If you don’t have a young child in your life, or aren’t acquainted with toddler pop culture, you may not know much about a pint-sized pup named Bluey. The animated series “Bluey” centers around the adventures and misadventures of an Australian Blue Heeler family. “Bluey” is a favorite among kids and adults alike for its humor, spunk and adorable accents. Most notably, the show is incredibly relatable.
New parenthood is full of promise and joyful chaos and also a profound sense of ineptitude and anxiety. In my experience as a first-time mother to a 1-year-old, each day is a lesson in finding wholeness among broken toys, order in mismatched baby socks and stability in erratic sleep schedules. Even with a loving, supportive partner and a village behind me, at times it can feel quite lonely. The wonders of each stage blurs at 3 in the morning. I am flooded with guilt admitting that life usually feels more chaotic than miraculous. I lose my cool looking for the favorite pacifier and while cleaning mystery baby stains off my work clothes. I miss precious moments while trying to pick up rogue Cheerios (seriously, where do they keep coming from?).
I only recently became a “Bluey” superfan after binging a few episodes with my son. How is it that an animated family of dogs helps me to feel so seen and validated as a new parent? Bluey’s parents, Chili and Bandit, keep it incredibly real. Most kid shows center solely around a child protagonist, where “Bluey” prominently features three dimensional grown-up characters who juggle being working parents while aiming to be present for their puppies. The mum and dad balance intergenerational family dynamics and struggle to get enough sleep while keeping up with household chores and the grind of everyday life. Sound familiar?
An occupational hazard I face as a cantor is experiencing the world through the lens of Judaism like an irremovable Instagram filter. “Bluey” is not intentionally Jewish, but that doesn’t stop me from catching gems of Torah in every episode. Before fully plunging into the Bluey-verse, I’d often hear friends while swapping parenting woes say, “You know, there’s a ‘Bluey’ episode for that.” Similarly, Judaism offers texts, midrash and liturgy to provide perspective and comfort in any circumstance life may offer. As much of a joke as it may sound, “Bluey” offers sage affirming wisdom like a balm for the exhausted parent’s soul. Yes, I am talking about the Torah of “Bluey.”
The show embraces the sacred silliness of childrearing and brilliantly role models how to surrender to the chaos of any given moment in a very Jewish way. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
The Jewish wisdom: “A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven.” Kohelet 3:1
The “Bluey” wisdom: In the episode “Babyrace,” (Season 2, Episode 50) Chili recounts the story of Bluey learning to walk. She tells Bluey and Bingo how she compared Bluey to the other babies in their playgroup and became stressed about Bluey’s development. Chili is reassured by an experienced mother in the group that Bluey will walk in her own time. One day when she was ready, Bluey stood up in the kitchen and took her first steps.
The Jewish wisdom: Eighteenth century Hasidic Rabbi Simcha Bunem taught that we must carry two slips of paper in each pocket. One quoting Talmud, “for my sake the world was created.” The other quoting Abraham in Torah, “I am but dust and ashes.”
The “Bluey” wisdom: In the episode “Library,” (Season 2, Episode 30) Uncle Stripe tells Muffin that she’s the most special kid in the world. This leads her to believe that she doesn’t have to follow any rules when playing library with Bluey and Bingo. Uncle Stripe explains to her that she’s the most special to him, but not to everyone else, and that she still has to play by the rules.
The Jewish wisdom: “God was in this place and I did not know.” Genesis 28:16
The “Bluey” wisdom: While playing with Bluey and Bingo, Bandit pretends to see the world through the perspective of a baby in the episode “Born Yesterday (Season 3, Episode 6).” While acting as though he doesn’t know anything, he pauses to experience the wonders of the every day.
Throughout the entire series, Chili and Bandit, together as parents, embody the biblical term hineni, which translates to “here I am.”
Throughout Torah, Abraham, Moses and various other prophets exclaim this phrase when they are called by God. They’re basically saying, “Hey, you’ve got my attention! I’m all ears. How can I help you?” Chili shows us that carving out time for meaningful connection can happen in the car between phone calls. Bandit reminds us that playing with our kids can be done while lying down.
Presence of mind and spirit are nearly impossible on a steady diet of whatever your kid didn’t finish eating for dinner and four hours of sleep on average. Parenting is being asked to show up over and over again, at our best and at our worst. We are called at inhumane hours of the night, when we are sick, or in the shower, or at work. When we have nothing left to give, we are asked to dig deeper. It is in these moments I hear Bluey’s voice like a mantra: “Have a cry, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.”
Raising a child can feel impossible on a good day. The Torah of “Bluey” reminds us that others have walked this path and you are not alone in this struggle. Every phase is fleeting. For better or worse, this too shall pass. For real life.