It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Caillou: New Baby, or, The Weirdness

So. About that Caillou book.

Where were we? Let’s see…

Page 1: Caillou is happily anticipating the arrival of his baby sister.
Page 2: Mommy and Daddy go to the hospital. Is he excited that his sister is on her way? Is he happy to spend the night with gramma? Noooo… Drippy little Caillou plops his thumb in his mouth and is “lonely”.
Page 3: The baby appears and disillusionment sets in. The baby can’t do anything! (Drippy little Caillou’s parents obviously did a poor job of preparation.)
Pages 4 – 7: Caillou’s behaviour deteriorates, from pouting through passive aggression and non-compliance, through regression right onto to active aggression, culminating when he bites his baby sister.

Caillou’s parents are galvanized into action! Daddy comforts the baby, while Mommy tackles Caillou. And here’s where it gets weird. Just you watch.

Mommy: “You think your sister is sweet enough to eat. But if you do, you will no longer have her to love. You can bite an apple, but not your baby sister.”

He thinks she’s sweet enough to eat?? Does this delusion nitwit honestly think her toddler bit the baby because he thinks she’s edible? Seriously?

I think Caillou’s mommy is one of those “Good Mommies”. Bad feelings don’t exist in her universe. I bet when Caillou manages to get under her skin by repeated whiny, manipulative, aggressive behaviour, she isn’t ever, ever angry, she’s only “sad”. So very sad. And Caillou is never angry, hostile, or jealous. Oh, no! He is just tired, or over-stimulated. Or, in this case, hungry.

Okay, Mommy. Time for a reality check. Caillou is thinking a whole big bunch of things about his sister, you bet. However, I would bet lots and lots of good money “my baby sister is sooooo sweet” is not one of them.

He may only be 21 months old, but Mommy? He knows the difference between a human being and an apple. That’s why, when he wanted to express his anger and aggression, he threw a doll around his room. A baby doll. Not, you will note, an apple.

“But if you do, you will no longer have her to love.”

Wait. Just wait now. You’re suggesting that Caillou is trying to ingest his sister, in her entirety?? That he wants to completely consume her? You think that bite wasn’t a simple act of aggression, but only the first morsel of lunch??

She’d rather believe her son was aiming for cannibalism than aggression?? A little bog-standard toddler aggression arising out of jealousy and anxiety?? So her thought processes were, what? “My baby would never act aggressively! Nooo. He must just have been trying to eat her. Like an apple. Yes, that’s much better.”

You know what? That’s WAY, WAY CREEPIER, Mommy. Waaaay creepier. Caillou the Cannibal. Ew.

Wonderful husband listened to me read that page and snorted. “Now, now, Caillou,” he chirped in a blissed-out Nice Mommy voice. “You can’t have your sister and eat her, too!” (Yes, I know I’ve just put down the red carpet for some seriously creepy Google-searchers. Won’t they be disappointed that it’s just whiny little Caillou and his delusional parents?)

“You can bite an apple, but not your baby sister.”

Okay. We’ll let that one alone. It’s a reasonable enough thing to say to a young toddler. Also “You are a person, not a wild animal. People don’t bite.” Or, “You may be angry, but you may not bite.” Or, “Caillou! You just hurt the baby! See how she’s crying? Poor baby Rosie! I need to go spend time with her and help her feel better. You can sit over there alone.” Or, after the above, “You can come help me make her feel better. Poor, poor Rosie!”

It’s odd how most of the book is devoted to describing Caillou’s growing unhappiness and eventual aggression, but the parents’ response does not address the issue of his feelings at.all.

In fact, and I just realized this, there is never any discussion of Caillou’s feelings. It is simply a list of actions. Caillou does this, that, and that other thing. Every one of them negative, until the very last page. Nor is there any discussion of the results of those actions on other people. (Empathy for poor crying Rosie? Noooo.)

Good lord. What an enormous gap in the narrative of this book! Caillou is a little guy. He looks to be less than two. So…
– He doesn’t know what that turmoil of feeling inside him is. He needs someone to label them for him. He needs someone to show him how to control and channel them. In simple and concrete ways. (Not someone to deny that they even exist!)
– He quite likely genuinely doesn’t know that other people have feelings, too. Not like he does, at any rate. Rosie’s tears were a prime opportunity to introduce him to the notion, and to plant some seeds of empathy.

So, in a book that’s all about a toddler’s negative emotional reaction to the advent of the attention-sucking interloper of a new baby in his perfect world, there is not one single reference to the feelings that precipitate all the actions. Only the idea that it’s understandable if you might want cannibalize your sibling because she’s so sweet.

What a weird book.

February 26, 2013 - Posted by | books, eeewww, parenting, socializing | , , ,


  1. Of all the scenarios I had imagined, cannibal/zombie Caillou was not one of them.

    This. THIS. This whole idea that a child’s every action is governed by a kind or benevolent impulse makes me crazy. Kids can be HORRIBLE. Just like adults. The sooner people make their peace with that, the better off we’ll all be. Because once we accept that kids have baser impulses, we can start teaching them how to control those impulses.

    Also, I laughed out loud several times while reading this post. Too many good lines to point to one in particular.

    “Once we accept that kids have baser impulses, we can start teaching them how to control those impulses.” EXACTLY! Willful denial is not a good parenting strategy.

    Comment by Hannah | February 26, 2013 | Reply

  2. OH MY GOD! Really?! When I first started my day care, I would allow 20 minutes of television while I made lunch. Of course it was Caillou. After a few weeks I noticed the whining in my dc was awful and I actually stopped to listen to what was going on. I was shocked. That was the last time I ever thought “if it’s on PBS, it must be good!” lol. I saw this on pinterest and thought of you and your last Caillou post:

    My kids watched Caillou intermittently when they were young, but not enough that I noticed what a whiny little wretch he was. And that cartoon? HYSTERICAL! Thank you!

    Comment by Kate | February 26, 2013 | Reply

  3. Creepy. The boys over here really liked Baby on the Way and What Baby Needs, but now that I read back through them they are all about what you can do with a new baby. They provide lots of positive examples, but no direct discussion of emotion. I really liked the little critter book, but they weren’t big fans.

    Comment by Samantha | February 26, 2013 | Reply

  4. Can’t…stop…laughing….

    Comment by Hedy @ Penny for my Thoughts | February 26, 2013 | Reply

  5. The weirdest thing is that in the theme song, it says “I’m just a kid who’s FOUR.” Four is old enough for this entire scenario to be even creepier. He knows better. And mom should too.

    Comment by daycaregirl | February 26, 2013 | Reply

  6. I have always hated Caillou. The just solidifies how unjustifiable it is to let your kids watch it. Not only did I find him whiny, but oh-so-naughty! thanks for the hysterical post!

    Comment by Anna | February 26, 2013 | Reply

    • Oops! *this, not the

      Comment by Anna | February 26, 2013 | Reply

  7. Um. An…. apple? I so did not see that coming. Bizarre!

    Comment by rosie_kate | February 26, 2013 | Reply

  8. Hahaha, I’m just enjoying all the other comments! I always disliked Caillou as well, what where these authors thinking?!

    Comment by jbjokne | February 27, 2013 | Reply

  9. Studies show that kids who read books about siblings fighting, or watch shows about siblings fighting, are actually more likely to imitate those fights with their own siblings, despite the positive resolutions at the ends of the stories. So basically, reading this book to a tot is likely to give them the idea of biting siblings.

    Comment by IfByYes | February 27, 2013 | Reply

  10. Hedy- He’s four in the show but Rosie’s about 2 so I think the book’s set a few years earlier.

    I agree so completely with all of these assessments of Caillou. The kid is such an awful little whiner with no empathy for anyone else and the adults around him seem to excuse his behavior instead of trying to teach him why it’s wrong and how to correct it. I fully expect a new series called Caillou: The Teen Years, to debut in about 2020 and feature Caillou running over people with his new car and then whining, “But they were in my wayyyyyy!!”

    Comment by Jess | March 16, 2013 | Reply

  11. I am a childcare provider who just came across your blog, and have been reading for an hour +. Your blog is wonderful. I had to comment on this post because it is so funny! I had this book and had almost the exact same thoughts. I remember reading it to my daughter when I was pregnant and changing the wording as I went because I didn’t like it.

    Comment by Sarah | February 21, 2014 | Reply

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