Young Weegee

I bought a tripod, and while explaining to Nate what it was for and how it worked, he asked, “Can I take your picture?” Sure thing, buddy. Nate kept taking pictures, but from my perspective he wasn’t holding the button down long enough. Turns out he was doing just fine. He even adjusted the tripod correctly. I only wish he’d had a better, less sweaty and weird-haired model.

The Goddamned Batmorality and Batemperance Society

This morning I was helping Nate get dressed, and I suited him up in one of his two or three Batman shirts. It looks like a Dick Giordano Batman, courageously going forth to fight the bad guys with Gotham City as a backdrop. I noted that the shirt had a caption:

Me: (Pointing at each word.) Nate, that says “THE CAPED CRUSADER SAVES GOTHAM CITY!”

Nate: Caped crusader!

Me: Yeah, that’s one of Batman’s nicknames.

Nate: Batman! (Distracted by something.)

Me (To my wife Michael): But in the end, the Caped Crusader realized that Gotham first had to save (dramatic pause) itself.

Mike: Ha ha!

Nate: (Wanders off.)

Me: “Caped crusader.” It sounds like he was mounting an anti-porn campaign.

Mike: Heh heh!

Me: (Christian Bale Dark Knight voice) Gotham has too many sex shops and porno theaters! We need to clean up this city once and for all!

Mike: Ho ho!

Me: (CBDKV) Will no one think of the children!?!

Mike: Har har!


Mike: Ha ha!

At this point, Nate began impersonating me impersonating Christian Bale impersonating Batman. Which was completely hilarious.

End scene.

What the Hell Is Nate Talking About? A Guide.

If Nate Says: “I want to see the big man video.”

He Means: “Kindly play the Black-Eyed Peas’ ‘Let’s Get It Started’ video for me for the hundredth goddamned time.” [Assumedly, is the big man, but this is unclear.]

If Nate Says: “I want to see the man in the black hat video.”

He Means: “Replay that Tony Hawk video for the thousandth freaking time. It’s freaking awesome!” [Hawk’s helmet is black, so this is a little clearer.]

Daddy Reads Too Much

Whenever Nate cleans up at home, he sings a song that he learned at school. I think it’s based on this one:

It’s time to clean up, clean up
Everybody do your share
Clean up, clean up
Soon the mess will not be there

Since he’s three he hasn’t quite gotten all the words, so I learned the song from him as:

Clean up, clean up
Everybody clean up
Everybody does his share
Clean up, clean up

We kind of bumble through the lyrics together as we put away his toys. It’s not Donizetti, but it helps move things along.

Then last night, as we picked up all his fake food, we started singing, and I got a little creative.

Me, Mike, and Nate:

Clean up, clean up!
Everybody clean up!
Everybody does his share!
Clean up, clean up!


Um… clean up, clean up!
From each according to his ability!
To each according to his needs!

Mike: (Laughing)


Clean up! Clean up!
The history of society
Is a history of class struggles!

Mike: (Still laughing)

Nate: (Oblivious, still picking up fake food.)

(Aside to Mike so Nate can’t hear.)
Clean up! Clean up!
If you want to imagine the future,
imagine a boot stamping a human face, forever!

Mike: Uh, whut?

Me: Hold on, that’s Kafka.

Two Autobiographical Stories My Son Inexplicably Asks Me to Retell

Nate is utterly rapt when I tell him these stories, and he wants me to tell them again and again and again. I know not why, my liege. Note that I am telling the below stories the same way I tell them to my three-year-old son. Don’t expect Faulkner.

1. Once, when I was a little boy, Grampa Kelly took me to a haunted house. We came to one room that was dark and filled with cobwebs, skeletons, and other Halloween decorations. Suddenly a man came running out of a door in the back of the room. He was wearing a mask, holding his hands over his head, and screaming, “ARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGH!”

But I just stuck out my hand. He stopped, looked at it, and then shook my hand. And I wasn’t afraid at all.

[Note: He was actually waving an axe around, but I figured that might be too scary for Nate at this point.]

2. I was at church this morning. When mass was over I started to leave, but as I approached the doors they suddenly opened, and a spaceman walked in. I knew it couldn’t be a spaceman, because what would a spaceman be doing in church? It turned out it was Ms. Jess, and she was wearing a motorcycle helmet. It was big and round and had a dark glass front, so that’s what made me think it was a space helmet for a moment. Spacemen in church? Ridiculous!

Welcome to Nate’s Nightmare

Nate awoke last night at 12 Midnight. He’s a good sleeper, and for the past year, with a few exceptions, he’s stayed out cold, all night from the moment his head hit the pillow (side note: it wasn’t until this week that we bought him his first pillow). When Nate does emerge from his nightly coma, he follows a set pattern of snapping awake between 12 and 12:30 a.m. I don’t know why. Sometimes he wakes up because his diaper fails to contain the day’s liquid’s and solids, but the 12’ish wake-up time—always accompanied by a few whines and groans followed by crying and howlings of “MY MOMMA! MY DADDY!”—makes me think that he’s entered REM sleep, which I suspect occasionally brings bad dreams.

Last night he woke up because he had a pantsload irritating his poor bum. Oog, I hate to run parental bitching stories, but that was a nightmare for both Daddy and Mommy. When I realized there’d been a breach, I tried to remove Nate’s onesie to change him. He went apeshit, twirling like Linda Blair, screaming his head off. What made it stranger was that he still seemed to be asleep. I’ve gotten pretty good at baby-wrangling, but Nate was like a whirling, shrieking dervish. Mike soon joined me, and we managed to get his pajamas and (hugely) soiled diaper off and new diaper on. Almost immediately, Nate’s hulk-out ceased, and he chose to snuggle with Mike, falling asleep very soon in her arms. Now THAT’S the sweet little guy we’re used to.

The nightmare nights—and they are very few—are weird. Nate wakes up, sometimes crying (no tears, just howls), but often looking up at a part of the ceiling or the window with concern. I must have a better memory for my childhood nightmares than I ever realized, because I’m pretty good at figuring out, through questions and observation, what’s frightening him. Peculiarly, he’s managed to give ME the heebie-jeebies on occasion.


Hello, Nightmare Fuel

For instance, a Hello Kitty fan is only cute in the daytime. When it’s underlit by a baby monitor in a darkened room, however, she’s freakish and demonic. One night, Nate woke up, not crying but rather shouting “GO ‘WAY! GO ‘WAY!” When I entered the room and picked him up, I noticed he was eyeing his Kitty fan suspiciously. I tried to see the fan through the eyes of a toddler, and beheld a large blobular face with cold black eyes, and thought, “Jesus God, that thing IS terrifying.” I turned on the light and explained to Nate that it was only Kitty, and Kitty would never hurt him (severely pelt him with marketing strategy, yes, but not hurt him). Nate calmed down, though he wouldn’t let Kitty out of his sight. I banished Kitty to the floor, where she wasn’t illuminated like Michael Myers, and Nate soon said he was ready to return to the crib.

Other nights Nate has claimed to be frightened of beetles and spiders. A day or so earlier, we were looking at nature videos of Goliath beetles and tarantulas on YouTube (among other animals—I’m not raising Nate as a Goth). He seemed fine and fascinated with the videos, so I didn’t think anything of it until I heard him yelling “BUGS! BUGS! BUGS!” When I gathered him up he immediately informed me that he didn’t like “the beetles.” I share blame for this one, I think, with his day care teachers who showed him a beetle one day. Nowadays, Nate will express concern about spiders, but the beetle fear has faded, apparently. Again, I turned on the lights and talked things through with him, explaining that beetles aren’t dangerous and there were none in his room. Moreover, spiders were our friends because… well, I didn’t tell him they ate other, nastier bugs. I just assured him that the spiders weren’t gunning for him.


Why would such a charming creature disturb anyone?

One of Nate’s more confusing freak-outs (and let me again stress that he’s not a fearful child by any means) involve two characters from his favorite video series: Shaun the Sheep. Shaun the Sheep is made by the same folks behind Wallace and Gromit, and consequently it contains plenty of gentle entertainment for Nate while retaining enough adult humor to keep Momma and Daddy from blowing out their brains through pure boredom. Generally, Nate LOVES Shaun the Sheep… until the bull or “naughty pigs” show up.

I want your soul. I will eat your soul.

The bull I get. He’s a loud, snorting, wild-eyed creature that scares the living shit out of Shaun and his buddies. His angry first appearance on the show was similar in effect to Glen Benton suddenly fronting the animatronic band at a Chuck E. Cheese.


Snort. Moo.

The pigs make less sense to me. Sure, they’re pink and amorphous, and one episode had them pulling spooky pranks on the sheep, but they’re never really evil or threatening. Maybe they just seem large and bullying to Nate. Where it gets weird is that, for God knows what reason, Nate calls the pigs ghosts. He knows what a pig is, and he’s not afraid of the pigs at the zoo (even though they utter squeals that sound, to Daddy, like a dolphin’s soul is being raped), or the ones in his toy farm. The Shaun the Sheep pigs though? They’re Ghost Pigs. Once again, Nate’s knack for wordplay and visual imagery gives me the shivers. Ghost. Pig. That takes me back to Amityville Horror, where a ridiculous special effect called Jodie the Pig caused me more nightmares than it should have.


Then again… Maybe Nate is onto something.

Nate’s single most inexplicable and disturbing nightmare image wasn’t a nightmare for him. Not too long ago, he kept referring to “man crying and holding pillow.” This didn’t seem to bother him, which surprises me not at all. Nate, like many toddlers, doesn’t fully comprehend the world around him yet. He’s still learning the subtleties of facial expressions. He’s pointed at pictures of people laughing and told me they were crying, for instance, because they were squinting their eyes. The word “crying” throws him too. While reading to him I’ve had to explain the difference between someone crying out and someone crying because they’re sad. Wait till he has to figure out all 72 definitions of the word “set.”

But still… “man crying and holding pillow.”


I want to re-enact that image in a photo, black and white and grainy, just so I can have something that can reliably give me the shivers, should I ever write something scary. “Man crying and holding pillow.” The homicidal, suicidal, mythological, parapsychological overtones wash over me like ice water.


The above picture is one of the first media images that came to mind when Nate first described the crying pillow man. No, I’ve never  let him see Ringu—I’m not a psychopath–but it comes close to providing the same feeling. The existence of playwright Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman unsettles me even further. I don’t believe Nate’s been visiting the theater district though.

And there are pillow men I certainly hope he never hears about.


Family Values

Every now and again, while reading to Nate, playing with him, or cuddling and singing with him before bedtime, I realize there’s a two-year-old somewhere being turned into a bully by his barbarian family. That’s a shame, and that kid has my sympathies, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Anyway, someday, that kid will cross paths with my son.

At that point, this kid will try to make Nate feel bad. He’ll make cracks about his clothes and the way he acts. Or he’ll ridicule him because he’s a well-mannered and intelligent little boy. Furthermore, this little troglodyte will sniff for fear to see if he can cow my boy into handing over his lunch money or toys, and try to make Nate afraid to walk to or from school. Maybe he’ll even take a crack at him.

If Mike and I do our job right, Nate will try to befriend, or at least charm the kid; explaining that picking on other kids isn’t nice or a particularly fruitful way to co-exist with his fellow humans. “Come, let us reason together,” Nate will say.

Then, if the kid calls Nate a “pussy” and tries to push him down, my boy—if I do my job right—will snap-kick that kid’s balls up into his abdomen and flatten his nose, without joy or passion.

So, fair warning, kid.