A Chicago toddler has one secret to a less stressed December

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with Professor Foster ( his “Brown Mom” wife), and their daughter Viva, who is smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy.

My three-year-old knows that as soon as you wake up, it’s time to get down. With the sun barely in the sky and the city’s bogus street-cleaning tickets barely placed under everyone’s windshield wipers, Viva is already asking for my phone – not to play a kiddie app or call her Grandparents, but to play her music.

“Dance with me, Daddy!”

“Rrrgggghh. Daddy is still asleep, Pumpkin Bear.”

“Daddy, dance with me!”

Of course, I don’t want to dance with her, because I am old, tired, out of shape, and coming out of REM sleep just in time to worry about the day’s events. But even though I’ve got about 150 pounds on her, my daughter’s personal gravity is vastly more powerful than mine, and in a few minutes I’m in front of the hallway mirror with her “tearing the roof off the sucker” to a Parliament song or Bruno Mars.

And afterward?

I’m awake, I’m laughing and I’ve kick started my metabolism with a little cardiovascular activity before I’ve even checked with twenty work emails already on my phone. (I can’t check it, she’s playing music on it. It’s the perfect way to keep my attention.)

And we dance again after breakfast, after lunch, after supper and after a bath. Every day. A whole lot of rhythm going ‘round. And I like it.

You see, it’s December, and between end of fiscal year work pileups, expensive shopping, an overbooked social calendar, and the valves and flanges already popping off the cars and house as winter sets in, it’s a stressful time for any adult. And for a parent, getting your exercise in either means losing a few more hours of precious sleep and stowing your child with your spouse while you hit the expensive gym, or running along LSD in the freezing cold and probably getting run over by a roller blader, bitten by a dog, or just turning an ankle and missing your staff meeting as you inhale carbon monoxide fumes from passing traffic and pray someone stops to help you.

The P Funk only costs 99 cents on iTunes, and can be shared in the warmth of your home.

“But, Matt,” you may cry, “Your particular household gives you a tenuous Mothership Connection I just don’t have, and you’re an arty farty who probably owns a bag of dance shoes … I, like my idol Phil Collins, can’t dance!”

These things may be true, but something else I’ve learned from Viva – you don’t have to know how to dance to go ahead and dance. If you COMMIT, you look good. Or at least you look committed. Or you look like you should be committed, but you’ll make people smile as they come to take you away. (Taylor Swift is trying to make this point, as well, but she’s also trying to rhyme “play,” “hate,” and “shake,” which I just can’t allow in my home.)

That’s it … dance it out. You’ll have fun, feel better and take everything less seriously. You may even stave off your stress and Portillo’s Italian Combo-induced heart attack by days, even weeks.

To help you along the way, I’m going to list five of Viva’s favorite jams:

Give Up the Funk (Parliament, 1975)

Here’s a classic by which to turn any mother out.

Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, 2014)

Funk is big in our house, and we frequently have Chucks on with Saint Laurent. Also, this new song in the vein of Morris Day and the Time starts with a baseline that won’t let us sit still. Do note this song has the “B Word” in it, so be a good parent and memorize the lyrics so you can shout “Girl” over that word.

There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens (1956 Louis Jordan version)

Funk not your thing? Here’s a classic swing number – and it’s about chickens! Great for partner dancing with your pint size swing kid.

Land of 1,000 Dances (1966 Wilson Pickett version)

It teaches you counting! (To three, anyhow.) And you can take to YouTube if you can’t yet pony like Bony Maronie or do the Watusi like my cousin Lucy – plus every kid can sing along with the “na na” part.

Bom Bom (Sam and the Womp, 2012)

This is a weird little UK dance hit with some fun nonsense lyrics (and something about rum, but Viva just figures it involves pirates) and a great horn line.

One little bonus song she’s been digging, Frankie Lymon’s 1957 cover of “Goody Goody.” We tried listening to the Tony Bennett and Lady GaGa version, but Viva just asked my why “the lady keeps talking kinda weird over the music.” Good question.

So try it, as a wake up, as a constitutional, as a digestif, as a nightcap. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

You can CALL the White Dads now on their hotline:  (347) 766-3866. Leave a message or a question they can play on the podcast!

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