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Jewish World Review /Jan. 25, 1999 /8 Shevat


Mugger Sniffles and High Fever:
Kids Say the Darndest Things

IT WAS AN EXHAUSTING WEEK at the MUGGER household. My wife, who’d valiantly fought off my stomach flu and Junior’s head cold, finally succumbed, probably due to fatigue from nursing her two guys.

Then, on Tuesday morning, MUGGER III came into our bedroom just after midnight and announced with a stoic whisper: "Mommy, Daddy, wake up, I’m about to barf!"

He didn’t, but was burning with a fever, so we gave him some Motrin and he snuggled for a mostly sleepless six or seven hours. At times, shivering with a chill, he’d huddle by the radiator, saying, "I’m cold, so I’m toasting up."

The next night, he arrived about the same time and we played a few Magic School Bus videos, at low volume, but after the medicine kicked in he got hyper and started chatting just like my mother did after a martini or two. Wired. So, at 2 a.m., I got up with him and we played with dinosaurs, watched Scooby-Doo a bunch of times, learned our ABCs on a CD-ROM and drank ginger ale. He asked if I’d be a grandpa when he was a teenager—good God, I hope not!—and said he couldn’t wait to walk the streets of Manhattan by himself.

Then he was jabbering about his birthday—he wants his party to be held at 333, so he and his friends can have a food fight—and what kind of pet the family might acquire once we move to a new apartment down the block in Tribeca. The new loft has a roof deck, with plenty of space for a garden, hammock (Mrs. M and I are still negotiating on this point) and playhouse. We settled on a bunny: MUGGER III wants to name it $10 Bill, a very cool choice, I think.

Junior protested later in the morning, around 5, saying he wanted a bird, so it might turn out that we’ll have two creatures in large cages with a clear view of the Hudson.

In the midst of this surreal nocturnal experience, I had a parental epiphany that may be yesterday’s news to people with older children, but it hit me pretty hard. When your kids are very young, they come up with a bunch of cute expressions while learning to speak. For example, MUGGER III, if he wanted a drink, called out for "noose," meaning white grape juice. Long after he figured out the correct pronunciation, Mrs. M and I continued with "noose," and he just rolled his eyes. Similarly, when Junior was three, he loved the "previews" in between TV shows.

I thought that was a riot, but at one point, and actually it happens instantly, he learned the right phrase, and when I’d continue saying "previews" he’d correct me. Usually with a sneer. A recent favorite of his was, "Dad, you’re insane!" Naturally, I wore out the joke and so he told me, "Dad, that’s really old!" Just the other day, when he was playing his damn Nintendo 64 game, Zelda, I saw something on the screen and made an observation. His response at my discovery: "Yeah, so what? That’s just not my scene, man!"

It reminds me of a visit I made to the house of one of my brothers in Mill Valley many years ago. It was the mid-80s and lots of rock stars were trying to assuage their consciences—much like Hollywood celebrities today getting involved in saving the Constitution and environment—by playing benefits for starving kids around the world. As if Bono, Sting or Bob Dylan gave a blank about any of them. Anyway, it was during the holidays, and the song "Do They Know It’s Christmas," the English version of "We Are the World," was a big hit and my brother was greatly enthused about the charity. He insisted on playing it over and over, much to his kids’ chagrin.

Obviously, it had started as a family project, probably at the urging of my nieces, who were pre-teenagers, and they’d had many unforgettable family moments singing the song, talking about poverty, etc.

But by now my brother, who was still in peace-on-Earth-mode, not realizing his children had moved on, looked sort of silly bobbing and weaving to the tune. No wonder kids become so unruly in their teenage years: Either their parents ignore them, unable to comprehend their unique difficulties and joys or, perhaps worse, they try to be hip and relate on an equal level, a buddy sort of thing. Of course it never works.

I’m just waiting for Junior or MUGGER III to tell me, with disgust, "You’re so square, you probably think I’m talking to you!"

JWR contributor "Mugger" is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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©1998, Russ Smith