Peterson: Pour some ‘Sugar’ on me
My 4-year-old desperately wants to talk to Google. We’ll be in the kitchen making pancakes for breakfast, and I’ll tell our Google Home Mini to play some Sam Cooke or Otis Redding or Kacey Musgraves, and without fail, my son will run over to the smart speaker and start yelling.
“Hey, Google, play ‘Sugar’ Maroon 5!”
“’Sugar’ Maroon 5,” if you’re confused, is this catchy little earworm called “Sugar” performed by the pop band Maroon 5. It came out five years ago and has been on repeat in our house and in the car nonstop for what feels like an eternity.
The entire family is trapped in a constant state of “Sugar.” I’ve heard the song so many times that I could belt it out at karaoke with a bag over my head and bar patrons throwing darts at me.
Max even loves the video, which shows the band crashing weddings around Los Angeles. The whole thing was staged, with fake brides and grooms, but he doesn’t care. He just loves to dance and sing along, screaming at the top of his little lungs, “That’s my SUGAR! YES, PLEASE! Won’t you come and put it down on me?”
Although, with his high-pitched little voice, Google can never quite understand him. It’s an unrequited love affair, this call-and-no-response between a boy and a talking speaker.
I’m a sucker for best-of lists at the end of the year, but ever since becoming a dad, I’ve been reluctant to share my top Spotify plays on Facebook or Twitter to avoid getting clowned. A few years ago, my top song of the year was Katy Perry’s “Firework.” The year after that it was Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”
Did I mention I have an 8-year-old daughter?
This year, my top three songs, in order, were “Sugar” by Maroon 5, “Downtown” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake.
It’d be a great top three for a 12-year-old … in 2016.
“Downtown,” if you’ve never heard it, is a nearly five-minute-long rap opera featuring hip-hop legends Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel, and Kool Moe Dee that contains 706 words. It includes bars such as: “She got 1988 Mariah Carey hair, very rare, mom jeans on her derriere. Throwing up the West Side as we tear in the air. Stop by Pike Place, throwing fish to a player.”
My son knows all 706 of those words by heart, as do I. How he ever became attached to this corny song, I’ll never know, but at times this past year, I’ve had to rap it to him in bed.
We’ll be laying there, him fighting to go to sleep, and I’ll be softly whispering to him: “I got one girl, I got two wheels. She a big girl, that ain’t a big deal. I like a big girl, I like ’em sassy. Going down the backstreet listening to Blackstreet!”
So much for “Rockabye Baby” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
And it’s not just the songs that he’s obsessed with listening to over and over. We’ve literally been reading the same three books before bed for what feels like months now. He can recite “Green Eggs and Ham” by heart, as well as “Dragons Love Tacos” and “Before the Fall,” this vividly illustrated book about Humpty Dumpty actually being a bird who yearns to fly.
Why can’t we read new books? Or listen to new music? Well, for one, as my wife and I recently learned in this 14-week parenting class that we took together called “The Incredible Years,” there’s a scientific reason why my son wants to listen to “Sugar” for the 5,000th time. His brain, at this stage in his life, has no concept of time. It doesn’t matter that we just listened to “Downtown” two songs ago, or that we read “Dragons Love Tacos” last night and the night before that.
He wants to hear it or read it … right now. He lives for the moment every minute of every day.
Which, when you think about it, is a great lesson for parents, too.
“The Incredible Years” gave us so many tools to cope with our son’s behavior and to help him grow socially and emotionally. It also provided a great weekly support group to talk to other parents struggling with some of the same issues. Given the fact that he can rap a 706-word song and recite whole books by heart tells us he’s smart like his older sister.
But the class, which I’d tell anyone to take, is as much about learning how your kid processes the world as it is about changing how you see the world as a parent. Too often, we’re fixated on getting to the next step in a child’s development — eating real food, walking, potty training, reading, and on and on — that we can’t just enjoy the hilarious, beautiful moments that come from watching our kids grow up.
We need to live for the moment, too. One of these days, and it will come way too soon, my son will get sick of listening to “Sugar” or reading “Dragons Love Tacos” at bedtime. He’ll even get sick of me, and be embarrassed by his corny dad trying to rap.
Which is why, the next time he wants to hear “’Sugar’ Maroon 5!” I’ll gladly tell Google to tee it up.
Editor Nate Peterson is secretly a member of the Maroon 5 fan club. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org