A few parenting-related posts from my Skeptical Mystery Tour blog — the blog that’s been getting all my attention for the past several months:
Driving Jacob home from preschool recently, I turned on the Pandora music streaming app on my iPhone and piped the music through my car radio, as I do routinely. Jacob heard a few bars of the rap song that was playing and said, in a panic, “Push the thumb-up button! Push the thumb-up button! I like this one!”
Back in 2004 (I think), I bought a Nintendo 64 game system for $20 at GameStop so I could play it with Charlie and Thomas during their visits. It was the same kind of system they had played on when they were young kids, so we all experienced some nostalgia as we played again — some of us more than others, I’m sure.
A few months ago, I introduced Jacob (5) to the N64. He is now capable of beating me, and his mom, and his grandparents, and all the computer players, in MarioKart, not always but more often than we would like. Angela saw how much he enjoyed MarioKart, so she ordered two more games, one of which is the classic Super Mario 64. The learning curve of that game is a little steep, but Jacob is picking it up quickly, thanks in part to the vast supply of YouTube videos of people playing the game extremely well.
Jacob shows the same talent and patience for learning these N64 games that Thomas had when he was little — which is saying a lot — and he shows the same kind of excitement in learning the ‘maps’ and how things behave in these alternate universes.
Playing the games with any of my kids brings back memories, but seeing glimpses of the older sons in the youngest one is what really takes me back.
I’m a lot less uptight about the words I use around Jacob than I was ‘a generation ago’ with Charlie and Thomas.
Today, as I was putting Jacob in his car seat:
Me: “I’m sorry. Did I crush your nuts?”
Jacob (laughing): “No, you didn’t crush my nuts! How did you know I had nuts?”
Angela and me (laughing): “…”
Jacob: “How did you know I had nuts in my belly?”
Angela and me (laughing uncontrollably): “…”
I’m writing this from the place I go every Tuesday evening with my 4-year-old, Jacob. It has multiple playrooms for him, with inflatable ‘bouncy houses’ and slides, foam pits, riding toys and a great crew of employees who supervise the kids and do games and crafts with them. We get dinner here — they have great pizza. For me, there is also wi-fi and a Starbucks counter (or I can get a beer). It is ideal.
Except that it is so loud in here.
I don’t mind the kids yelling — or even crying — but there are these giant pumps that keep the inflatables inflated and emit a constant, loud, dull whir. It’s hard to have a conversation with the people I run into here, let alone get on the phone with someone. And that is a shame because this would be a great time to catch up with my other two sons.
Connecting with either of my older sons when we’re both available is only half the battle. The other half is finding a place where I can actually hear them.
Sometimes I try to talk to #1 son Charlie or #2 son Thomas while I’m on my commute home — but if I’m taking the train, forget it — it’s too loud on the train and on the platform. So whenever I drive, I try to reach them (using a hands-free kit, of course). But I almost always have errands on the way. In stores. Where it’s loud. So I have to hang up before we’re really done.
Plus, my hands-free kit (which I installed myself) has an annoying hum that I can suppress only by putting my hand over one end of the kit. Is it still hands-free if I have to do that?
Calling them from home is not an option before Jacob is in bed for the night. And by the time he crashes, I’m ready to do the same!
Has life always been this loud during every waking hour?
I thought I had been through every kind of toilet emergency, but today my four-year-old sprung a new one on me:
He says, “I have to go pee right now or I’m going to wet my pants,” and the only available toilet is the one I’m on (and actively using).
Confession: I still get a kick out of “Bears on Wheels” by the Berenstains.
It’s one of the first books my parents read to me when I was little.
I also introduced it to Charlie and Thomas when they were little, and it stuck with us. Even today, when I’m with my ‘big guys’ and we see people on bicycles, it always occurs to one of us to blurt out how many people on how many wheels there are (example: “Three on six”).
Recently, it occurred to me that I’d like to share this classic with my preschooler, Jacob. I ordered it from ThriftBooks (always my first resort for buying books online), and it was shipped to my office.
I waited anxiously for the end of the workday, anticipating my son’s giggles at the pictures and narrative of bears falling onto and off of various wheeled things.
Then I started second-guessing my anticipation. Was I being too optimistic? What if Jacob didn’t like the book the way I did? Would I be upset? Why did I want Jacob to have the same kind of experiences his older brothers had? Was this about him or about me and my nostalgia?
Sheesh. It’s just a book.
Anyway, much to my delight, Jacob found “Bears on Wheels” very entertaining and soon began requesting it at bedtime.
A couple of weeks ago, Jacob and I were on a walk and saw two bicyclists pedaling by.
I said, “Two on four.”
He said, “No, it’s not two on four.” (He disagrees with things he doesn’t understand. Don’t we all?)
I explained: “It’s two guys on four wheels.”
“Oh, it is?”
Then we went into the math. “It’s two wheels on one bike and two wheels on the other bike. Two plus two is …”
“Four!” He got it.
Thanks to Stan and Jan Berenstain, I can reinforce simple addition with my son (and eventually multiplication by two) every time someone goes by on a bicycle.
If you have never read the book, you probably won’t understand the title of this post, “Twenty-one on none.” But I won’t give it away. It’s best that you discover it on the printed page, as my sons and I have.
What literary gems from your childhood have you shared with your kids?