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MAN OF THE HOUSE

6-year-old boys and grown men: Is there a difference?

February 14, 2009|CHRIS ERSKINE

The ultimate irony is that, in this late-in-life child, my sainted wife gets another kicking and screaming version of me. Not an upgrade, exactly. Just a replay. Seriously, how lucky can one woman get?

Here are the things that the little guy, now 6, has in common with me, his father:

* We always root for the underdog . . . always.

* We prefer animated movies to actual life.

* We cry when dogs die, on-screen or off.

* To us, "Wichita Lineman" is the best song ever -- not a wasted note, with God himself playing backup guitar.

* We're each suspicious of romance and its many complicated entanglements.

* Salty foods sustain us.

That's it. These half-dozen little principles seem to have bound us for life. The little guy considers me his best friend and vice versa. As with all best friends, we can be brutally honest and a little naggy.

"You call that a nose?" I ask him.

"Where'd you get those teeth?" he says.

He is relentlessly funny. He knows dozens of knock-knock jokes and can tell you exactly why the chicken crossed the road. (Favorite answer: to get to the other slide.)

Before he could walk, I taught him how to deliver a punch line. Not that I'm an expert or anything. I just didn't want him making the same mistakes I had.

"Surprise is the key to comedy," I tell him.

"It is?"

"SURPRISE!" I yell, and he laughs till his freckles dance.

Yes, 6-year-olds are all aspiring comics. Just like all 6-year-olds know karate and could kill you in one kick if they wanted. They walk backward as well as frontward. They can take apart anything in about four seconds. They are binge thinkers.

At 6, little boys still believe in elves, fairies, Easter bunnies, goblins, angels, ogres, witches, superheroes and professional ballplayers. Six-year-olds have fingers like glue sticks and never come completely clean. You could run a 6-year-old through a carwash, and he'd still come out with one Rice Krispie stuck to his stomach.

Perhaps the best thing about a 6-year-old is how he makes everyone around him feel young again -- except, of course, his own dear mother. Ever see the mother of a 6-year-old boy? You'll know her instantly, because she looks like the walking cadaver at the end of a five-hour race. She's sleepy, like Dracula. There's a very good chance she has head lice.

The mother of a 6-year-old boy is the luckiest unlucky person you ever met, for each day there is glee and joy and mayhem and near-death experiences. There is a lifetime of living, in every hour.

The other day, I helped the little guy blow his nose, and a red Christmas bead came out. It had probably been there, safe and warm, for seven weeks. I'm no doctor, but I realized right away that this was not a good use of red Christmas beads.

"You coulda choked," I warned him.

"In my nose?"

"It's all connected," I told him. "The entire body is connected to the nose."

"Wow," he said, amazed at my understanding of medicine.

In his kindergarten classroom there are, no kidding, 35 boxes of Kleenex on a shelf, three for each boy. I worry sometimes that that will not be enough and that they may run out of Kleenex here in the middle of a long, runny-nose winter. My suggestion? Dial 9-1-1. Pray.

As every parent of a 6-year-old will attest, nasal distress is a constant. My theory is that it's the result of not enough exercise. Like foals, 6-year-olds need to run, run, run. Or they begin to melt from the inside.

To a 6-year-old, exercise is key and roughhousing represents two of the three major sports. Mom hates it -- the noise, the broken lamps -- but I remind her that it ultimately makes him a better, sleepier person when the day is over.

"I am Batman!" the little guys screams as another roughhouse session begins.

"I am Troy Polamalumalumaluma!" I announce, making him laugh.

See? Surprise.

Now, we are about to begin baseball. Because 6-year-olds aren't inherently dangerous enough -- though remember, they could kill you with just one kick -- we are now arming them with large metal bats.

"This is insane," I say after the first practice.

"What isn't?" says my wife.

Thing is, his older brother used to be this very same way. Till he got a little grown up and came to his senses, we hung out together, watched TV, dug for worms, made forts out of pillows.

Now older, his brother has started to wander off, like a dragon in a children's song. But when he's around, frequently enough, we still laugh at all the same things. I hope it's because of early investments like this.

Sons, huh? I've given her two -- some assembly required.

Happy Valentine's.

--

chris.erskine@latimes.com.

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