I’ll admit it. I’ve been holding out on you, O Loyal Reader.
I’ve strived to keep it a secret for as long as I’ve been writing this fine publication, but I can no longer do so because the cat has clawed its way out of the bag.
My true identity has been discovered and reported on a highly reputable media outlet, and I feel it’s necessary for me to just come clean before the rumor mill spins out of control, granting itself flight like an impossibly heavy helicopter.
You see, I’m not just John Pseudonymous, mild-mannered stay-at-home father, Ph. D. student, and inspiration to kajillions.
I’m also a superhero.
I go by the superhero handle Elasto-Dad. You probably haven’t heard of my exploits as I’ve attempted to keep a low profile, privately using my powers for good in my own home, particularly in twin-wrangling scenarios.
However, just a few days ago, a team of paparazzi somehow tracked me down and snapped voyeuristic photos through the windows of my house. I was able to destroy all of these photos before any were leaked because, as you know, I am a ninja, and therefore my keen reflexes alerted me in time to ambush them and beat them with their own footwear.
“Okay,” my wife proclaimed, performing a one-woman evacuation of my son’s bedroom. “I’m not going to freak out, but there’s poop on the wall.”
I was proud of her–assuming, of course, that there was, in fact, poop on the wall–because she is our marriage’s sanitation enthusiast. In The Land Before Twinfants, our dwelling was cleaned regularly and often due to her impeccable attention to decontaminatory detail, a gene I never inherited. As a former fraternity house resident, I tend not to recognize that a household item or surface requires cleaning until I trip over a dust bunny attempting to hand me a rent check, as he has recently decided that if he’s going to stick around this long, it is only fair for him to kick in some money.
Rarely is one presented with such a stellar conversation starter as “There is poop on the wall.” I was riveted–I had so many questions. But first, I needed to make sure I heard her correctly, and so, with eyes alight in anticipation, I inquired, “There’s poop on the wall?”
“Yes. There is poop. On the wall.” Okay, so this was no joke. There was. In fact. Poop. On the wall. But where?
“Yes. In there.”
Can you guess what John is thinking about today? That’s right–Elmo!
You know, Elmo!
John has been watching Sesame Street with John’s Twins for a few months now and John has learned a lot about Elmo, but John has noticed some things about Elmo that confuse John. Unlike Elmo, John has no self-aware drawers and doesn’t have a family of mimes lurking outside John’s window who are always waiting with a smile when “Shade” goes up, so John wondered how to find out more about Elmo’s Worldview.
Then, suddenly, John had a spectacular idea–John should write Elmo a letter!
Here is John’s letter to Elmo:
First of all, John wants to say that John is a huge fan of Elmo’s, and has been ever since John was just a little boy. John remembers when Elmo got his first big break on Sesame Street, starting with only a few special guest appearances, but look at Elmo now! Elmo is the star! Yaaaaay! Plus, whatever Elmo is doing to stay in shape must be working because Elmo doesn’t seem to have aged a day.
John knows that Elmo has haters who are angry about Elmo taking Sesame Street by storm, “stealing” the spotlight away from traditional Street Performers like Big Bird, Oscar, Bert, Ernie, and especially Grover, who–as a result of Elmo’s coup de cutest–has retreated into an even more deluded version of his Super Grover alter-ego, trying way too hard to make himself relevant by unnecessarily upgrading his superhero uniform to “2.0” status and constantly asserting himself as “cute” in a futile, passive-aggressive attempt to dethrone Elmo’s natural, organic cuteness. John will even admit to agreeing with the Anti-Elmo League for a while, but now that John is a Loyal Viewer, John gets it.
Elmo is a natural born entertainer. Eternal optimism, a curious thirst for life, and genuine care for one’s fellow monster make Elmo hard NOT to love–so much so that people are even willing to overlook Elmo speaking exclusively in the third person and avoiding pronouns except the occasional “he” when talking about Elmoself, in order to avoid a rapid-fire, five-“Elmo” sentence. (Did Elmo notice John is doing the same thing in this letter? John wonders if John can get away with it.)
In fact, Elmo is so captivating that John DVRs Sesame Street every day because John often finds the one way John and John’s wife can afford 15 minutes to eat dinner without shrieking banshee interruptions is by putting on “Elmo’s World” for John’s loinfruits. John realizes the “World” is really intended for older viewers, but John’s Twins just adore Elmo and always kick their little feet when they hear the “Elmo’s World Theme Song.”
Which brings John to the reason for this letter.
John knows that Elmo and John are friends because Elmo has told John so in numerous grand, on-air gestures, so since Elmo and John are friends, John feels comfortable asking Elmo just a few earnest queries about the “Elmo’s World Theme Song.”
See, Elmo, John is sure you realize how unbelievably catchy the song is. It was a runaway success in its first incarnation as “Elmo’s Song,” and as “Elmo’s World” has become arguably the Street’s most popular segment, the ditty has become engrained–tattooed even–in the consciousness of parents and children everywhere. John wonders if–when Elmo was writing the song–he acquired government funding for a team of musically-inclined scientists to discover the most irresistibly infectious permutation of notes possible, or maybe had Paul McCartney or Neil Diamond ghost-write it, or even is hiding a resurrected John Lennon somewhere on the set (Oscar’s can?).
John will pause now for Elmo to imagine Neil Diamond singing “Elmo’s World.” Legendary.
John thinks Elmo should get on the phone with Elmo’s agent and make that happen.
Anyway, Elmo, John’s point is the song is addictive. While home with the Twins, John finds himself involuntarily and spontaneously belting out “Elmo’s Song” as if under a spell, and even writing and performing John’s own off-the-cuff verses.
But that’s not even John’s real complaint.
Elmo, John has issue with the lyrics.
La la la-la, la la la-la, Elmo’s World
La la la-la, la la la-la, Elmo’s World
Elmo loves his goldfish,
His crayon, too.
That’s Elmo’s World.
John thinks it will help if John breaks it down.
La la la-la, la la la-la…
Okay, now this makes sense. Not only does this hearken back to the old, classic origin of the song; non-word, sung syllables have proven to be an excellent avenue to a solid hook, as they are easy to remember and facilitate sing-alongs. Look at the beginning of J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” and the climactic end of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” With this in mind, John is already singing along with Elmo after a single “La.”
Next, Elmo illuminates his Loyal Viewers as to what is happening. Elmo is inviting Elmo’s Loyal Viewers into “Elmo’s World.” Elmo will assumedly proceed to describe what the journey into “Elmo’s World” will be like. Elmo is doing a great job so far!
Elmo loves his goldfish,
According to Elmo’s argument, the first phenomenon to expect in “Elmo’s World” is the love of a pet goldfish. Elmo still has John’s attention here, because this lyric also fits. It is no secret that Elmo loves Dorothy, and rightly so. John is not a big fish guy, but would convert if John had a goldfish who could generate aquarium sculptures with her fish-mind powers, too.
Where did Elmo get Dorothy? Does Dorothy have any relatives that John could adopt? Now, John could point out the rare use of a pronoun in this line, but that’s not a big deal. It would disrupt the fluidity, anyway.
His crayon, too.
There it is, Elmo–the problematic line, the one that keeps John up at night, wondering WHY? It’s definitely apparent that Elmo is a crayon enthusiast. In fact, Elmo’s entire house seems to be constructed from them. But Elmo, John never sees you actually use the crayon. John assumes that possibly, at some point, the crayon was used more frequently, but seldom does Elmo incorporate the crayon into “Elmo’s World” nowadays.
Elmo has already said that Elmo loves his goldfish–why not issue a shout-out to other entities in “Elmo’s World” who help Elmo every day? What about Mr. Noodle, his brother Mr. Noodle, and his sister Ms. Noodle, who realize they are not very bright, but still, every episode, try to answer Elmo’s questions, only to be met with ridicule from voice-over children?
What about “Drawer” who always helps Elmo learn more about what Elmo is thinking about? (Maybe Drawer keeps knocking Elmo over because Drawer is indignant.)
Because it’s a theme song, Elmo only has a short amount of time to encapsulate “Elmo’s World,” and the crayon simply isn’t part of it.
Then, Elmo, the song just ends.
That’s Elmo’s World
No, Elmo, it isn’t. That’s not “Elmo’s World.” Elmo implies that Elmo has summarized the World, but Elmo has only scratched the surface and wasted limited song real estate on a nonessential element.
John hopes this doesn’t upset Elmo, but John just can’t wrap John’s head around it, and because John still busts the song around the house as if in a musical, John is faced with this dilemma every time John sings about that darn crayon.
Please, Elmo. Don’t leave John hanging like this. Why is that line in Elmo’s song?
John has a feeling Elmo understands and thanks Elmo for hearing John out. John looks forward to Elmo’s response.
Author & CEO, Twinfamy
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If not, John is still so happy to see you!
There is a moment that every Daddy waits for.
Typically (or stereotypically, if you’d prefer), Mommy is the all-star. The intensity of the mother-spawn connection is undeniable. After spending nine months living inside of her plus the primal closeness of breastfeeding, dads often feel they are second string in many respects. While there are families with stay-at-home male superheroes like me, I would argue that even then, there is just something cosmically unique about the bond between mother and baby with which fathers just can’t compete.
However, every dad–whether a working dad, a stay-at-home dad, a combination of the two, or some other option I can’t think of–waits for one special, magical moment. A moment he can truly call his own. A moment when his loinfruit shines the spotlight solely on him, and it becomes completely okay for him to ham it up–even in front of Mommy. A moment he is verbally singled out by his offspring as The Man in Charge, the Go-To Guy, the Master of the Universe. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the first-ever time his baby identifies him aloud as “Dada.”
This landmark occurrence is mind-blowingly amazing in its own right–it signifies language acquisition and adds a new, verbal layer of connection between parent and child. But–at least in English-speaking households–it also gives Dad a little ego boost as it usually happens before “Mama.” Call it a purely phonetic phenomenon if you like, moms. We’re well aware that the “D” sound is easier to make than “M” and we don’t care, because when we hear that inaugural “Da” amidst the babble, we know the wait is almost over. We’re going to beat you in just this one thing. And that’s okay.
At the same time, this anticipation can get us a little carried away. For instance, some over-excited dads rule the initial, randomly-stumbled-upon, mid-babble “Dada” as The First. Never mind that the alleged “Dada” wasn’t even in the room and the kid was engrossed in turning an expensive board book into paper pudding before he can even fully grasp its content (money well spent). Yet, the first time they hear these two chance syllables in succession, some dads are on Facebook in seconds flat, telling the world that the “Dada” has dropped.
Settle down, Beavis. Sure, I’ve had these moments, too, but to me, this is an inauthentic “Dada.”
Since the Twins arrived, I’ve been telling myself I would not claim to be dubbed Dada prematurely, and was proud with my performance when we first heard my son say:
“Did you hear that?” my wife enthused. “He said Dada!”
“Yeah,” I replied, skeptical. “Not really, though.”
See, in my opinion, the Official Dada Ruling should be one in which the child actually seems to be addressing or identifying Dada, an intentional utterance instead of an accidental baby-babble snippet. This is when you know your child has joined Team Dada.
Which brings me to my most legendary announcement since The Unveiling of Twinfamy Logo 2.0:
On Monday, August 29, 2011, around 7:45 am, my son welcomed me into the Dada Ranks…I think. Maybe. I don’t know. Well, here’s what happened.
I had put my daughter down for the morning’s first nap and was now changing my son’s diaper before shipping him, too, off to Dreamland. The whole time, he stared up at me with an admiring half-smile. As I affixed the new diaper’s Velcro and pulled his pants back on, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Dada.”
Chills. Butterflies. Skepticism. More chills. Imaginary Disney-movie animal sidekicks cheering.
Did he just say what I think he said?
He launched into a squinty-eyed giggle and I joined him, encouraging him on a job well done, and reinforcing, “That’s RIGHT, Buddy! I’m your Dada!”
As the festivities drew to a close, I rocked him to sleep to the tune of my magically delicious baritone crooning “Bohemian Rhapsody,” cribbed him in super slow-motion so as to not wake him, and plopped onto the couch.
Did he just say what I think he said?
He looked right at me.
They were his only two syllables during the entire diaper transaction.
I then noticed the t-shirt I was wearing:
Was it because of the shirt? Was he calling Chuck “Dada” instead of me? Or did the nine majestic Norrises inspire him to call me “Dada”?
I needed a second opinion.
I unsheathed my cell phone and ran to the other side of the house to call my wife at work. (After five years as a teacher, I have a slight volume problem–I tend to over-project my voice, even when unnecessary, so I’ve learned not to talk on the phone during naptime.)
“Babe. I think…our son…just called me ‘Dada.'”
She later told me my unintentional dramatic pauses had her in a panic that something terrible had transpired. My bad.
I proceeded to relate the event in question and asked her if she thought we should “count” it.
Her response was incredibly supportive: “Why is he saying ‘Dada’ first? I pushed him out of me. Does he not remember that?”
I was pretty convinced it was For Real, but I’ve been waiting for an encore performance and he hasn’t done it since.
So now I don’t know what to think. Was it an intentional moment of clarity, possibly inspired by nine images of Chuck Norris, or was it just a coincidence?
Since I’m on the fence (but not a pointy one, thankfully), I’m going to outsource my opinion to you, O Loyal Reader.
What do you think? What are your Authentic Dada Verbalization Criteria? When did you decide the first “Dada” had dropped, prompting you to chronicle it in the Sacred Texts (baby book)?
Go ahead. Get your “comment” on.
Here’s some Jeopardy-style Dada-themed thinking music for you:
This post was Freshly Pressed by WordPress on September 7, 2011. Yay!
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If not, remember that Chuck Norris is always watching. Nine of him.
Yeah, that’s what I thought.