Were I an ideal parent, there'd be no real need for a television in our home. My boys and my wife and me, we'd just read books and ride bikes and learn new languages and talk about heavy philosophical shit all day.
But I am not. So there is.
I mean, kids ask somewhere around, like, 4,000 questions a day. And I have two of them — twin five-year-old destructor bots — so holy Christ. It never ends. Worse than that, it just goes more and more meta and into itself. No joke, one day Boy B asked me a question, something generic like, “Daddy, where do lizards live?” and then immediately followed it with, “Daddy, why did I ask that question?”
DADDY, WHY DID I ASK THAT QUESTION?
Do you even understand how next-level existential that is? I could barely answer the lizard question (“Uh… trees, probably”). I didn't stand a chance with the second one. He might as well have asked, “Daddy, how are we to classify the God Particle?” or “Daddy, what exactly is trigonometry?” Fuck you, kid. You ate a rock once because you thought it was a jelly bean. What do you care about trigonometry?
So the TV, every once and a while just has to come on. It's a pacifier. They like it and the few moments of quiet keep me from going insane. Basically, it's a win all the way around.
A few days ago, Thursday maybe, right around 5:30 p.m….Wait, an aside:
Parents know that 5:30 p.m., the midway point between nap and bedtime, is fucking death. The kids have already done whatever activity was planned for the day so they're inching towards boredom, and it's a few hours past lunch so their boredom is supplemented by hunger, and Mom and Dad are appropriately frayed by having spent the previous ten hours making sure nobody was kidnapped or fell off a balcony or was hit by a car, and just in general everyone is feeling real irritated and assholey. It's Satan's hour. Only terrible things can happen. You know those stories you hear about periodically on the news where someone goes nutso and murders everyone in the house? Every one of those has occurred between 5:30 and 6:30. If I were a judge, that'd be the only aspect of the case I was concerned with. “Well, you're charged with quadruple homicide. But I see here it happened at 5:45. And it states earlier in the day you twisted your ankle because your son left his roller skates out, and this occurred after you'd replaced the radiator in your wife's car. Okay. Well, you're free to go. Case dismissed.”
At any rate, a few days ago, Thursday maybe, right around 5:30 p.m., I turned the TV on for the boys to watch for a few minutes. Clicking through the channels, we happened across a music video station. I'd like to say it was something tame and pseudo-mod artistic, something like that B.o.B./Taylor Swift tomfoolery “Both Of Us,” but it's much more likely it was something sexually aggressive like that French Montana/Wayne/Drake/Ross “Pop That” song. It caught their attention immediately. 1,000 questions. A teachable moment.
So we moved the conversation to the computer, where we waddled through YouTube's abyss watching old rap videos. We started with one of the greatest rap videos of all-time, clicking through that You Might Also Like sidebar of suggestions for twenty or so minutes before the whole thing became very exhausting. So here they are, and here are the questions:
Video: “California Love”
Amount of Time Watched: 1:16
Why They Wanted To Change It: “This is scary. I'm scared.”
Questions: “Why is he yelling? Is he mad? What are they doing? Are they in a tent? What's a tent? Do we live in a tent?”
What I Thought: “Pussies.”
What I Said: “I'm scared too, boys. You're right. Let's change it.”
Video: Tupac, “California Love,” featuring Dr. Dre
Amount of Time Watched: 0:04
Why They Wanted To Change It: “This is the same song!”
What I Thought: “Pay attention, jackasses.”
What I Said: “Pay attention.”
Video: Tupac, “To Live and Die in L.A.”
Amount of Time Watched: 0:45
Why They Wanted To Change It: “I just do.”
Questions: “Is that a lowrider? I want a lowrider so can you buy me a lowrider? Today?”
What I Thought: “I need some of those white pants like Tupac's wearing. Switch the whole game up. FUCK YEAH WHITE PANTS.”
What I Said: “Huh, what? A lowrider? Yeah, sure, I'll buy you a lowrider, but not 'til later. Or do you want some candy right now? A lowrider later or a candy now?”
When it comes to negotiating, kids are real little bitches. They always wilt at the possibility of missing out on some immediate candy.
Video: Tupac, “Do For Love”
Amount of Time Watched: 4:23* (*This video is a cartoon, so duh four minutes+.)
Why They Wanted To Change It: Because it was over.
Questions: “Is that a girl flower?… Why is she wearing a bikini?… She [a separate woman; a pregnant woman] has a belly like mama. How much longer 'til Mama's baby is here? Do I have to give him my toys? Are you going to buy him new toys? Because then you have to buy me new toys.”
I Thought: “Jesus, can you just shut the fuck up for two minutes already?”
I Said: “That's a lot of questions, boys. I'm happy you two are so eager to learn.”
Video: Fugges, “Fu-Gee-La”
Amount of Time Watched: 0:58
Why They Wanted To Change It: “I don't know. Just can you.”
Questions: “What is this? I don't like it.”
What I Thought: “GET THE FUCK OFF MY LAP, YOU HEATHENS!”
What I Said: [nothing]
Video: Refugee Camp All Stars, “Avenues,” featuring Pras
Amount of Time Watched: 0:04
Why They Wanted To Change It: “This is the same one!”
What I Thought: “Holdonasec. Do you guys hate Haitians? How did that happen?”
What I Said: “Not really, guys. They sort of sound the same, but they–you know what. Never mind. One more and that's it.”
Video: Luniz, “5 On It”
Amount of Time Watched: 4:28
Why They Changed It: n/a because this is a dictatorship and I made them watch all of it because this song is the tits. They were not happy.
Questions: “Why do we have to watch this?”
What I Thought: “BECAUSE I AM THE GOD KING AND I RULE YOUR SHIT ALL DAY, FUCKERS!”
What I Said: “Quiet, quiet, quiet.”
Video: No Limit, “Make 'Em Say Ugh”
Amount of Time Watched: 3:40
Why They Changed It: [They didn't. They just walked away.]
Questions: “IS THAT A TANK!? COOOOOOL!”
What I Thought: “No shit.”
What I Said: “Yep. That's the No Limit tank. It's gold. When you become rich, the first thing I want you to buy me is a solid gold tank. And solid diamond shoes. And maybe a cannon, except instead of shooting cannonballs, it shoots tacos. A taco cannon. Definitely.”