Among my favorite customers at the bar where I work are Scotty and his little boy; Declan. Scotty and I usually shoot the bull about sports, cooking, movies and music. We don’t discuss women, because being married his life is essentially over in that sense, and I don’t want to make him feel bad. He’s easy to talk to and I enjoy his company. He usually stops by for a beer or three with Declan after getting the little boy a slice of pepperoni pizza from the pizzeria next door. “Fold it in half and then eat it…You’re a New Yorker boy, and you’re going to eat you pizza like on”. Declan promptly ignores this and picks off the southern most slice of pepperoni and eats that before going into his own unique slice consumption technique.
While Papa Scotty drinks beer, Declan has a ginger ale which he asks for with a “Please” followed by a “Thank You”. I’m thrilled in this day of so many entitled little brats and their enabling clueless parents walking around that someone is teaching their child good manners, how to share and respect for elders. ( Although I hate being thought of as an “elder”, even to a three year old ) I once made him a Shirley Temple, but the sugary grenadine made him act like a Tasmanian devil under the influence of 3 double espressos.
I also thought I should address a little boy being in a bar. I can certainly understand the concern or disapproval of such a thing. Our owner is from rural Ireland where people bring their kids, dogs etc. to the local pub. It’s a warm and” neighborhoody” place and these are Declan’s neighbors who he has grown up around his whole life. We also take pains to ensure that no one swears or discusses anything “adult” near him.
Declan is a cute little boy with angel-blond hair. He’s quick to smile and laugh, plus he’s reasonably well behaved for a 3 year old. Frankly if he was anymore well behaved, I probably wouldn’t be so fond of him. I like kids with a touch of mischief to them. I have a low brat threshold and an appreciation for childlike devilry…Probably because I can relate to it. He reminds me a little of Calvin from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes I am also fond of the name “Declan” which is the name of an Irish saint. My employers also have a son named Declan. He’s never bratty near me, and on the rare occasion that he starts to cry or whine all I need to say is “Declan stop whining” or “Declan, be a big boy” and he’ll stop immediately. My best friend has expressed a great deal of frustration that this technique doesn’t seem to work with me. She has tried “Putting me in time out” but has found that I am generally more responsive to corporal punishment and yelling.
Recently Declan has been asking his father to drop by the bar to visit me more frequently. ” I want to go visit Uncle Scott”. Now I know I’m lovable and marinated in particularly potent awesome-sauce, but my little 3 year old friend has an ulterior motive in coming to see me. I have been bringing my computer to work and I take care of the bar’s ( and my) social media updates. A few weeks ago I went on youtube and found some clips of “The Swedish Chef” from The Muppets that I thought Declan might like to watch while his dad and I discussed the shortcomings of each other’s football teams. As I said, we don’t swear in front of the boy…so we spell out all the no-no words. “The Pittsburgh Steelers eat dead wino C-O-C-K” Declan was promptly hooked on The Swedish Chef. Scotty and my theory is that because Scotty likes to cook at home and Declan “helps” him in the kitchen that he relates to the chef. Plus, of course, the Muppets are wonderful for people of any age.
“Wanna see the Weedish Chef” Declan will exclaim when I plop my laptop in front of him. “OK…OK…hold your horses” I say (God, I loathe being a grownup and saying crap like that. Next thing you know I’ll be belching out parental clichés like “It’s good for you” and “Because I said so”) So I cue up “Weedish Chef” clips for him and seeing the rapturous delight on his face makes my life a little more worth living. We’ve watched every Swedish Chef clip at least 5 times, but he hasn’t tired of them yet…He even has some favorite clips which he has titled based on whatever the hapless chef was attempting to cook. “Popcorn” or “Pum-kin Carving” or as the Chef says “Kar-vin dee Pooompkin” he’ll request. as those are a couple of his favorites.
Scotty and I have attempted to introduce Declan to some of the other Muppets like Kermit, Statler and Waldorf, Pepe the King Prawn, Gonzo…No dice. He wants the chef and pretty much only the chef.
I am a huge fan of Beeker the masochistic and anxious lab assistant Muppet. I collect Beeker toys and I find him hilarious and cute. Today, I tried once again to introduce my young friend to one of my favorite Muppet characters and I cued up a clip of Beeker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew for Declan. Declan patiently indulged me and watched for a few seconds, and then his face changed to one of sad concern. I hadn’t thought about it until I saw the little boys face, but Beeker’s lot in life is pretty horrifying. He works for an incompetent scientist-inventor who uses him willy-nilly as a crash test dummy or ( dangerous ) product tester. I felt bad as Declan pointed at the screen and said to me and his father “He needs help” Yes, I suppose Beeker could use some help. I also felt hopeful in that this little boy of 3 is already learning empathy, pity , kindness and a desire to help others who might be having a hard time. Don’t ever lose that Declan…it can be in short supply in this world.
“Be a good boy, or there wont be any beatings for you”
In addition to the Muppets, I like to put Declan on my shoulders, toss him around and roughhouse with him. In the back of the bar where I work are some lounge areas with couches and small tables. I love to grab my little buddy, sling him over my shoulder and carry him to the couches while I announce in a loud voice ” OK boy…that’s it, you’re getting a beating” When we get to the couches I drop him on top of the cushions in a slamming motion and I punch the cushions next to him pro-wrestler style. “Arrrrgh” I exclaim, picking him up and pretending to slam him again. ” Oh, Ladies and Gentlemen…This once great fighter “Declan Dynamite” is in big trouble here at Madison Square Garden…” I say as I pretend to punch him and then tickle him mercilessly. Declan giggles and shouts. “Again!!!” I pick him up and “slam” him down a few more times, tickle him and make wrestling commentary until I get tired. He is the only human being I have ever met who asks to be tickled more, instead of begging the tickler to stop. I used to hate when bigger or older friends and relatives held me down and tickled me, and my ex girlfriends would start to look for heavy objects to brain me with whenever I tickled them.
After his beating, I usually announce “That’s it boy…get outta here now, yer buggin me” and will run gleefully back to his fathers side. Scotty will ask “Did you get a beating?” to which Declan will squeal blissfully “Yeah!!” Sometimes I carry him back to where his dad is and ask. “You want this back?” Scotty will answer nonchalantly ” I dunno, let me think about it”
Sometimes Declan wants to “Play in his cave”. What he means by this, is for me to put a couple of the small tables together for him to crawl under and in to…like a cave. I don’t want to deny him any fun, but I get a little worried he’s going to bang his head a good one on the low ceiling of his “cave”. I sound like an old lady telling him “Watch your head…don’t hit your head”. When did I become such an old lady?
These shenanigans have become quite routine. I started asking nonchalantly “You wanna beating Declan?” He immediately brightens up and squeals out a delighted “YEAH”. I make an exaggerated mean face and grab him, tossing him over my shoulder, then we make our way over to the couches. Scotty and the other regulars think this is hilarious. I suppose it is.
This routine has lead to some problems. Perhaps unaware of the literal meaning, Declan with his young child’s gift for horrible timing and brutal honesty will exclaim in public to his dad…”I need a beating” or ” I didn’t get my beating today and I’ve been good”, and all adults within earshot give Scotty a look of utter disgust prior to hopping on their phones to child protective services.
I experienced a similar reaction when Declan’s mother; Denise came in one day, and Declan piped up “Uncle Scott gave me a beating today”. Denise flashed me a less than pleased look at this and I shrugged sheepishly trying to explain.
Luckily now Denise is with the program, and even uses our game as incentive. “Declan, if you can’t act like a big boy, them I’m taking you home and No Beatings”