In our defense, the plan seemed foolproof. Like most people with developed eardrums, J and I hate kids’ music. We hate the repetition, the candied voices, the hokey guitar designed to turn brains into GoGurt. So introducing Z to the Beatles seemed like a genius move. Kids love the Beatles. J and I love the Beatles. What could go wrong?
“I’m Paul McCartney,” Z announced a few months ago, as I was cleaning up his room.
“Okay,” I said.
“Gotcha,” I smiled thinly, then quickly added, “Gotcha-Paul-McCartney!” as he started to correct me. “Now, can you put your socks in the dirty clothes bin?”
“No,” he sighed. “I only work with John Lennon.”
I’ve been John Lennon since June. J is Ringo Starr. Our car, a crappy light blue Camry on its last legs, is George Harrison. And this alone might not be that weird, if it weren’t for sentences that float through our house daily, like, “Paul McCartney, where is your underwear?” and “WIPE ME, JOHN LENNON!” and, “Can everyone just get in George Harrison and shut up?”
Then Z discovered the power of lyrics.
“What don’t make it bad?” he asked J after listening to “Hey Jude” for the 23,412th time.
“You know, like don’t needlessly perpetuate a bad feeling,” said The Master of Explaining Things to Small People in Mind-Bogglingly Adult Terms.
“Why it bad feeling?”
J shrugged. “Well, so Paul wrote this song for Julian, John’s son, when he was a little boy, like you. He was feeling sad, so the song says—”
“Why? Well, because John met Yoko so Julian kind of got a new mommy, so Paul was saying let her under your skin because—”
“NEW MOMMY???” Z’s eyes popped out. “WHAT NEW MOMMY?”
J looked at me, like I had anything to offer besides a head smack. “Oh. Well, sometimes when, uh, marriages don’t, uh,—”
“DO I GET A NEW MOMMY?”
“No,” I said quickly, scooping him up. “You do not get a new mommy. We’re not sure about Daddy yet, but Mommy is here to stay.”
My son nodded, relieved. But then, a week or so later, the bigger issue surfaced.
“Which Beatle you like?” he asked me and before I could answer said, “I like Paul.”
“I know you do. Um, I guess I’m pretty much a John girl.”
“John or Paul?” He looked at me suspiciously.
“Well, both, really. I like them both.”
He squinted at me, walked away. And now, it’s, well, a thing.
“Which Beatle you like?” he asks anyone he comes in contact with, including his grandparents, his teachers, the grocery store clerks, and our beleaguered UPS man. And the thing is, he doesn’t just ask, he judges. People who like Paul are cool. People who like John are suspect, but only because they might be on to something. People who like Ringo are silly. People who like George don’t know anything.
“Our car is George Harrison,” he tells them, rolling his eyes.
But it’s a question he can’t let go, one that seems to trouble him in increasingly existential ways as the days go on.
“What did you say?” I asked last weekend, hearing him mumbling in his room.
“I’m not talking to you, Mommy, I’m talking to Baby Jesus.”
“Oh. Wait, really? What are you saying to Baby Jesus?”
“I’m asking him who is better, John or Paul.”
For the record, Baby Jesus had nothing definitive to say on the matter, although who knows, He might weigh in next week and get judged like the rest of us. Meanwhile, I’ve been wondering if we should be listening to more kid’s music, or at the very least, avoiding videos where grown men appear to be enjoying psychedelics colors and lights and air.
What the hell were we thinking with all this? Why didn’t we just let the kid be a kid and have kid music? Are we really doomed to live out our days with the world’s most pretentious toddler?
“Nobody ever done me like she done me,” Z moaned last night as I was turning off his light, and I sighed. Yeah, kid. She done you good.
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