We all know that no matter how funny a joke might be, it gets duller and duller the more it’s repeated (and if you have kids, then you DEFINITELY know this fact!). However, there are certain “jokes” that somehow refuse to die, no matter how often they’re used by how many people. Things like:
- Saying “I didn’t get the memo!” when two people are dressed similarly.
- Wondering aloud if it’s Friday yet, on Monday.
- I’m sure there are others, but it’s too early in the week to think of any. Is it Friday yet?
With kids, one such knee-slapper that will never die is following up someone telling you they love something…by telling them they should marry it.
I have heard that particular joke about ten million times, and I never laughed once…until the other night.
We were all out to dinner, and Leo wanted juice to drink. We acquiesced to his request, but the restaurant tragically did not have apple juice, and Leo was forced to either drink water (they didn’t have milk either, surprisingly), or attempt orange juice for the very first time in his life.
He decided to be brave, and orange juice was brought to the table. He went through his compulsory fifteen minutes of fear, but eventually took a drink. This was the exchange that followed:
ME: Do you like orange juice, Leo?
LEO: I LOVE it! I’m going to MARRY it!
ME: Oh yeah?
(He takes a sip)
LEO: Daddy…I’m drinking my BRIDE!!!
ME: So you are…
They should be very happy together…as long as he doesn’t leave the toilet seat up!! (I KNEW I could think up another one…)
You’ve GOT to have pity for five-year-olds. They live every minute of every day with the stone cold conviction that they know everything there is to know in life…and then contradict that belief with every other thing that comes out of their mouth.
Every once in a while, this situation gets extra funny, when they have a wrong conviction…which they communicate incorrectly to boot.
The other day, Leo and I were walking past a store, which I noticed had been decked out for the holidays. This was the withering exchange that followed:
ME: Hey Leo…check out all the Halloween decorations up on that store!
LEO (Been there, done that): Daddy…EVERYONE descorate for Halloween.
I can only hope he gets that know-it-all attitude out now…or else he’ll never have any girlsfriend…
I won’t speak for anyone else, but in our house, our children are very fortunate to have both parents living with them. If it were just me, they would probably collapse under the weight of my heightened expectations, and if it were just my wife, nothing would ever get done due to a crippling case of empathy-based inertia. Through her yin and my yang (that sounded dirty, but was unintentional), we muddle through.
However, as Leo learned to his utter chagrin yesterday, this functionality sometimes comes at a terrible cost.
Last night, Leo was attempting the magic trick of making dessert appear out of thin justification. This was the exchange that followed:
LEO: Mommy…can I have dessert tonight?
JILL: I don’t think we have anything in the house for dessert, Leo.
LEO: What about that bag of candy on top of the fridge?
JILL: That…that candy is for the trick-or-treaters, Leo. Not for us.
LEO: But MOMMY…I only want ONE!
ME: Leo…you heard Mommy. It’s for the trick-or-treaters. We can’t have it ourselves.
LEO (Icily): Daddy…I was NOT talking to YOU!
The funny thing here is that Leo wasn’t mad at me for speaking up at all per se, but rather that I spoke through that tell-tale pause, where everyone in the room could feel Jill cracking under his onslaught, and I brought her back, effectively Gandalfing his otherwise very effective Wormtongue gambit.
(Man, he might not get as much candy as he wants, but Leo will NEVER lack for nerd references…)
The ability to spend time every day with a growing child is a treasure. By watching connect dots about how things work, have epiphanies about their world, and experience true joy about the little things, it helps you fall in love with life all over again.
However, the downside of all this discovery…is that sometimes the things that consume their minds…are absolutely disgusting.
The other day, my family and I went to have lunch at the house of some new friends. With new kids and new toys, Leo was in seventh Heaven, running around giddily with frequent stops to point various things out to us. About an hour in, he came up to me holding what appeared to be a tiny toothpick between his thumb and forefinger, and we had the following exchange:
LEO: Daddy…look what I found in my throat!
ME (Alarmed, reaching for it) What is it?
LEO: A BOOGER!!
On one level…I GET this. At this point, he had held enough boogers in his hand (let’s not kid ourselves) to know what they feel like, and it was fascinating to find that same substance emerging from a different part of his body.
However, on ANOTHER level…I have not stopped washing my hands since this happened.
When you’re the parent of a small child, the emotions of pride and shame are often doled out in equal doses, sometimes simultaneously. You spend a great deal of your time in public sincerely apologizing for something they’ve done one second, and then fight to keep your chest from bursting with self-congratulations in the next. It’s no wonder we’re all so tired at the end of every day!
Personally, for all of Leo’s truly wonderful qualities that make me proud to call him my son, the one I’m most embarrassed to be so happy about…is his humor.
Like all (nearly) five-year-olds, Leo’s “jokes” tend to fall on a spectrum somewhere between inscrutable and un-funny. But as I recounted last week, Leo came out with a joke he invented last week - which has now been immortalized in our family as “The Rooster Joke" - which is a legitimately well-constructed bit of wordplay that won’t make you LAUGH, but you could DEFINITELY see in a kids’ joke book (in fact, it’s probably in about a hundred of them, but this doesn’t dampen my joy at Leo crafting it on his own).
And, in an attempt to prolong the pride in my chest, I recently discovered that not EVERYONE in the family is quite as enamored of this joke as I am.
This weekend, we were having lunch with some new friends, when we had the following exchange:
NEW FRIEND: Leo’s a pretty funny boy.
ME: He sure is! In fact, he INVENTED a joke that I’m VERY impressed with. Hey Leo…will you tell your Rooster Joke?
LEO: Why did the rooster cross the road?
NEW FRIEND: Why?
LEO: Because he wanted to go to the Rooster…
ME (To myself): my son is a comedian!!
ME (Also to myself): A terrible one.
So in retrospect, what obviously happened here is that Leo forgot his masterwork as soon as he said it, and any memory of it is only there because of my relentless hounding.
However, there is still a .01% chance that he was one extra syllable off of saying “Roo-store,” which would have made him a shocking 2-2 in rooster-based pun-based riddles. That, as they say, is MY BOY!!
(I wanted to end this post with “That would have been a real cock-a-doodle-DOOZY!, but I chickened out.)
Pre-schoolers are nothing if not predictable the vast majority of the time. Like the rest of us, their desires are relatively base and skin-deep, but UNLIKE the rest of us, they don’t yet have the seasoning to disguise these desires under purportedly higher goals.
However, no matter how often you know EXACTLY what they’re thinking, there will always be times when you won’t…and those times usually coincide with moments that will make you feel utterly TERRIBLE.
This week, as a surprise to Leo, I taped the series premiere of The Flash for us to watch together (two second review: fun show, just enough angst, but absolutely upbeat enough for kids). When I arrived home from work last night and learned he hadn’t yet watched his evening allotment of television, I let him know of this option, and even agreed to make us some popcorn to go with it. From that moment on, “Popcorn” and “Flash” were the only two words he knew. He asked about one of these two things every 45 seconds thereafter, despite the fact that I had to do a few other insignificant things first, like greet his sister, walk and feed the dog (with said sister; Leo was too excited to go), and eat dinner myself. Finally, we had the following exchange:
ME: Leo…DON’T say it!
LEO: Don’t say what?
ME: You’re going to ask about The Flash again…and I NEED you to be patient.
LEO: How did you know what I was going to say?
ME: Because I ALWAYS know what you’re going to say. In fact…I dare you to say something right now that I’m NOT expecting.
LEO (With NO hesitation): I love you, Daddy.
ME: I love you, too. I’ll…I’ll make some popcorn now.
It has been clear to me for a while now that Leo and I are (as of now, at least) VERY much alike…so much so that I sometimes assume I understand what’s going on in his head as much as he does. This moment, cute as it was, also serves as a valuable lesson for me in controlling my own hubris, and recognizing Leo’s individuality.
Also, it shows me that despite my chosen profession (writer) and Leo’s immature age (4), his way with words just might be FAR superior to mine…
As hard as it is for me to believe, as of his first day at his new school, my son is no longer an attendee of daycare, but an official “student.” Sure, it’s just Pre-K, but he’s already exhibiting some of the classic signs of studenthood:
- The ability to wake early on the weekends while struggling to get up during the week
- A know-it-all tone as he informs us of facts we can’t possibly have known, despite the fact that we’ve known them for over thirty years
- Flashing signs of an entirely new moral code, as instituted by his teachers.
- A stark and unflappable unwillingness to share even a single detail about his day.
It’s this last one I want to talk about today. Because while he seems to revel in the power of withholding anecdotes about his school day adventures…he’s not yet very good at all at wielding it.
Last night, Leo was attempting to untie a knot in a bunch of balloons, when we had the following exchange:
ME: Hey Leo…will you tell me something fun that happened in school today?
LEO: I’m BUSY.
ME: Oh well then…carry on.
(I sat down next to him, and waited for the inevitable. Sure enough, one minute later…)
LEO: Daddy…can you help me with this?
ME: I’m busy…
LEO (Flabbergasted): But you’re just SITTING there?
ME: I know. But if you were too busy to tell me something about your day…I’m too busy to help you now.
LEO: DADDY…I WANT to tell you…but I CAN’T. It’s a SECRET!
ME: Okay, then don’t tell me.
LEO: Will you help me?
ME: I will not.
LEO: Okay, Daddy…maybe I can tell JUST YOU.
ME: I thought that might happen…
When he finally revealed his MOMENTOUS news (I’ll hide some details to maintain the strict confidentiality of the disclosure), it was that he and a female classmate went outside for recess alone, while the other kids went to the gym instead.
When he told me, I only had one thought: that secret had BETTER be shared by at least ONE OTHER adult, or heads are going to ROLL!
Unless you’re one of those parents whose baby just slept through the night on their own early and with no effort on your part (and if you are, then let me say with all sincerity: Fuck You), then I can predict two things about you:
1. You had some truly terrible nights where you questioned each and every aspect of your life, including your abilities as a parent, and your decision to have children at all.
2. You had the worst fights with your spouse and love of your life at some point past 3am, over a screaming baby.
After writing all this, it might not come as TOO huge a surprise to inform you that my one-year-old has not been sleeping well at all these days.
During these extended stretches of sleep deprivation, my wife and I exhibit different symptoms. She becomes somewhat hysterical and paranoid, while I tend toward anger and confusion.
These dueling tics came to a head this weekend at (when else) 3:45am, over (where else) a crying baby. At the moment in question, my wife sobbed that Sally’s crying was going to give her brain damage, at which point I started screaming into my pillow. I think. It’s so hard to remember…
The next morning, after we had finally soothed her to sleep and gotten a few hours of rest ourselves…we were having our after-fight post-mortem, when we had the following exchange:
ME: I want to talk about your “brain damage” comment.
ME: Do you remember that night when baby Leo cried for over two hours and we couldn’t get him to stop?
JILL: Of course.
ME: Well, do you see any symptoms of brain damage in him?
(In the very next second)
LEO (Dancing on the stairs and chanting) I’M NAY-KED!!
ME: (Fell to the ground, laughing)
I can’t stress enough just how perfect the timing of this comment was…and just how naked he really was.
I was certainly just an accident this time, but let’s be honest, the combination of comedy and nudity could be a powerful force for the rest of his life, provided he learns how to harness it. I’ll try to teach him…if I don’t die from exhaustion first…
In college, a female friend of mine once told me about a guy she was dating at the time. She spoke at length about how stereotypically “male” he was in that he never expressed himself or revealed his feelings, but then countered that by describing the most stunning act of sweetness known to man: he showed up at her work one day, and gave her a Yoda Pez Dispenser. Because she liked Yoda. Man…it makes me melt just thinking about it, all those years later.
The lesson there certainly SEEMED to be: with certain women, one single act of “thoughtfulness” can allow you to get away with just about anything for a while.
Last night, Leo showed that he understands this rule better than any of ever could.
Yesterday was my wife’s birthday, and while the day was certainly a thousand times better than her LAST big day (I was away on business, while our infant daughter took turns nursing and screaming all day), it was still a day filled with parental responsibilities and chaos.
After we put Leo to bed, Jill heard the pattering of his feet upstairs, and went up to see if he was misbehaving. This was the exchange that followed:
JILL: Leo…were you out of bed?
LEO: Yes, Mommy. I had to do something.
JILL: What did you have to do?
LEO: I blew up some invisible balloons, and tied them to an invisible cake, and threw them downstairs as a birthday present for you!
JILL (Tearing up): Thank you, Leo!
ME: Wow…he’s GOOD.
Now let’s be clear here: our ten-year wedding anniversary was a month ago, so as a joint anniversary/birthday present (it was a big one), I had my talented metalsmith friend Josh help me design a one-of-a-kind brooch based on her wedding bouquet (which she had preserved, but was destroyed when we moved years later). Needless to say, I was VERY proud of this present.
But with one moment…I think Leo actually upstaged me!
As I have recounted several times before, Leo has been attempting to master the art of joke writing. He started with “Knock Knock” samples, and has moved into the more nuanced “Crossing the Road pun” territory.
Yesterday, while out to lunch celebrating his mother’s birthday, Leo decided to entertain us with this exchange:
LEO: Why did the cow cross the road?
LEO: Because he wanted to go…to…the MOO-Cery store.
ME: That one didn’t work too well, Buddy.
LEO: Daddy…why did the ROOSTER cross the road?
ME (Sighing): Why?
LEO: Because he wanted to go to the ROOSTER-Ont.
ME (Sincerely impressed): Wow!
JILL: Leo…that joke was AMAZING!!
LEO: Thanks! (Pause) What did I say? I forgot…
ME (Slightly less impressed): Wow.
Now the odds are terrific that Leo’s joke has been written down in countless books and told millions of times, but the fact is that he made it up himself in that moment, which makes it the single most impressive joke I’ve ever heard in my life.
Unfortunately, the law of diminishing returns ensures that it will be somewhat less impressive the next 200,000 times he tells it over the next month or so…