Tuesday night I had a true guilty parent moment.
That afternoon in the mail we received an envelope from the Washington State Department of Health. It was branded under its Child Profile program and addressed to the parents of Beau Reser. In the envelope was a wealth of health and safety information for babies.
Among the papers enclosed in the correspondence was a sheet of stickers. The stickers bore the likeness of Mr. Yuk, a grimacing green face that is synonymous with poison. The idea is to put the stickers on household chemicals and toxins that would be harmful if ingested or introduced to the skin. When children see Mr. Yuk, in theory, they know to stay away from whatever substance he happens to be on.
Knowing how much Sloan likes stickers, I decided to show her the sheet of Mr. Yuk faces. She thought it was really cool and she even affixed one of the stickers on one of our household cleaning bottles. As we talked about Mr. Yuk and what he means, I decided to enhance the lesson by enlisting the help of YouTube. This turned out to be a big mistake.
After typing in the name of the subject we were learning about, I tapped on the first search result titled Mr. Yuk Commercial. It was only a minute long and I thought it would supplement what we had already learned by perhaps introducing Mr. Yuk and further explaining what he is used for.
To be fair, it did do these things…kind of. I just didn’t know the delivery would be so menacing. In an exorcist-type voice, a song is performed with the endearing lyrics of He’s Mean, He’s Green. The poisons that turn into demons, children in distress, and the fiery/strobe-effect backgrounds certainly fit with the musical score.
Needless to say, the educational impact of the video was lost on Sloan. Instead, she was petrified. Her excitement for Mr. Yuk turned to fear in those 67 seconds. After calming her down we went upstairs. I felt bad.
Fast forward about 90 minutes later. Sloan was asleep in her bed—or so I thought. I was right next to her under the covers as we try to re-introduce her to routine after a couple weeks out of town. Just as I was about to hop out of bed her little eyes opened wide.
“Daddy, I am scared of Mr. Yuk. Is he still downstairs?”
I tried to tell her she didn’t have to be afraid of Mr. Yuk but I assured her that he was no longer downstairs (a little white lie). Sloan being scared in the moment earlier in the evening was one thing, but the fact that the trauma extended to her sleep made me feel much worse. Thankfully, she ended up going back to sleep.
Early Wednesday morning I hid the Mr. Yuk stickers and removed the one she stuck on the cleaning bottle. This was a good lesson to screen YouTube videos before showing them to your child. Thankfully, Sloan has not expressed fear of Mr. Yuk over the past two days. Let’s just hope it stays that way. Don’t Blink.