One Dad Makes the Case for One Direction

When it comes to bragging about your kids, here’s one you don’t hear very often:

My toddlers appreciate boybands at a 13-year-old girl’s level.

Not to be immodest, but with my 2 1/2 year old twins, that would be an understatement.  They squeal with delight when a One Direction song comes on.  We watch the videos for “What Makes You Beautiful”, “One Thing” and “One Thing (Acoustic)” before they go to bed at night.  They beg to hear the album whenever we’re in the car.  They even specifically request “the sad song” with an appropriate degree of tweenage sullenness.

And I, for one, couldn’t be prouder.

My kids clap along to 1D's SNL appearance.

Before anyone gets any creepy ideas, my personal fondness for boybands is in no way akin to Lou Pearlman’s.  I don’t know any of the boys’ names, their favorite colors or their secret celebrity crushes.

My kids are too young to care about those things either (thank goodness).  So why are we a family of Directioners?  (OK, I’ll leave Drew out of it, but the kids and I are all fans.)  Here are a few reasons:

Their music is better than kids’ music.  Occasionally, I can get my kids to listen to The Shins or Wilco, and Bennett will proudly admit that “Motortown” by the Kane Gang is his “jam”.  But most of the time, “Daddy music” just doesn’t cut it, and One Direction is a lot more tolerable to these grown-up ears than The Wiggles.  1D’s debut album, Up All Night, is far less abysmal than you’d expect, and there are no blandly educational lyrics to spoil the fun melodies.

Their music is catchy enough to be kids’ music.  I may see a big difference between One Direction and The Wiggles, but my kids don’t.  Their tunes are upbeat (even the sad song), catchy and easy to sing along to.  My twins never complain when 1D is on, and I never have to pretend my iPod is broken just to get a moment’s peace.

Their music is cleaner than most pop music.  OK, yes, it’s time for me to strap on my fuddy-duddy hat and chase the rest of today’s top 40 hits off my lawn.  Do you know how hard it is to find songs that are appropriate for 2-year-olds (or 10-year-olds for that matter) in today’s music scene?

Madonna’s song “Give Me All Your Luvin'” seems perfectly pitched at her bediapered fans.  It even has a chorus which consists of shouting out letters, just like on Sesame Street.  And then, just when it seems like fun for the whole family, M.I.A. shows up and drops the S-bomb in a completely unnecessary second rap interlude.  You can’t avoid it either, because there’s no “clean” version of the song available.

My only choice is to lower the volume whenever the offending section comes on.  As a result, my kids have learned two things from Madonna’s latest hit – that “L-U-V” spells Madonna and that “Daddy doesn’t like M.I.A.”

With 1D, I never have to touch the volume knob or hit the skip button.  Their songs are actually even more innocent than their titles suggest.  “What Makes You Beautiful” isn’t “the way you do me, baby” or “that sweet ass”, as today’s Top 40 fan might expect.  It’s that “you don’t know you’re beautiful”.  Aww.  And when the guys say they want to stay “Up All Night”, it’s with the glee of a squeaky-clean teen whose idea of being naughty is thumbing his nose at bedtime.  Why do they want to stay up?  Duh, to dance, of course.

They’re easy to root for.  Just when you thought I couldn’t get fuddier or duddier, watch me double down…  I like One Direction because, well, they seem like nice boys.

They’re goofy and awkward, like 18-year-olds are supposed to be.  They have terrible hair.  They smile like they actually appreciate being famous.  These kids aren’t worried about bringing sexy back.  In fact, they’re doing their darndest to shoo it away again. And good for them!

Watching their TV appearances feels something like spying on the back two rows of a school bus on its way to the senior trip.  They’re laughing conspiratorially, but they’re not really up to anything bad.  They’re just happy not to be doing algebra for a change.

There’s something innocently appealing about that kind of unprofessionalism, especially in a world where we turn to reality TV competitions to make superstars out of novices.  (And of course, the 1D boys were discovered on the UK version of the X Factor.  They came in 3rd.  Aww.)

"Here comes my part. Better start singing!"

Just watch the blonde kid during any of their performances (including the videos).  You can see every single thing that’s going on in his head along the way, from “Oh, right, here’s where we clap.” to “They told me to smile, oops, better start smiling!” to “I wonder if my mates from school are going to see this.”

If one of the One Directions showed up on my doorstep 15 years from now to take my daughter on a date (or – let’s be real – my son), I would be totally OK with that.  In fact, I’d be psyched because Drew and I would have plenty of material to snicker about after the kid left.  (Did you see his sweater vest?  What’s up with that hair swoop?  Is there a nest of bees living in there?  Tee hee hee!)

The Wanted. If you see this band, run and tell a grown-up!

Compare them to the other British boy band of the moment, The Wanted.  Sure, they have a few catchy songs, but frankly, those boys scare me.  They look angry and thuggish.  Just because your band name is “The Wanted”, it doesn’t mean you need to look like you were recruited out of a police lineup.  Seriously, in just what sense are these boys “wanted”?  If I see them in public, I’m dialing 911, just to be safe.

Yes, I know what happens to boybands over time, so I know exactly which “direction” this latest batch is headed.  They’ll get jaded and egotistical, corrupted by the music industry and the bottomless pit of groupie poon at their disposal.  They’ll want to be “taken seriously”, so they’ll add single entendres and M.I.A. interludes to their songs.  They’ll see image consultants who’ll give them reasonable haircuts and walk-on roles on “Gossip Girl”.  I already hate the One Direction of 5 years from now.

But for now, let me enjoy 1D as it is today – a group of harmonizing dorks who have no idea how dad-friendly they are.

And that, of course, is what makes them dad-friendly.

Our Little Hit Man

Sometimes, there’s no mistaking the fact that my children are being raised by two gay men, like when we go to Barnes & Noble and the first thing they want to do is jump up on the kiddie stage and belt out the new Madonna song.  “L-U-V!  Madonna!”

It’s happened more than once.

It’s not like we encourage it.  Maybe they were born that way.

Still, we weren’t too surprised when we took them to the park and they made a raised platform into a stage for their latest singing and dancing extravaganza.

“Y-O-U!  You wanna!”

What did surprise us was how we ended up in the emergency room twenty minutes later.

It all happened very fast.  Sutton stepped in front of Bennett, Bennett got annoyed and, like Nomi Malone in Showgirls (a reference they will surely come to appreciate someday), he gave Sutton a very deliberate and fateful shove.

Drew and I both saw her fall, but she was just out of our diving distance.  We dove anyway, and then we heard it…


More than the horrifying image of Sutton tumbling head-first off the “stage”, what I’ll remember most is the sound.  My daughter’s skull against the hard brick walkway below it.


Then, a scream.  The scream started instantly, which I knew was a good sign from when we were afraid Bennett had a concussion.  There was no debating, though.  This merited a trip to the ER.

I raced back to our minivan with our hysterical daughter in my arms.  I tried to feel her legs.  Were they moving?  Did she react when I touched them?  Geez, was I crazy for having such horrific thoughts?  The fall had uprooted significant chunks of her hair, which were coming out in my hands, covered in tears and snot.

Thankfully, though, no blood.  Everyone says head injuries bleed an unfathomable amount.  How was it that she was not bleeding at all?

It had been a huge fall.  Drew and I both guessed it was about two and a half feet, roughly the entire length of her fragile little body.  It was bad.

I sat on the floor of the van, holding Sutton’s hand, as Drew sped down the Bronx River Parkway.  We knew just how to get to the hospital because it had only been two weeks since Bennett was there.  Our second trip in less than a month for a possible concussion.  We fully expected a social worker to interrogate us in a dimly lit room.

After about ten minutes, Sutton calmed down.  I wiped her nose and dried her tears.  I tucked the loose strands of hair into the seatback pocket so she wouldn’t see them and panic.  She was moving all her limbs, and she said her head didn’t hurt now.

“Bennett pushed me off the stage,” she said, over and over.  She didn’t seem angry.  She was just recounting the story, the way she might say, “I saw four gooses” or “My donut was chocolate” after a happier trip out of the house.

I reassured her anyway.  “It was an accident.  Right, Bennett?”


The truth was, I couldn’t be sure.  Bennett had been going through a hitting phase.  Mostly, he hit the wall or his highchair tray when he was angry about something.  Sometimes, he hit his sister or me.

How did this happen to my kids?  They loved each other.  They were best friends.  They spontaneously held hands all the time.  How could one purposely do something that would land the other in the hospital?

Now Bennett was complaining.  He didn’t like being stuck in the ER.  He didn’t like the TV shows that were playing.  He was hungry.  I took him for a walk, but he didn’t like the big fish tank in the children’s hospital lobby.  He wanted to leave.

So I took him to the minivan, strapped him in his seat and closed the doors.  He thought I was taking him home, but the truth was I brought him here so I could yell at him at the volume I felt the situation demanded.


This failed to calm him down.

Four hours later, the doctor sent us home.  Sutton was fine.  No concussion, barely even a bump at the point of impact.

Drew and I have driven past the park since then, and we’ve revised our estimates downward.  The fall was closer to a foot and a half, if that.  Maybe we overreacted due to the circumstances.  Maybe the horror of the moment was bigger than just the fall.  We needed a doctor to calm us.  We needed to hear that our little girl wasn’t so badly hurt, but we also wanted to believe that our little boy wasn’t really so bad.

It wasn’t long ago that both kids were completely baffled by violence.  Now, however it happened, it’s part of our lives.

The kids have learned from the experience, but so far, not the lessons we might’ve hoped.  Mostly, they’ve learned that if you get hurt, your dads freak out and take you to the hospital, where they let you eat chocolate chip cookies from the cafeteria.  Bennett will trip and fall in the living room, then announce, “I’m hurt.  I need to go to the hospital.”

He still hits.  We’re working on it.  We’ve tried time outs.  We’ve tried rewarding him with YouTube videos if he can go all day without hitting.  We read him kiddie propaganda books like “Hands are Not For Hitting” to get the message across.

It wasn’t such a severe hit at the park that day.  They never are.  He doesn’t have the strength.  His hands are tiny and soft like cotton swabs.  He swats with them, and half the time when he takes a swing at you, he misses altogether.  When he does it, you want to laugh.

We don’t laugh, though.  Those tiny, meek little swipes he takes can have quite an impact.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out Drew’s response in the comment section.  Also, Drew pointed out to me that the kids weren’t singing the Madonna song that day.  They were actually singing “I Want to Rock” from Yo Gabba Gabba, another favorite of theirs.