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. 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.



If you want to keep your feet, Daddy, stay on your toes

There are enough families in the world with too little love in them that I don’t want to sound as if I am complaining about having too much love following me around the house. Don’t think of it as complaining. Think of it as documenting.

Really? A stationary piece of furniture is enough to take you down, Dick? I guess life was simpler in your black and white world. (CBS Television)

My three-year-old son likes to be close to me. It often seems to me that the only time he is not climbing on me is when he is following me around, trying to make me trip over him. In this regard, I’m a bit like Dick Van Dyke, except that the ottoman I trip over every night has active legs and relocates himself to wherever my path is likely to turn.

When we walk together, he likes to lead the way. This puts him in excellent position to stop without warning, which, in turn, is a wonderful way to prod Daddy into spinning, juking, hop-stepping, and showing off all the other moves that would have made him an All-Pro halfback if only pro scouts looked for talent in the kitchens of middle-aged dads.

I am in most danger when I am walking alone, because I am never truly walking alone. There is always a little stealth obstacle sneaking up behind me, waiting for the inevitable moment when I must turn. Since there are no long straightaways in our house, he doesn’t have long to wait. I will turn and throw myself wildly into the avoidance ballet that his presence demands. And while I am gyrating so gracefully, I might as well jeté over to the fridge and get him the juice he so silently came to request.

The accomplice. Layabout cat by day; Daddy-tripping fiend by night.

As if the boy couldn’t cause me to break my ankles by himself, he has an ally in the endeavor. The cat gets a little snack before bedtime. At about two hours before bedtime, the cat starts to follow me around the house, just in case I feel like giving him his treat early. Whenever I go in the general direction of his bowl, the cat attempts to run between my feet to lead me there. I’ve done many a tap dance around that cat, and his tail has dampened my tread on numerous occasions.

When the boy and the cat get to thinking alike, I become a veritable whirling dervish of sidestepping stardom. They are a dangerous pair, especially if I happen to be carrying the baby. Don’t worry on the baby’s account though. Through my long hours of practice for the Pro Bowl, I have learned to carry him like a football and to avoid fumbling. When my tackler grows tall enough for me to straight-arm, I will have an added defense. The baby will be fine. I figure I’ll be hop frogging over him too pretty soon, right about the time I get the replacement hip installed.