Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A One and a Two

One of the better strokes of luck I've had as a parent came on a night a couple years ago when things were looking a little desperate. The kids started using the couch as a stage. And as a pulpit. And somehow as a tightrope. And as a napkin. And as a diving board into the coffee table.

At wit's end, I was determined to punish them for disobeying my repeated commands to not abuse the furniture while also trying to smoothly transition them to a calming activity that wouldn't result in blood and the emergency room. (Ain't got no time for that.) But mostly I wanted to punish them. They were acting like jackasses, and I had no patience left to try to get them to sit and play Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders or to watch another episode of any of their idiotic cartoons. I needed something new, something fresh, something they had never seen before, so I could blow their minds and channel all that energy into something other than swordfighting with empty paper towel rolls on a cushionless loveseat.

So I made them watch the Lawrence Welk Show. PUNISHMENT.

It was sheer desperation, but it worked. They had seen entertainment shows before, all of them involving singing and dancing, and x's and buzzers, and judges and infighting and black stages and Cielo. Blah. This was a brand new world...an orange-ish stage mandated from the 1970s, the large band playing all sorts of musical instruments in the background, and of course the Geritol sign. (Question #1)

It was mostly the instruments that got their attention. The brass section, the woodwinds, the strings...it was probably the first time the now 4-year-old had seen some of these instruments, so he asked "What's that?" for all of them (Questions #2-6). Our daughter got into the singing duets and the dancing, and both of them were duly amazed by Arthur Duncan's feet.

For me it was a little bit of heaven. Not so much the entertainment but the quiet, although I always enjoyed when they played the song from the United Airlines commercial that was a part of most football telecasts in the 1980s. But all the noise and clatter from before had dissipated. There were no commercials that I'd be called on to fast forward through. And if there was a rating softer than "G", this show was that, save for everyone referring to Anacani as "our little Mexican girl." But that lack of subtlety proved too subtle for our young ears to pick up.

In a perfect story, my kids, after watching the Lawrence Welk Show and wondering out loud why everyone in the crowd looks like somebody's great-grandmother (Question #7), turned from unruly hellions into docile creatures that picked flowers, danced with unicorns and developed an appreciation for the fine arts. But in reality we have only watched "the singing and dancing show" a few times in the years since, even though I have two episodes still saved to the DVR, the last 2% that isn't taken up by Chuggington, Let's Play Sesame, Super Why, Tom and Jerry, Caillou, and of course classic NFL games from the 1980s.

Still, between that show and my wife taking my daughter to an education fair where she fell in love with a violin, and me mixing in one Mirror in the Bathroom Youtube video among the 12,000 straight views of the Muppets' Manamana that turned my son on to the saxophone, maybe we have accidentally created at least a respect for music in our kids. And who knows, maybe there's a talent there we can uncover that will best my musical peak, which is lip-synching to old U2 songs on the drive home. My daughter wound up playing the violin, and my son keeps pestering us to allow him to play instruments that are taller than he is. So there's hope.

The point is, although I have no definitive data to back me up, I think kids still like music. And if the kids are driving you nuts and you can't find any music around that they like, and you can't find any around that you like, introduce them to something you don't like. (You're a big boy/girl, you can handle it for an hour.) It may at least calm everyone down a little, and somebody may actually like it!

Questions Index:
1. What does that sign say? GERITOL. What's that? Don't worry about it.
2. What's that? A trumpet.
3. What's that? A saxophone.
4. What's that? A violin.
5. What's that? An accordion. Do you want to play the accordion some day? No.
6. What's that? A bubble machine. I want one. No.
7. Why does everyone look like great-grandma? Because everyone looked 25 years older than people the same age do today. Why? I don't know. Maybe it's their glasses. Why?


Anonymous said...

When we get ready for our annual road trip, I have the kids make a "Roadtrip Playlist"...I give them access to my iTunes library and require them to pick 10 songs each out of the 10,000 that are there. They discovery new music, I get free time to pack the car in peace and quiet.

You are on to something, sir!! We are trying the "Music show" one of these nights. :)


JC said...

That sounds like a great idea, the Roadtrip Playlist. Anything that doesn't include Fisher Price music is all right by me.

Make sure you have plenty of adult beverages on hand to get through the hour if you try to get through an entire episode of LW. But it really is true...any music is good music to small kids. :-)

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