Until our little Evelyn came along, we’d never heard of Peppa Pig. Perhaps you haven’t, either, if you’re old like us and long past the TV cartoon epoch. But if a grandchild is on the way, trust me: You will, and sooner than you think.
Peppa is a cartoon piglet with a lovely British lilt. She lives in a yellow house on a hill with Mommy Pig (contralto grunt), Daddy Pig (basso grunt) and her little brother George, who grunts and giggles.
Cartoon Peppa resembles a somehow-charming pink potato with a snout. She wears yellow galoshes to splash in muddy puddles. She plays well with friends like Susie Sheep, Danny Dog and Pedro Pony. Her adventures tend toward picking flowers, playing wiggly worm and hunting for Tiddles the Tortoise, the turtle who likes to climb trees. Tiny, preverbal humans adore her.
Sweet young Peppa was invented in England and imported to America of late by Nick Junior, which replays her rather serene adventures seven days a week. Her oinks have been translated into 40 languages. Now she’s become a global star (and thus, hot licensing property), followed by children on every continent except Antarctica, where penguin mothers can still persuade their hatchlings to play outside.
Peppa entranced our Evi from the moment her parents discovered episodes on YouTube. Her eyes light up when she hears the theme song. She toddles up and touches her pig idol on the TV screen. She clings to a pink plush Peppa when she naps. Her reliable giggles inspire dignified grandparents to grunt. Said grandparents even scoured the Net for Peppa pillows and bedding to induce her to sleep in her big-girl bed. (It worked.)
But still, we’re rather mystified by this youngest generation’s taste. Russ and I cut our TV eyeteeth on Tom Terrific and Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog … then the more worldly Bullwinkle J. Moose and Rocky the Flying Squirrel, along with Boris Badunov, Natasha Fatale and Mr. Peabody. Now, that was good television! The only porkers who made much of an impression were Porky Pig and Piggly Wiggly.
We raised the mother of the World’s Leading Grandchild in the age of Smurfs. She started school with Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtles. After she graduated to MTV, we pretty much lost touch with the ever-exploding cartoon universe — from the Powerpuff Girls to that bewildering SpongeBob SquarePants.
So we were rather baffled — and impressed — when our little sprout started chanting, “Peppa! Peppa! Peppa!” Until then, we’d had no luck spoiling her with our misguided choice of toddler bait. The Very Hungry Caterpillar elicits barely an eye roll. She has zero time for Dora the Explorer and, for that matter, dollies in general. Elmo seems to attract her from time to time, but his maniacal giggles get him tossed back into the toybox like a hot potato.
But piggish grunts? They never fail to make this girl laugh out loud.
You won’t be surprised, I know, to learn that Peppa Pig has become a global merchandise behemoth. Some 1,000 licensed Peppa manufacturers now peddle a mind-boggling array of perfect birthday presents for juniors from Paris to Bombay: Plush, huggable Peppas, Georges and all their charming anthropomorphic pals. Collector figurines. Doll houses. Tricycles. Race cars with pigs, elephants and foxes at the wheel. Storybooks. Night lights. Big-girl panties. Finger puppets. Toothbrushes. Shopping carts … well, you get the drift. There’s even a Peppa Pig World theme park with life-sized costumed characters — thankfully, in far-off England.
International business publications peg the Peppa empire at more than $1.2 billion, and it’s growing fast. I should know. We’ve contributed significantly to that growth, and there’s no end in sight.
But, of course, it could be worse. Evelyn could have been a boy … and we’d be up to our eyeballs in Lightning McQueen.