There are so many things I miss in quarantine – like conviviality, and smiling at strangers and hugging friends; but above all I miss holding my kids’ hands. But that’s an unexpected result of quarantine. Not because we’re social distancing from each other.
I don’t consider myself an overly-touchy guy. I mean – touchy as in sensitive? Sure. I’m defensive.
But touchy as in touching people? Not overly so. But I do hug and do single kisses in NYC or double kisses with my family from France.)
But this social distancing is increasingly for the birds. I want to touch people – shake hands and hug. I don’t want to overthink the space between myself and my neighbor as we chat bout the weather.
My aforementioned French adoptive mother got together with some dear girlfriends of hers and none of them touched while they all held their distance. She said it was unnatural and certainly un-French. “We’re Latins! We touch constantly and feel each other both passively and actively. This world is not for me, Gavin. I can’t do it.”
While I’m not French, I do get it. This isn’t human or natural for us.
Mostly, I miss holding my kids’ hands.
This one is a by-product, because we certainly aren’t holding back from touching as a family. We hug and kiss and cuddle as ever before. Perhaps mores o because we’re subconsciously craving human contact.
But for me, the by-product is that we don’t walk to school, anymore. And that was my kids’ time to hold my hands.
I always found it sort of funny for the past few years watching parents walk their kids to our elementary school. It never looked like any children ever walked themselves. I always wondered if it’s a law that elementary-aged children all have to be walked to school? Are we afraid of kidnappers or traffic or drug-dealers? Because you and I know we all walked to school alone beginning in kindergarten. Maybe not alone, but at least unaccompanied by adults. Just us kids – spinning tales, recounting Christmas wishes, making fun of young crushes, bullying the gay kids.
(Oops. Knee-jerk reaction on that last one. I’ll save it for another post.)
Point being: my kids and all their peers walk to school and many hold their parents’ hands…up to fifth grade.
I used to find it sort of silly. But now what I wouldn’t give to hold my kids’ hand when they’re in current grades and for another few to fifth.
Now that we aren’t walking to school, there’s no reason for me to play any variation of hand-squeezing games:
I squeeze your hand two times and you squeeze my hand two times.
I squeeze your hand as we release and make way for a street sign or a tree.
I jerk your hand toward me to pull you with me around this street sign, you squeal with delight and jerk me toward you to walk with you around that tree.
I jerk your hand back to keep you from mindlessly walking into traffic.
I hold your hand delicately as we walk to school in silence.
I release your hand because your inability to Just. Friggin. Walk. Is driving me crazy as you skip and tug and pull my hand around annoyingly.
Sigh. I want to be annoyed by my kid’s inability to Just. Friggin’. Walk. again.
Now, when we go out on walks (not the same as walking to school) I’ll find a reason to grab their hand. They’re game for it, still. Not embarrassed or too old for it. But it’s different.
If nothing else, I’m more mindful of it. And we could all do with more mindfulness.
I hope after all of this passes and we have an international ceremonial “burning of the masks” that lights the skies around the world for a full 24 hours (hm…patent that idea and file it away for when it happens) I wonder if we’ll go back to being super-touchy French and semi-touchy Americans? Or have we re-calibrated our paranoid brains to simply touch less?
We already live in an overly-analytical and cerebral place. We need more invited and welcome touch, not less. Never again do I want to miss holding my kids’ hands.
By Jill Twiss. Leaving aside the fact that John Oliver’s joyful and touching book was meant as a parody mocking Karen Pence’s “A Day in the Life of the Vice-President”, Marlon Bundo is a rollicking book about a rabbit, his love for another bunny, and their struggle to overcome the crabby man with whom they live. It’s not about sex, it’s about love. And justice.
by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole One of the pioneering children’s books about gay love based on the true story of two male penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo who nested together, tried to hatch a rock, and were given an egg to foster (which they did successfully.) Seen as an excellent introduction for children to learn who families differ and love is love.
Brook Pessin-Wedbee & Naomi Bardoff. Not a fiction book, but an interesting sociological study and beautifully illustrated book for children to analyze all the different ways they might identify, helping lay out the difference between sexuality and gender. (Possibly an excellent primer for confused parents, as well.)
By adapting classic nursery rhymes and melding them with true children’s accounts of their non-conforming identities, this book allows little boys and girls know that convention is passe and there’s lots of ways to be themselves.
By Linda deHaan and Stern Nijland This fractured fairy tale takes readers on a journey down the wedding aisle of a prince and prince. A predictable fractured fairy tale that turns convention upside down. The illustrations are often confusing, but it adds another queer protagonist to your kid’s collection.
A parable celebrating a friendhsip (that borders on love) and celebrating diversity in many forms – be it race, interests, backgrounds, and socioeconomics. It’s an ambiguous book that doesn’t smack readers over the head with messaging, leaving lots to young imaginations.
This graphic novel by an award-winning authro is for emerging readers. It breaks gender norms, embraces same-sex love, takes readers on fractured fairy tale adventures, and is thrillingly unconventional. Even the stereotoypes of the prissy princess and the tom boy are manipulated.
Almost anything by Todd Parr is going to empower children to be who they are, love who they want, and celebrate differences. With simple, beautiful illustrations and simple, beautiful messages, Parr shows us all the most profound lessons are easy for children to understand.
When I first became a dad, I didn’t expect to be forced to out myself as gay, but since everyone assumes you’re straight (understandably) because when you’re on your own with the baby, people ask, “Oh, is it Mom’s night off?”
(Funny how society also uses the phrase, “Dad’s babysitting because it’s mom’s night off.” All woke dads chant: #dadsnotbabysitters #dadsnotbabysitters.)
When my first child was seven weeks old, a friend invited my partner and me to an antique auction in Nowheresville, Connecticut. My first auction. I’m always game for “firsts”.
There were hilarious (shocking) items for sale. Of note was a box of lawn boy/mammy figurines, including a 7-inch Aunt Jemima iron doorstop. Not all of Connecticut is Martha Stewartville.
But I digress.
At the time of serious bidding, when the room hushed and you could cut the tension with a knife, the kiddo got fussy. Of course.
So I walked with my baby bjorn into an adjacent room where a woman sold hot dogs, coffee and cookies.
She had a mullet half way down her back. On her sweatshirt was an airbrushed wolf howling at the moon. It was awesome.
(Not that I’m furthering rural stereotypes, but across the street was a drag racing track.)
She ooh’d and ahh’d over my 7-week-old and marveled at keeping baby quiet. We made small talk about regular baby things: birth weight, sleeping, etc.
Then she asked, “So is this Mom’s night off?”
I kept bouncing, but my eyes went dead. “Um…”
“Or is she just watching the auction?”
Rage boiled within me and I looked at her pointedly. “Mom’s, just…well, she’s just fine.”
Wait, what? “Mom’s just fine”? That was a worse response than Baby’s “I carried a watermelon,” in Dirty Dancing. It lacked any logic, least of all in my emotional response.
I walked away, trying to hide my huff.
Aaaaand…I quickly realized my irrationality.
She had made a reasonable assumption. Of COURSE she’d assume there was a mom nearby. How often do you see gay fathers with newborns? Not very often. And in rural Connecticut? Even less often.
This is something that happens to a lot of gay fathers. I’ve noticed a lot of sleep-deprived fathers already stressed about the pressure of keeping a newborn alive, who’ve gone on Facebook tirades about the assumptions made by others. I think it might be a gay dad rite-of-passage.
But surprisingly for me, I just hadn’t realized being a father would often force me out of the closet to strangers.
Not that I’m closeted, but straight people don’t have to walk around declaring they sleep with the opposite sex. Why must I walk around outing myself all the time?
Also, a lifetime “proving” my straightness to people makes me jittery about being perceived as gay. I know. It’s my own issue. More on that in another blog. Or not.
I needed to chill out and realize that if she went on some tirade about me being a fag-besmirching-Jesus, so be it. To be a good dad, I need to deal with close-mindedness productively, anyway.
I returned to the kitchen area. She was wary.
I said, “I’m really sorry. I haven’t been asked questions about my son’s mom, yet, and it’s bound to happen. Fact is, my partner and I are raising this little boy and he’s watching the auction, right now. And unfortunately he’s buying a useless phonograph that will undoubtedly collect dust and take up space in our already-cramped house.”
Before I could finish my awkward apology, she reached for my hand and nodded warmly.
“I got it. I got it. Before you said anything, I got it. And that’s wonderful. I’m so happy for you. That’s a wonderful thing you’re doing.”
I bought a hot dog from her. It wasn’t Mom’s night off, but it was a very good night for me.
Feeding my kids happiness is one of my highest parenting priorities. Usually that means foods that make me happy. Sometimes it’s theirs. If there was any doubt, let me shuffle-ball-change out of the closet loud and proud: I’m a food snob. I wholeheartedly embrace Michael Pollan’s “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.”
When I was the perfect parent (meaning: before kids), I knew fast food would never touch the lips of my precious snowflakes.
Admittedly, it’s easy to avoid fast food living in New York City. You’re never in a car, the kids haven’t fallen asleep in the back, and all food is fast.
But I understand that fast food drive-thrus are a godsend…in desperate situations…international pandemics, zombie armageddon, and heavy thunderstorms. Oh, and when Daddy flirts with jail time during a road trip due to a desperate yearning for “friesandashake” and considers* leaving the kids asleep in the backseat cuz who’s gonna know and you’ll be really fast and besides the dog’s in there with them.
But we all know (don’t we???) that feeding my kids happiness through fast food contributes to the destruction of now-infertile fields from Fargo to Fresno, the dumbing-down of our collective national gastronomic taste for all things over-salted and over-sweetened, trillions of gallons of fertilizer run-off that’s caused the vast oceanic dead-zone known as the Gulf of Mexico, the inhumane treatment of cattle and fowl (and probably fish), the brain-washing of our youth to crave/demand/consume calories exceeding adult dietary needs, and the lowest-common-denominatorization of “family” time.
Anyway, I read Fast Food Nation. I know that there’s shit in our fast food meat. And by “shit”, we mean literal poop.
I saw Super Size Me. (And after seeing it, I craved McD’s fries.)
Having spewed in-eloquently for 300 words, allow me to expose my personal hypocrisy:
Me lovey some fried goodly-goodness.
Caveat being: never in quotidian life, frequently on road trips, and always at the airport. Because according to the Onion Newspaper in some issue that I KNOW I read 87 years ago and still rings true:
“McDonald’s doesn’t count at the airport.” **
So once upon a time I chose to feed my kids happiness in a suburban McDonald’s with a play place and all the features. (In what felt like a small victory in my masochistic love affair with Ronald McD, they don’t know it’s actual name, they just call it “The Happy Meal place”.)
I have no idea how to reconcile my train of thought in the above tangential/parentheticals, let alone my contradictory love for this scion of global dining degradation. My sodium levels are still elevated after feeding my kids happiness at the happy meal place.
My oldest kid opens the Happy Meal and actually says, “What’s in my Happy Meal? Oooooh! A napkin!”
Seriously. She squealed about a fucking napkin.
And my eyes welled.
My two children were so goddamn happy to be at the “Happy Meal place”. They pulled out five items, all gastronomically inedible, from their special boxes with increasing delight. (That there are no less than five “things” to discover – six including a napkin – is all the more thrilling.) Some of the “things” were food, some were toys, all were comprised of a majority plastic ingredients. (Excepting the twice-referenced napkin…perhaps the healthiest option in the box.)
There I was: SuperDad with two beaming children at America’s most hegemonic export. I felt like Tim McGraw and WalMart and Venti lattes all wrapped up in a big Made-in-China-American-flag; a new face of ‘murrica nestled in a plastic booth of sensory overload.
I took a sip of my 32 liter iced coffee containing 483 calories of god-knows-what, to cover the cry-quiver in my chin. Then I removed the bottom bun of my buttermilk-fried-mystery because removing one of the buns makes me feel a teensy bit less guilty, okay? And I took a pre-orgasmic bite.
It was underwhelming. I should’ve just gone for the Quarter Pounder; but somehow chicken seems minutely less naughty. But let’s face it: life is short.
If you’re going to eat at Transfatty McCancer, just super size that shit and get what you want, not what you think might be “better”.
There is no “better” for you in this shack.
Again: I digress. (It must be the insane amount of caffeine still coursing through my engorged belly.)
Feeding my kids happiness at the happy meal place made them insanely full of joy. I completely forgot about the fact that a mere 20 minutes previous, they’d been whining about who had the matchbox car first, one was kicking the back of my seat, and the other would not stop asking me about which princess was my favorite princess.
Seriously: I wanted to leave both of them at an orphanage at 12:45. But by 12:51, everything was good, again.
All thanks to the happy meal place. (Lower case letters intended.) I didn’t want it to end. Except for the fact that I was composing this post in my head, checking my email and might have scrolled HuffPo twice (cuz a lot could happen during a 12-minute degustation), I was completely in the moment. I didn’t even take pictures to document. I just was.
(Also, my phone had died. So.)
But it was a magical family moment. And in that time, I appreciated McDonald’s for more than just a delectable airport French fry. I loved it for creating something that over-principled foodie snobs can’t appreciate: the delight in breaking bread with children…with delicious bread that can actually kill them.
I didn’t want those 12 (actually, I think it was 9) minutes of familial, convivial, quality time to end.
But then my asshole oldest child just couldn’t get enough. See? Therein lies the problem with this mega-corporation preying on our human addiction to salt and sugar. We just want more, more, more.
Yep, that older child had seen the well-placed pictures of milkshakes and ice cream that exploits illiterate 4 (and 44)-year-olds.
“Daddy? I want ice cream for dessert!”
You hear that? No appreciation for the magic I’d already created. She had yet to take one bite of his shit-filled “cheese” “burger”. Just: more, more, more.
(Disclaimer: I totes wanted a shake; and I kinda wanted to buy my daughter’s love via ice cream. Sadly, I justified these hankerings to myself – per usual – by recalling a completely not-science-based report I read in a 2001 edition of GQ stating that McDonald’s vanilla ice cream is “surprisingly good for you”…which is not the same thing AT ALL as saying it’s actually good for you.)***
(Once again…I’ve lost my own train of thought in the midst of my
steroidal use of parentheses. Probably from the crack that they sprinkle
on those fries cuz: DAMN!)
My kid demands ice cream.
I responded, “No, buddy, I’m sorry. This is enough treats for today.”
She whined and almost turned on her freakishly over-active water-works.
But then she had a moment of reflection. Perhaps it was the gratitude washing over her as her insides were lubed by peanut oil? Perhaps the musak playing Katy Perry hits reminded her of her first crush: Rosie, the pink train from the Island of Sodor? Whatever it was, she stopped whining. And McD’s climbed an inconceivably higher rung in my estimation.
She looked at me and said, calmly. “Well, Daddy. You said ‘No.’ And that’s mean. And ‘mean’ is what Donald Trump is.”
Wiping away a tear of pride for the political insights my 4yo shared (quite possibly thanks to the modicum of nourishment she received from her Happy Meal apple slices that had been picked, peeled, packaged and preserved but most definitely thanks to the quick discussion we shared in the McD’s parking lot where I saw a Trump bumper sticker on a car at which I scoffed and swore and my son said “What?” and I mumbled to myself “Seriously? In Connecticut? I mean…people are actually supporting that bigoted, inexperienced blow-hard?”), I desperately suppressed the guffaw in my throat, enjoyed another couple of fries, and watched my sons become exponentially uncontrollable as they over-dosed on 10,000 calories of wonderful, delicious crap.
Thank you, McDonald’s. See you, soon when I want to again be feeding my kids happiness.
All too soon.
* I said “considered” not “actually did.” I would “never” do “that”.
** Though I can’t find this in a quick Google search. It must have
been a statement on the Onion faux newscast. Clearly, it stuck with me.
*** I can’t cite this because seriously: how could anyone actually cite an article in GQ that justifies eating McDonald’s ice cream? Perhaps their “how to give her a 2-hour orgasm” is citable. Even dating back to 2001. But not some “study” of what you should actually eat, nestled between an ad for the first iPod and a salacious spread of Jennifer Lopez flaunting her rocks, pre-imploring us not to be fooled by them.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all looking for ways to pass of educating to someone else…and why not with the best educational movie musicals for kids?
Occasionally musical theatre is the best story-telling medium to contextualize and educate kids and adults about history.
Many musicals are a delectable treat for sheer escapism. You can watch 42nd Street and She Loves Me on “Great Performances” on PBS. (And that’s a worthy investment of minimal monthly dues.) They meld acting with singing and movement, they’re a feast for all the senses. Further, they demand our children pay more attention than with typically schizophrenic movies.
But others are able to convey more emotion and drama to teach us all more about our ancestors and historic figures.
BroadwayHD is a streaming service presenting dozens of Broadway plays and musicals, mostly in their stage-presented context (as opposed to re-made in a Hollywood studio like Les Miserables.) Disclaimer – this is not a sponsored post pushing BroadwayHD. (Though fellas: gimme a kickback, eh?) It just happens to be about the only place you can watch some of these historic musicals.
Many old classics can be found on library websites. (HBO and Netflix don’t have a lot in the way of obscure musicals beyond Mamma Mia and Disney.)
And in some cases, you might need to seek out YouTube productions, snippets and videos. But that leads to a fun and educational deep-dive down the YouTube dumpster of endless clips. And that’s not a bad thing, if they’re focused and don’t end up on a some weirdo’s site.
Even if they get bored or fidgety, our kids often don’t care as long as there’s a moving image in front of them, amiright? Most of all: they can just learn to be patient and focused.
“Really? You’re bored? Would you rather I get you a stick and a ball and you just go make your own fun like I did as a child?”
(Even if none of us actually didn’t just watch hours of television…albeit not on demand.)
Here is a list of a a few of the best educational movie musicals for kids to entertain/educate them while you go on auto-pilot during COVID Curriculum.
Please share your thoughts and suggestions for more scholarly musicals in front of which we can just park the kids with less guilt and pour ourselves a drink.
I’d start this list for kids 6 and up. Some are heavy topics. But musicals make it art. Push the kids a bit. Should 6 year-olds be taught about Presidential assassins and public lynchings? These aren’t as graphically violent as any of the Marvel movies. Plus it helps teach about injustice, morality and history. So go ahead – push them with the best educational movie musicals for kids.
This is a slightly lesser-known piece of brilliance from 1969 that exquisitely teaches more about the nuances in American history. Before Hamilton re-wrote the musical theatre history books, 1776 illustrates the many different personalities that formed our independence – especially the irascible (but irreplaceable) John Adams. The songs highlight the debates at the heart of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, especially the song about slavery, “Molasses to Rum” sung by delegate Edward Rutledge from South Carolina.
Most important, the musical shows that the debate surrounding the declaration were nuanced and extensive – about political issues, egos, personalities and principle.
(It particularly cracks me up that somehow those 1776 wigs seem from 1976. But I digress.)
Definitely a way to teach your kids about workers’ rights, how the “man” will always keep the “little guy” down, and how grit, principle and passion can unite down-trodden folks to over-come injustice.
And it’s got awesome singing and dancing to entertain the most Scrooge McDuckiest of rapacious capitalists.
Available on DisneyPlus and on YouTube clips by hundreds of high school productions .
Let’s be honest – explaining Holy Week and the impact Jesus had on his contemporaries is very difficult to explain as adults, let alone understand as children. This musical, over-wrought though it may be, does a great job of contextualizing Jesus’ impact on his local society. Further, the show briliantly conveys the cult of personality in which human pbeings love to deify leaders and equally lovs to watch them torn down. JCS is true to the title showing how Jesus was treated like a rockstar of his era and inspired jealousy and fear in the leaders who felt threatened by his cult of personality. Easiest to access on the NBC streaming platform, this version of the Andrew Lloyd Weber rock opera is excellently conceived and stars pop folk your kids might already know: John Legend and Sarah Bareilles. And they both clearly did their homework to give powerful performances.
This is an extra-credit, over-achiever assignment for you. Byond Tony awards snippets (see below) this show is super-smart and super-poignant. It’s almost a psycho-sociological study of the minds of all those who attempted (successfully or not) to assassinate American presidents. The album is badass and is over-flowing with historical trivia that will definitely help your kids (and you) eventually win Jeopardy. (The revival in 2004 starred Neil Patrick Harris when we still thought of him as a washed-up Dougie Howser.) Pop that album into your music-player for a road trip or, hell – you don’t have anything to do during the pandemic. This is excellent for laying on the couch and letting the words, music and history wash over you.
A musical about Presidential assassins? Just trust me. You’ll learn a lot.
Obviously this is the new gold standard for musicals that teach history as well as historical revisionism. It’s safe to say before the award-winning musical (based on the award-winning book by Ron Chernow), Alexander Hamilton had fallen to a secondary position in U.S. history books. But the musical, through deft musicality and astounding vocabulary displays, shows the pivotal role Hamilton played in our nation’s founding. Enjoy a deep-dive into stories about the making of the musical, listen to the album, and even give a stab at reading Chernow’s book. It’s excellent.
One of Rogers & Hammerstein’s best works, Carousel teaches children about life in a New England fishing village at the turn of the century. There are, admittedly, some real clunkers and eye-rolling songs. However, the version on Broadway HD stars Kelli O’Hara, which means the lead character is as good as it gets. It’s old-fashioned, but sumptuous. Go ahead: expand those kids’ horizons.
Available to view on BroadwayHD. This performance of Pippin is not only historic in Broadway history, but it’s also the story of Charlemagne’s son. Now, there’s not that much for historical accuracy, here, but it is based on ancient literature and fables sure to add to any child’s trivial and cultural knowledge. It’s also freakishly 70’s-esque. You’ll love the guitars and laugh at it’s charming datedness.
Okay. This one’s a toughy. It’s too long, too dramatic, and too much. But you’ll cry in all the right spots in spite of your (my) cynicism. Despite trying to melt a 1,000-page French tome into 2.5 hours of musical, much of it is thrilling. The performances pale in comparison to actual Broadway performers (Sorry, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.) But the movie version gives an excellent visual rendition of French revolutionary history. To see the barricades in actual streets, to see the utter squalor in said streets, to see the mud and filth in which these people lived..you really see how misérable were these folks.
For a fun dive down YouTube, check out these best education musicals for kids in snippets, Tony Award highlights and bootleg videos:
Here’s another that’s not based on any actual history but does an amazing job of contextualizing American history in a beautiful package. Unfortunately, you’d have to venture to the NY Public Library to watch it in the confines of a booth where you can only watch it once. But a deep dive on YouTube can thrill you, as well. The album is genius and the original book is one of the 100 best novels of the 20th Century. So there’s plenty to expand your cultural understanding of the conflict between whites, blacks and immigrants in New York at the turn of the 20th century.
The true story of a trial and hanging of a Jewish factory manager who was unjustly accused of raping a young female factory worker in 1913 in a small Georgia town. a racism and anti-Semitism that gripped a small Georgia town in the 1920’s. Yeah – not uplifting. But spectacular music and performances.
The musical based on the real-life Vaudeville lives of the Hilton sisters, conjoined twins exploited on the Vaudeville circuit. (They became the biggest stars of their day, as well.) Some of the songs are confusingly “on the nose”, but “I Will Never Leave You” sung by the (again: conjoined) twins is a classic in the modern American musical cannon.
Okay – bear with me. This one is, well…over-wrought. However, don’t we all go through a slight Titanic obsession at one point in our youth? This one does bring together storylines and costumes! of the many different demographics who went down (or escaped) the ill-fated liner. But for a REALLY fun YouTube moment, pull up a glass of champagne and feast your eyes on this gem from a few summers ago at a regional theatre who staged and ACTUAL sinking of a “ship” into the lake behind the theatre. OMG. I love this.
What about you? Have you got more suggestions for this list of best educational movie musicals for kids?