29 January 2010

Accepting Elmo

I don't recall now when Sesame Street first introduced the character of Elmo. It was well after I was the age of a regular viewer, far older than the target Sesame Street demographic. But I can recall feeling that he was an interloper, a marketing ploy, a pox on the house of Hooper. Indisputable proof that all the great things of my childhood were being warped and corrupted and destroyed for no discernible purpose that I could see. (I'm looking at you, George Lucas.)

It's like Charlie Brown with his small, pathetic Christmas tree, fighting the commercialization encroaching upon his beloved holiday, steadfastly sticking to his belief in tradition, his unswerving dedication to nostalgia. While not the most politically oriented individual, I can be quite self-righteous when it comes to issues of pop culture I hold dear.

For the record (as if it was even up for argument), I'm with Coco.

Apologies, dear reader. I did not intend to meander into an apoplectic tirade, fueled by my utter hatred for all things Leno. Fodder for a future post, perhaps. What was I talking about again?

Oh, yes. Elmo.

That little red creature that was not part of the Sesame Street landscape I recalled from my own childhood. I wanted to stand on a soapbox and proclaim to all the children of the world that they were being lied to, manipulated--brainwashed, even. They've tricked you, don't you see? They don't care about you. This is that whole New Coke fiasco all over again. We liked our Sesame Street just fine the way it was, people.

And Greedo did not shoot first! Greedo did not shoot first!

Sorry, mixing up my embattled pop culture causes again. Anyway, the Elmo train rolled on, unimpeded. Case in point: The $60 toy that walked, talked and giggled when you tickled it, flying off store shelves, ruining Christmas for the countless parents pressed into service against their will to retrieve this monstrosity for their eager moppets.

I mean, where did it stop? Who would explain to the unwashed masses that this "character" was an agent of unrepentant evil, perpetrated upon the American public by the Children's Television Workshop, which was clearly a front for a much more nefarious and sinister organization, hell-bent on world domination behind the peaceful guise of lighthearted, educational children's television programming?

Then, a funny thing happened. My son discovered Elmo. So, there's this song, right? It's a faux-country number about Elmo and his four ducks. He wears a fringe-covered shirt and plucks on a twangy guitar, just to complete the motif. So, he's got these four ducks. Four birds of a feather. They quack together. Until one flew away. And then he had only three ducks. It's sorta sad, but kinda funny, and damn, if the whole thing is not catchier than Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl."

From this simple video, a loving obsession was born. And that cute little red creature has now invaded my home. He's everywhere. And on everything. He's there at meals (bib), in the bath (toy submarine), and at bedtime (flap book). And I'm torn. Is he an interloper still? Or a beloved addition to the Street? I mean, there he is, all over the Internets, with all manner of movie stars and musical artists. They can't all have drank the Kool-Aid, right? Adam Sandler, Norah Jones, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Feist. Feist?!? The pixie darling of American and Canadian folk-pop can't be wrong, can she?

So, for the moment, I have acquiesced. And to prove how far I've gone in my acceptance of Elmo, I offer this evidence. On the shelf that contains my extensive, varied, prized collection of DVDs, there now sits, for my son, a copy of The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. Sandwiched right between About a Boy and After Hours.

That is, when my alphabetical system goes untampered with. For, besides Elmo, my son's main preoccupation of the moment appears to be dragging his dad's beloved DVDs off the shelf and either spreading them around, or stacking them in a very tall pile, on the floor, much to my chagrin. Weirdest. Kid. Ever.

To be continued . . .

27 January 2010

Splish Splash

I was takin' a bath, long about a Saturday night . . .

So, one day your life is fairly normal and the next you find yourself maneuvering a giant, inflatable duck out of the bathtub in order to take a shower in the morning.

How did that happen exactly?

Well, that's what parenting is like, apparently. Or so it's been in our experience. As a new parent, your life slowly evolves over the course of many small (sometimes bizarre) changes. Hence, the duck. It lives in our tub and it's where our son takes his nightly bath. And while I might find it inconvenient and perhaps somewhat frustrating to be faced with this daily obstacle to my morning shower at 6 am, its very presence in our house gives our son nothing but joy.

So I guess it's not all that bad.

Seriously, you wouldn't believe how much this kid likes taking a bath. Correction: Loves it. I mean, aren't kids supposed to hate taking baths? Maybe I'm jinxing us. Maybe that's coming. People keep saying that kids don't like taking baths, that babies don't like taking baths. Typically. But it seems our son is anything but typical. Since his very first bath some time in his first few weeks of life, he's loved being in the water. He loves the bubbles, the bath toys, the wash cloth. The wash cloth. Really. I've never seen anybody get so much enjoyment out of such a mundane, everyday item.

His affection for the wash cloth sometimes makes it difficult for us to actually bathe him as he won't take it out of his mouth, nor relinquish his kung fu grip on it, long enough for us to see that it is used for its designated purpose: washing. Even after it's used on his backside, he tries putting it in his mouth. We chastise him for this attempt, reminding him that he doesn't want to suck on a wash cloth covered in dirty bum water. He doesn't seem to follow.

On occasion, when we've given him a bubble bath, he's tried to grab the bubbles as if they are actual, tangible objects he can grasp. His sense of wonder at something so simple is pretty incredible to watch.

I almost forgot to mention the crayons. They now make washable crayons which you can use to draw on the tub walls. There was nothing like this when I was a kid. Using crayons on any surface that wasn't paper was a bad thing. Of course, being able to draw on the tub wall and not on the regular wall could lead to some confusion and ugly incidents down the road with my son. But for now, my wife and I are going to enjoy the mini-masterpieces he produces.

Okay, so what he draws can't really be considered drawing. Yet. But maybe someday, he'll be like Simon.

We can only hope. Well, I've gotta go. I have to go blow hot air into a giant inflatable duck. This is my life now.

Rubber ducky, you're the one . . .

20 January 2010

Zagat's For Babies

Noo! Ba. App. Atch. Ba.

They might not sound like it on their face, but these are all staples of my son's ever-growing diet. The above sounds that he emits represent noodles, apples, applesauce, cheese, and bananas.

No, really, they do. Or at least that's what my wife tells me.

Anyway, it's been pretty amazing to watch his tastes forming over time. As well as his capacity for consuming food. Seriously, the kid's like a trash compactor. Not sure where he puts it all. Though sometimes his belly does swell up to the point that he looks like the Buddha.

And in just over 10 months of solid foods, the kid has managed to eat (and enjoy) a wide range of food stuffs including calamari, chili, lobster, baguette, brie, and avocado. Once, in a restaurant, my wife and I ordered him a side of mac and cheese (because he so loves the noo), without noting that it was Southwestern mac and cheese or some such thing, loaded with spices, and packing quite a kick. Even for our more advanced taste buds. Our son took one bite and almost immediately made a surprised, sour, irritated expression. Then he swallowed. And a moment later, pointed at the bowl and said, "Muh, muh." ("More, more.") Such a weirdo.

He did the same thing once with a lime wedge. He saw it and insisted on trying it. And so we obliged. It was hilarious. Bite. Sour expression. Beat. Then . . . Bite. Sour Expression. Beat. You get the picture. This pattern repeated itself for several minutes, much to our amusement. Actually, it was just like this:

While he is currently fearless when it comes to food consumption (and his ever-expanding set of teeth allows him to actually bite and chew more and more), I still remember quite clearly when we first tried him with food. You start with something that's practically liquid (baby oatmeal or rice cereal) and gradually thicken it over time, before moving on to more substantive items. And it's amazing to witness. I mean, what happens in their little brain? How do they figure out what they're supposed to do? They just start chewing. It just sorta happens. Until they're biting into pieces of bread and chicken and you think, really, how do they know how to do that? How?

Some time back, we got our son a book called Foodie Babies Wear Bibs (from the same authors as the equally amusing and hipster-friendly Urban Babies Wear Black). We liked the book because it was short and funny, but the title has actually grown more and more apt over time. Our son, it seems, is indeed a foodie. Someday soon, he's bound to be eating something completely bizarre, like Anthony Bourdain routinely does in his TV travels, and loving every bite of it.

12 January 2010

He's a Rebel

Yes, that's a reference to '60s girl group, the Crystals. Even if you don't know what I'm talking about. I am nothing if not a pop culture sponge, regardless of genre, era, etc. From before my lifetime and beyond.

It is truly a very sad way to live.

Anyhow, what compels me to invoke this nostalgic, bubble-gum view of a '50s greaser-type is the fact that I would like to address the subject of defiance, and to wonder why this behavioral trait seems to be one of the very first things a kid learns. I'm sure there are copious amounts of legitimate scientific research into this phenomenon, if I could just be bothered to go to the local library. Or more simply, conduct a Google search. But really, who has the time for all that, what with all the demands of being a parent? (Not to mention, who has the energy?)

When it comes to discipline, teaching, etc., we've read that you're not supposed to overuse the word "No." I'm not sure how you do that exactly. Nothing else seems quite as effective or rolls off the tongue so easily. "Please don't!" "Would you mind?" "Clarence!" (My son's name is not Clarence, this just seems like something that might be fun to exclaim. You could always pretend you were Bruce Springsteen cueing the Big Man to commence on a sax solo.)

Anyway, our son has now learned the word "No" and it seems its effect has already been somewhat diluted from repeated use. From the stove, to the electric sockets, the giant bookcase, the garbage bin, coffee mugs, the stereo, the TV receiver. Our son is compelled to get into everything, to touch everything. And when we say, "No," he's taken to pointing at the forbidden object himself and repeating, "No." Like he gets it, right? Then he just goes ahead and touches said object once again. We repeat, "No." And then he looks at us (this part kills me) and holds our eyes while repeating, "No, no." As if he actually understands what we're getting at--then he just does it all over again.

Once started, this vicious cycle is often quite difficult to end.

The other thing that happens is he'll undo what he's done, he'll return objects to the location he's removed them from when he's told, "No." He'll put them back in their original, rightful locations. For a moment. Only to move them again.

Again, this can go on for quite some time. Bizarre the things that can hold the kid's interest sometimes.

You simply cannot reason with him. How long can this possibly go on? It's absurd. And the look. The look. It's hard to describe exactly. Whatever comes right before diabolical. Somewhere between innocent, yet knowing, all at once. This twinkle in the eyes. Hard to believe it's being generated by a creature that is only 17 months old.

We are in for some serious trouble.