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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria (and her Goats)?

By Rachael Nachtwey

Of course, it is the season to be grateful and loving and I, getting caught up in the holiday spirit, find myself taking more time to express a kind word or a thoughtful gesture at this time of year. I’m a bit more patient with people who bump into me on the street and I smile at strangers. Your friend’s “Save the Chickens” cause? Send him my way. Of course, I’ll give a few bucks to protect our fowl friends. Doggone it, it’s Christmastime!

So how can I possibly, in the midst of my festive glow, lose some of those warm fuzzy feelings of appreciation for all humankind around little Ethan, of all people? Yes, my darling 20-month-old charge, whom I cherish with all my heart and soul, has helped me understand that along with war, poverty, and world hunger, there are other things, closer to home, that I am not so thankful for. Before you jump to the conclusion that I am a complete monster who should never be allowed children, hear me out.

On one particularly rainy, shit!-we’re-not-gonna-get-out-of-the-house kind of days, I was running out of ways to stimulate Ethan. After looking at one of his alphabet books for the 24th time and noticing the “D is for Deer” page, I started singing “Doe, a deer, a female deer!” Needing very little positive reinforcement from Ethan as I, like some sort of muppet, will pounce on any opportunity to sing or dance, his sly grin kept me going. Soon, I was staging a full Sound of Music performance from the comfort of his very own living room. After exhausting my voice (and probably the neighbor’s patience), I decided to locate the video clips of those same musical numbers on youtube.

Suddenly remembering one of my favorite parts of the movie, I excitedly cued up “The Lonely Goatheard” (the famous puppet show scene where Ms. Andrews illustrates to the world that she cannot possibly be cuter). As Julie and Co. yodeled and the marionettes danced, I bounced Ethan on my lap and yodeled along. The kid was mesmerized. I’m talking mouth-open, no-blinking mesmerized. When it was over, those big blue eyes looked up at me and he said, “Mas?” (Sidenote: Yes, the Spanish continues!) How thrilled was I? The Sound of Music, one of my all time favorite movies (who doesn’t get a little weepy when Christopher Plumber sings Edelweiss) touches another generation! I happily hit the replay button and the goats and Maria were off once more! Again, little Ethan was completely still. And absolutely enthralled.

Fast forward a month. My adoration for Ms. Andrews and her drape sporting crew is waning, to say the least. Like Pavlov’s dogs, Ethan has learned to associate me with this godforsaken four minute video clip. Now, when he sees me, he cries for “Lay-lo” (his version of “yodel-ay-ee-ooh!”, not homage to Clapton as I initially thought). He’s become a full on Sound of Music junkie. He can’t get enough. He wakes up thinking about it and immediately wants a fix. “Lay-lo!” he often cries to his mother from his crib. It pops into his head at the most inopportune times. While on the slide one day, he turned his red-cheeked face to me and forlornly whimpered “Lay-lo”, knowing full well that bundled up in our bulky coats, eight blocks from home, “Lay-lo” was not an option. But like any addict can tell you, the desire never ceases. It just gets worse. Just like your knowledge of those Thin Mints in the pantry will later lead you to inhale a sleeve of them, he cannot control his urge. For God’s sake, the prancing goats are just a click away! Baby, hit me one more time!

Ethan’s parents now have to play the clip for him, too. However, together, we have devised a plan (an intervention, if you will) that after so many plays, we say “bye-bye” to “Lay-lo”. Can I tell you what an ogre I feel like when after two plays (my limit now since the song is quite literally running through my head a good chunk of the day, every day), I wave “Bye, Lay-lo” to the screen and in 0.5 seconds, have shut down the entire computer? Especially since I introduced this crack to him in the first place?

But I am happy to report that Ethan is in recovery now. Guilt laden, I have taken on the role of sponsor. I talk him through it when he’s jonesing. I remind him of his books and other toys. However, this redirection is not always successful and we have a long road to complete sobriety. In fact, I may have just replaced one addiction with another. If it’s not goats, a red, furry monster with big googly eyes now has his attention. And he sings equally annoying songs. (Sigh).

As for me, I am coming to terms with the fact that there are things I am not grateful for or glowing about this holiday season. Ethan? Of course, always and forever will I be crazy about that kid, no matter how often I hear those two syllables from him. But Ms. Andrews, as much as I love you and your exquisite voice, this is one Christmas that will most definitely go by without me watching you flounce around the Alps. I might even say, “So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodnight…” I’ll see you next year…if you’re lucky.

Nachtwey is a Brooklyn Nanny, a freelance writer and regular contributor to Hip Slope Mama. She can be reached at Rachael.Nachtwey@gmail.com.