Is it too late to rename them Barry, Robin, and Maurice?

I am prone to bouts of nostalgia for the 1970s. It was the decade of my innocent years. The ‘70s began with me forming my earliest memories and ended with me standing on the cusp of teenagerdom. It is appropriate that I have a soft spot for those days.

Why my children so easily follow me into that ‘70s groove, I can’t explain. The decade of their formative years is not half over with yet. They should be assembling the mental scrap book that will draw their hearts back to these good old days in times to come. Maybe they are, but in their spare moments, they are boogying back to the ‘70s right beside me.

Musically, the ‘70s decade was an odd dichotomy of timeless classics and curious songs that seemed fitting at the time, but now make me wonder what other questionable choices were being made by the grown-ups of my youth.

This doesn’t mean these song aren’t still fun to sing, especially if you are riding in the car with the other two members of your boy band strapped into their respective booster and toddler car seats.

When Le Freak (remembered by children of the ‘70s as Freak Out!) came on the radio, my bandmate in the booster said, “Oh yeah, I know this song.” I found that a little odd since I’d heard it about five times since sixth grade and not at all since he was born.

Chic

The record that made us all freak out.

As if sensing my skepticism, he began singing along to every “Freak Out!” – of which there are many.

I’m convinced our bandmate in the toddler seat did not know this song, but he picked it up quickly. He began echoing every “Freak Out!” his brother sang. This being a new number to him, he was just a little off the lyric so that his contribution sounded like “Eee Ow!”

Being the founding member of the band, I could not sit idly by. There was no room between instances of “Freak Out!” to add a second echo, so I took up the role of singing the “Awwwwwww” buildup to each “Freak Out!”

Altogether, we drove down the road sounding like this:

Driver’s seat: “Awwwwwww”

Booster seat: “Freak Out!”

Toddler seat: “Eee Ow!”

Repeat the cycle.

A lot.

It’s the main feature of the song.

Back in the day, it seemed like a fun song. Then it seemed like a stupid song. Now, it’s a fun song all over again. That’s the magic of the ‘70s.

It put us all in good mood.

When the new baby is up to singing, I may just bow out of the group and see if we’ve got a brand new generation of Bee Gees on our hands. Being a child of the ‘70s, nothing could be more appealing to me. If Chic could put me a good mood, driving around with my own set of Bee Gees in the back seat would put me on top of the world.

Bee Gees

I’m thinking my new Bee Gees won’t be quite so hairy.

 

Sit at this desk and look busy so Daddy can retire

Occasionally, I take my boys to work with me for an hour or two. I work at a relatively family-friendly environment where I don’t often get the stink eye for trailing two little ducklings behind me now and then.

This doesn’t mean it’s always a comfortable experience, keeping the lids on two unpredictable tornado sirens in a professional manner.

If I could take them individually, it wouldn’t be so stressful. Lacking toddler interference, I could teach the big boy to do my job. Of course, he is too young and uneducated to do it all, but I could start him on the basics. Then, after he has completed his kindergarten degree and is fully qualified for my work, he’d hit the ground running when he takes over for me in earnest. This, by the way, is my retirement plan. Some family member needs to be sitting at that desk and bringing home a paycheck until the day I die. It might as well be him.

Junior paper shuffler

Sometimes I make him shuffle papers at home just to hone the most important skill he’ll need to assume my job duties.

Buster wouldn’t be bad on his own either. There’s a 30% chance he’d fall asleep. Otherwise, he’d be content to pound away on my keyboard and write my reports in that monkey language he types. This is a different, but equally readable, monkey language than the one my typing produces, so the reports would be similarly useful to my superiors. He is second in line for my throne in our succession plan.

Together, they create a more difficult visit to pull off inconspicuously. Childhood is a competition to push buttons. We have lots of buttons at work. Be it the elevator, automatic doors, or the water cooler, we have lots of buttons to race toward – screaming. These buttons also leave ample opportunities for the second-place finisher to whine and cry, which puts me in an awkward place because that’s usually my role at work.

Even when we are packed within the half-walls of my office, there are too many buttons. I have an adding machine on my desk. Every time the boys visit, they change the settings so that my decimal places are off for weeks. I can usually get it fixed by the day before their next visit. The Accounting Department still gets the general gist of what I mean.

the final edit

We might write nonsense, but it is very carefully edited nonsense.

Keys fascinate children also. There are filing cabinets outside my office. In them I keep reams of paperwork that no one could find useful or interesting. I keep this ocean of paper locked up tight because that allows me to act like a guy who’s authorized to access company secrets. Co-workers know better, but the boys are impressed. They want to know secrets too; after their last visit, I’m not sure where the keys are. Now I have to keep up a false front about being privy to whatever the hell those papers say.

Maybe I should spare my co-workers all the whining and crying by asking to work from home. But I’m unsure if they’d still let me send the kids in.

Stop acting like a child, kid!

I’ve got five-year-olds figured out. When they hit us with whining, histrionics, and petty stubbornness, it’s all a bluff to lower our expectations of their sophistication. Secretly, those little sponges of knowledge are picking up every tiny bit of data and storing it away to use to their advantage.

Sometimes, though, they get too full of information to keep the secret. Then, they have to let out some of what they know. The more these moments amaze us, the better the whining ploy has worked.

In the space of 24 hours, my son did great damage to his carefully-built façade.

We were in the car, listening to some of my old people music (not my super old people big bands; my moderately old people 1970s) when The Hustle came on. Hearing “Do the Hustle,” the boy wanted to know what that was.

“It’s a dance where everybody gets in a row and all do the same things, like spin around and clap their hands,” I told him.

“Oh! Is it like a conga line?”

Huh? What kind of birthday parties are these kids having? At least he hasn’t come home wearing a lamp shade on his head.

Early Hustle

“Do the what now?” (Image: D.A. Sigerist)

***

The next day, as he was puttering around the house, I heard him humming Pomp and Circumstance.

“Where did you learn that song?” I asked.

“At preschool graduation.”

Preschool graduation was 10 months ago. And it’s not like we’ve been watching the video of it all that time – or ever, since the day after graduation. Also, Pomp and Circumstance is not one of Daddy’s old people songs.

we do love to march

Mommy’s explanation: “Well, you Germans do love your marching.” (Image: Underwood & Underwood)

Recalling how he figured out the basic melody of Carol of the Bells on the keyboard, I told him, “You’re pretty good at music. Would you like to learn an instrument?”

“I don’t know.”

“What instrument would you play? Trumpet?”

“No.”

“Saxophone?”

“No. I hate woodwinds.”

Right. I didn’t know what a woodwind was until I was in ninth grade, and had already spent two years in the school band.

“What’s a woodwind?” I asked.

“An instrument that has a wood piece where you blow.”

“What’s the wood part called?

“I don’t know.”

“I’ll give you a hint. It sounds like the same word as what you do when you open a book.”

“It sounds like look at the pictures?”

***

Later, he asked, “Daddy, can we make a German flag that looks like the American flag?”

“That wouldn’t be much of a German flag.”

“Okay then, can we make the flag of Greece?”

“I’m busy right now, but you can make it.”

He got a blue crayon and made a paper flag of Greece. “Daddy, can you find me a stick to put my flag on?” he asked.

“I’ll have to look for one.”

He pointed through the window at the ravages of winter in the back yard. “You can get one from nature if you want.”

This kid just put a big dent in his cover story. He’ll have to demonstrate great petulance to repair it. In this too, he is equal to the task.

Greek flag

Unlike the German flag, the Greek flag requires only one crayon.

 

Buster’s birthday bash

It was right around April Fool’s Day when Buster walked into the room with one hand hiked up into his shirt sleeve. Holding out that arm, he practiced his most scared face and yelled in mock terror as he stared at the empty space at the end of his sleeve. He couldn’t stop giggles from filling the places between his terrified screams, because he was convinced the whole prank was hilarious.

It was hilarious, and a huge parent-fail that I didn’t get it on video.

It was his first joke as a two-year-old.

I bet Buster learned this joke at his birthday party. It was pirate-themed, and one of the props was a plastic hook that covered up the wearer’s hand. Likely, an older kid pretended to lose a hand in one of their many sword fights. Hooks may be comical, but empty space is funnier. That’s what Buster took away from it.

below the cupcakes

Checking the perimeter for cupcake-stealing pirates.

Buster always throws a good birthday bash – both times. I think this is because toddlers don’t have lots of expectations to get in the way of having fun with whatever direction the party takes. They don’t care who shows up as long as there are a few kids ready to play. They don’t stress over the menu, and they aren’t expecting presents, so anything they get is gravy. They don’t even care if somebody else blows out the candle on their cupcake, just as long as they get to eat the frosting and leave the cake part for Daddy.

All Buster really cared about at his party was having a house full of kids that he could chase around with a foam pirate sword. They didn’t have to be his own age either. The bigger the kids, the bigger the targets.

fighting pirates

A mighty sword – brought to you by the pitter-patter of little feet.

Buster likes playing with older kids. You don’t have to be careful with them. You can hit them as hard as you want. If they start crying because they got beat up by a two-year-old – well, let’s just say they should learn to not do that. It doesn’t paint them in the best light. And nobody’s going to yell at you for making a big kid cry. They might pretend to scold you, but they’re only doing it to mollify a big baby, or modern society, or somebody else not to be taken seriously. They don’t mean it.

But if a big kid hits you too hard, just turn on the water works and that kid’s done for the day. They should know better, but after you whacked them good a few times, they must have forgot. Big kids are funny that way.

pure gravy

After cupcakes and sword fights, opening presents is pure gravy.

When he slept two hours late the next morning, we knew Buster had a good time at his party. He must have had one-too-many Kool-Aids.

Three days later, the pizza and cupcakes were gone, the decorations put away, everything back to usual. Except that Buster was still making pirate-themed jokes. Now that was one heck of a party.