Kid Peeves: 5 Perfectly Innocent Things My Toddlers Do That Drive Me F*%#in’ Nuts

Play-Doh, Play-Doh cans

Like anybody’s kids, mine do things that drive me nuts, but most of the time, that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. They’re hoping that the 5,000th time they ask me for ice cream will be the one where I finally give in because I’m going to have a nervous breakdown if I have to keep saying no. The same goes for when they’re rubbing mashed potatoes in their hair at dinner or belting out “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” when they’re supposed to be napping. Even at 3 1/2, they are virtuosos at pushing Daddy’s buttons.

Sometimes, though, they can fill me with unbridled rage without even trying. Kids can drive you nuts just by being kids, doing things that are perfectly developmentally appropriate, even beneficial for them.

What really frustrates me about these things is that I can’t punish the kids for them. All I can do is quietly seethe, ride the behavior out and then write blog posts in the hope that other parents out there might relate. Please, please tell me you do.

These are 5 of my Kid Peeves:

1. Mixing Play-Doh colors.

Cinderella, Play-Doh, Spin & Style Cinderella

(l-r) our Cinderella, the Cinderella on the box

See all those cool things the kids on the box of the Play-Doh Fun Factory are making? The bright yellow bananas and pretty pink ribbons? Well, we can make those in my house for about two minutes. After that, my kids have mushed all the colors together into one messy swirl, which never looks like it’s supposed to when pressed into the molds or wrapped around the ball gown of the Spin and Style Cinderella.

I know, it’s their toy, and I shouldn’t tell them how to play with it. It’s probably good for them to experiment and make a mess with it. But eventually, they get frustrated that all their Play-Doh is the color of puke. “Daddy, where’s orange?” they’ll whimper.

“Where’s orange? Where’s orange?! It’s mushed in with green and purple and that glittery blue so it’s all just one turd-brown mess. Good luck making something out of that!”

Then I sigh and open another can of orange… which stays orange for about 5 seconds before being pressed into the turd with all the other colors.

No wonder our Play-Doh budget is killing us.

2. Questioning my knowledge.

One Direction, The WantedI thought my kids would be teenagers before they decided I was full of crap. But at three years old, they already doubt 90% of what comes out of my mouth, which is really frustrating because their other dad and I are their sources for roughly 100% of the information they seek. It burns the most when it’s something I’m clearly an expert on, like the alphabet (“I swear, kangaroo starts with ‘K’, not ‘C’!”) or One Direction songs.

“Daddy, who sings this song?”

“One Direction.”

“No, it’s the Wanted.”

“No, it’s One Direction!”

“It’s the Wanted!”

“It’s One Direction! It says it right here on my iPod. ‘Last First Kiss’ by One Direction. You can’t read it but I can, and that’s what it says. Hear that? Those are Niall’s harmonies! It’s One Direction! Admit it! Admit it!”

3. Reading the same books over and over.

Little Engine That Could, Watty PiperA few years ago, I read the book “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon, and it was so good that I read it a second time. Then, I moved on with my life. My kids do not understand this concept. We’ll get to the end of one of their favorite books, and they’ll instantly want to read it again. And again.

And again.

I know repetition is good for kids, and so are familiarity and routine. Plus, when you like something a lot, you don’t want it to end. But Daddy’s not getting quite as much enjoyment out of our 1,000th reading of “The Little Engine That Could.” We know he’s getting up the hill, dammit. Do we really need to read ten pages of “I think I can!”?

Sure, for the first few dozen times, I’m sharpening my dramatic reading of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” I’m rehearsing the best way to hit all the punchlines in “Don’t Let Pigeon Drive The Bus” and just where to pause for laughs. (Attention children’s theater companies: if you need someone to play the bus driver, I’ve got the part down cold.)

We don’t even bother to hold the book of “Goodnight Moon” anymore, because we all know it by heart. The pictures are permanently ingrained in our minds, like haunting memories of misspent youth or that chilling napalm photo from the Vietnam War.

4. “Forgetting” how to do things.

Everyone’s heard the old saying, “It’s like riding a bicycle. You never forget.” Well, my kids could forget how to ride a bicycle. They forget everything. They forget how to put their coats on, how to get GoGurt out of the tube, how many daddies they have. They forget the dance moves we choreographed to that Ke$ha song, which we’ve practiced like A HUNDRED TIMES. When they’re counting to 20, they sometimes forget the number 17. Or 12. It varies.

They forget how knock-knock jokes are supposed to go. I can’t stand that the most childish form of humor has such a rigid structure that actual children can’t possibly get it right. “Say ‘Boo who?’!” I find myself shouting half the time. “C’mon, the joke only works if you say ‘Boo who?’! Say it!”

And speaking of humor…

5. Not laughing at my hilarious jokes.

"Is this thing on?"

“Is this thing on?”

Like a struggling stand-up, I’m all too used to my punchlines being met with blank stares and the sound of crickets. I bomb daily in front of my kids. Try as I might, I just can’t get them to appreciate my subtle comedy stylings.  Talk about a tough room. What sucks the most is that 90% of the time, they’re the only room I have.

Forget sarcasm, deadpan, word play, insults, Borscht Belt, dirty limericks or references to supporting actors from obscure 80s sitcoms. It all goes right over their head.

Just about the only humor my kids appreciate right now are toot (i.e., “fart”) jokes and physical comedy. Sure, they love when daddy falls down. Only daddy wasn’t trying to be funny. He really fell, and he’s hurt. Stop laughing and get him an ice pack, you monsters!

*****

Have your own kid peeves? I’d love to hear them in the comments section. And if you like mine, please share this post on Facebook, Twitter or whatever. (“whatever” btw is the name of a new social network. All the cool kids are on it.) It also makes me very happy when people like me on Facebook, so if you haven’t already, hey, won’t you please, because my kids would totally never do that for me.

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.