Bet you never thought you’d read a blog from A2L about a kid’s show, right dear readers? Even if it was A.A. Milne’smasterpiece? Well as it turns out, deep in the hundred acre wood where Christopher Robin plays, there is far more wisdom and anthropological value to be found than one might ever be able to conceive of back when they were young enough to watch it – if there is such a thing as ‘young enough’ to watch such a great show. But I watched Winnie the Pooh countless times in my childhood, but only now as an adult do I appreciate the profound life lessons that children ought to be learning from a young ageabout accepting others as they are and staying true to friendship no matter what!
Those of my generation might have come across studies that suggest Winnie the Pooh and his friends all represent different kinds of neuro-developmental disorders – a pretty big revelation for me at the time, but when I look back, in some cases it is abundantly obvious. Tigger, for example, the lovable bouncing tiger who was happy and excitable all the time, demonstrates many of the symptoms of ADHD. Piglet and I actually happen to share a diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
How about Eeyore, who although constantly sad and down in the dumps with Depression, was my favourite? Truthfully, there was something very lovable about the depressed donkey. I kind of consider him my spirit animal to this day! Pretty sure I picked up my sarcasm habit from him!
Owl, who considers himself the most intelligent and has something of a narcissistic streak, also exhibits some of the traits of Dyslexia, often having trouble with spelling. Some say that the little baby kangaroo, Roo, is autistic, no doubt referring to his absolute lack of perception of danger and his attachment to his overprotective mother Kanga’s pouch. Maybe I’m slightly biased, as I myself am Autistic, but I can’t help but have a new appreciation for the baby kangaroo who laughs at almost being swept away by a river while his friends freak out!
What about Pooh Bear himself? With his obsession with honey, and how far he’ll go to get it? How about his perceived indifference and inattention to his friends, only picking up on it throughout the quest? Pooh himself demonstrates symptoms of ADHD, coupled with binge eating habits to compensate for issues of self-esteem.
But the reason I love Winnie the Pooh even now at the not-quite-so tender age of 29 is not because of the discovery that they arguably demonstrate symptoms of differing neuro-developmental disorders. Yes that discovery played a role in reigniting my childhood love of Pooh bear’s adventures in the hundred-acre wood, but what really makes A.A. Milne’s masterpiece immortal in my own eyes is the fact that it teaches us the importance of unconditional care and love for friends, even when they try our patience with their bad habits or appear sullen and resistant to your friendship. You see, dear reader, when it comes to neuro-developmental disorders, it’s easy for those that have it to have what we would see as flaws or unappealing characteristics. The thing is that they never asked to have the problems unique to them, and no matter what those problems may be, they’re still our friends.
One episode that I’ll never forget, and that I strongly recommend to new viewers, is “Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore”. As I’ve kind of implied already, Eeyore is my favourite character, but the plot of this particular episode is one of the most profoundly heart-warming moments I’ve ever seen on any TV show of any description. When Pooh and the gang are out enjoying a game of Pooh Sticks and Eeyore suddenly floats down the stream, apparently saddened to the point of total apathy that he is being swept away, he is rescued by Pooh and friends, and reveals that he was bounced into the river by Tigger. Despite Tigger insisting he didn’t do it on purpose, everyone gets angry at Tigger, who bounces away disgruntled that no-one understands he didn’t mean to harm Eeyore or his need to bounce. Eeyore responds with “why should Tigger think of me? No one else does …” and walks away. When Pooh asks why he would say that, a despondent Eeyore just keeps walking with his head hanging.
Eventually, Pooh manages to get Eeyore to tell him why he’s so upset, after taking a barrage of sarcasm and bitterness from Eeyore – it’s Eeyore’s birthday! And nobody noticed. Despite Eeyore’s passive-aggressive beratement, Pooh rushes off to get his friend a present, encouraging Piglet to do the same. Pooh hurries back to Eeyore with his gift – a pot of honey – after getting Owl to write “Happy Birthday” on it – somewhat illegibly … before proceeding to eat the honey inside the pot. Piglet also rushes to get his own present for Eeyore, a red balloon, but unfortunately trips and pops the balloon!
But what follows is one of the most heart-warming endings to aTV show episode that I’ve ever seen. Despite being presented with two unimpressive presents, for perhaps the first timeonscreen, Eeyore smiles! His friends have made an effort for him on his birthday, lifting him out of melancholy and making him happy. He keeps smiling all the way through his last birthday party, and in the end, he teaches Tigger, who had knocked him into the water earlier, the secret to winning at Pooh sticks! As Tigger and Eeyore leave together, the gang decide that despite the day’s events, “Tigger is alright”, with Pooh saying “Everybody is, really”.
It’s an episode with such a convincingly happy ending that even after watching it several times, the audience is left as contented and happy as Eeyore and the rest of the gang is at the end. Eeyore has a happy birthday after all, while Tigger is absolved of inadvertently knocking him into the water. But the lessons of this episode are so profound that you can learn them as an infant and they will serve you for your whole life!
But that’s just one episode! Throughout nearly every episode, you will see this acceptance of each other’s flaws. When Pooh with his low self-esteem doubts himself, Christopher Robin always reassures him. When Piglet gets scared all the time, Pooh and friends comfort him. When Tigger can’t control his impulsive need to bounce, his friends tolerate it. Rabbit constantly rescues Roo when he obliviously gets into danger. And of course, when Eeyore is deep in Depression or his tail falls off, his friends help him out! Is it any wonder then, that one can watch Winnie the Pooh as a child and still feel a strong bond with the characters decades later as a full adult?
It is highly doubtful that A.A. Milne meant for his creations to be retrospectively diagnosed with neuro-developmental disorders after his passing, but what is for certain is that he gave each character in Winnie the Pooh purposeful flaws in order to make them not only sympathetic and relatable to us, but to teach us important lessons about what we might perceive as imperfections in our character, ultimately make us perfectlyhuman. When we make friends that understand that, and accept us as we are, able to see the good as well as the bad in us, the bond that is struck is immense. In my estimation, this is exactly the kind of thing that children ought to be learning and encouraged to take to heart, and it is why A.A Milne’s masterpiece deserves to be immortalised in memory with its own special day.
So once more, happy Winnie the Pooh Day!