Most of the time, the words coming out of my mouth don’t make any sense. “TV off!” elicits an eye roll but no move is made towards the remote. “Don’t jump around when you eat!” is clearly misunderstood because there’s absolutely no other explanation for the mess I find after breakfast or dinner—I’m sorry, crackers don’t usually decide on their own to hide under the couch to escape their fate. “Pick up your toys!” is just a suggestion to start playing with a billion of bricks scattered all over the floor when it’s clearly bedtime. As for the pissed-off version, “Clean up your crap!”—don’t judge, stepping on LEGO hurts!—it triggers a long sigh of annoyance.
And then, sometimes, I say ONE thing ONCE and it will be remembered forever.
Problem is, I never know what will stick with Mark. If I did, parenting would be easier, right?
A couple of weeks ago, Mark was dancing to the catchy tune of some silly kid song on YouTube while I was cooking. I found it very cute and much better than googling around for horror movies but after twenty minutes, I was tired of the Gummy Bear Song.
“BRING ME THE TABLET!” I shouted from the kitchen.
“But I wasn’t watching It or gun movies!”
“Yeah, I know. I just wanted to suggest other songs,” I explained. “Let’s see… Okay, so you want to dance, right? How about La Macarena?”
When it comes to summer dance songs, I’m stuck in the 1990s—you know, these ancient times when you couldn’t download the music you liked and had to put up with radio playlists.
After Los Del Rio, I searched for Las Ketchup but Mark seemed to find Asejere as annoying as we did back in 2002.
“Oh, I know! Michael Jackson. Here, watch this video, it’s almost like a movie.”
I’ve never been a big fan of Michael Jackson—too weird for me—but like anyone who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, I know his biggest hits. Plus, I was coming from the gym and Beat It was on the instructor’s playlist.
“Is he saying ‘beat it’?”
“This is so cool! I love it!”
“Who is that?”
“And who is this guy?”
“… Still Michael Jackson, ten years later.”#MichaelJackson explained to a five-year-old.
— Juliette Giannesini (@Xiaozhuli) May 28, 2018
“I love Michael Jackson!”
“That’s how it works with music,” I noted while melting that awful sliced cheese on a piece of bread for Mark’s school lunch. “You listen to a lot of artists and once in a while, a song speaks to you.”
The following day, Mark was annoyed when he came back from school. “My friends don’t know Jackson.”
It took me a few seconds to understand. “Michael Jackson?”
“Yeah. They don’t know him.”
“Oh… well, he isn’t as famous these days anymore, I guess. Plus, he’s dead.”
“HE’S DEAD? MICHAEL JACKSON IS DEAD?”
“Huh, yeah. Sorry.”
“But how?! What happened?”
“Good question, many people wondered about that,” I replied while folding my arms over my chest. I was wearing my Nirvana t-shirt and it felt wrong to tell him that Kurt Cobain too was dead.
Mark had me write “Michael Jackson” on a piece of paper to bring to school—never mind that most kids probably can’t read. I thought this was the end of the story until a few days later, when the three of us drove to the Chinese supermarket and Mark immediately asked for “Michael Jackson.” Feng obliged, playing Beat It from his USB key.
“Are you serious?”
“Every time we get in the car.”
And then Mark started singing along.
I was simultaneously amused, proud and relieved that I hadn’t gotten him addicted to Eminem, Metallica or The Offspring.
On the way back, after Bad, I played him the video of Another Brick in The Wall.
“Oh. My. God. They are breaking a wall!”
“That’s pretty much the concept.”
“The Pink Floyd.”
“Like daddy’s t-shirt! Oh, OH…! Like my name! Mark Floyd!”
Yes, honey. Like your name.