The science behind babies, juice tantrums and watching 'MythBusters' until you buy a motorcycle

www.jeffvrabel.comJune 17, 2013 

Because a 9-year-old lives in it, our house has pretty strict rules about TV. But because I'm a reasonable parent -- and by that I mean "inconsistent whenever it's convenient for me" -- I tend to waive those rules under appropriate circumstances, such as whenever we feel like watching one or four episodes of "MythBusters."

This is happening right now: The 9-year-old is currently enjoying an episode in which a guy rides a motorcycle across the watery surface of a decent-sized lake, which is TOTALLY WORKING. It's causing him to look at me with an expression that you'd expect from someone who just learned that Iron Man was coming over to play Minecraft. (In 10 years when my son is doing something idiotic on a motorcycle, my family is welcome to find this column, tear it out of the paper, hold it six inches in front of my face and go, "GEE, WHAT A SURPRISE HIS INTEREST IN MOTORCYCLES MUST BE TO YOU.")

There's also a 11/2-year-old in the house, but lest you think I'm a neglectful parent, I can assure you he only watches "MythBusters" up until his bedtime. Before that, though, he's really into it. Basically the little one regards the TV as a delivery system for "Wild Kratts," "MythBusters" and when Dad decides he wants to play music. That last instance, of course, means that TV is not playing "Wild Kratts" or "MythBusters," which means the little one must register his discontent via a monstrous shrieking tantrum that now comes complete with alternating foot-stomping and an a 20-second period at the beginning in which he doesn't take a breath, just sits there, furious, lips turning kind of blue, before unleashing a DVD shelf-rattling roar not unlike that of the dragon from "The Hobbit." He also performs this tantrum when he doesn't get juice, when he does get juice, when he's picked up, when he's put down, when he's put in the car seat, when he's removed from the car seat, when you give him peanut butter, when you don't give him peanut butter, when you're too slow to give him peanut butter, when you insist on feeding him the peanut butter yourself because he's terrible at working the spoon, and when you finally give up and let him have the spoon and he jams peanut butter into his eye.

Anyway, I like to justify my son's "MythBusters" exposure by watching with him and shouting "Science!" like that guy in that Thomas Dolby song. Because it's accurate! "MythBusters" isn't an attention-deficit cartoon designed to inflate toy-shop profit margins or move cereal units, it's a LEARNING SHOW! There are PHYSICS IN IT! And valuable lessons about force and weight, and scientific methods, and OK fine, they smash trucks into each other. Come on, this is the best show ever for 9-year-olds. It's a Michael Bay movie for children who are smarter than Michael Bay (so all of them). I don't know why every 9-year-old in the world doesn't watch this show, except possibly for all the bazooka action?

Ugh, helicopter parents.

If there had been "MythBusters" when I was 9, I would have spent lots more time figuring out how to construct parachutes from shower curtains or how to turn our water heater into a small space-worthy rocket instead of whatever I was doing, which was probably memorizing pointless trivia about "Star Wars" bounty hunters and inhabitants of the World Wrestling Federation. I'd much rather be able to rig a remote-control city bus and learn ninja tricks than tell you who Hulk Hogan beat in WrestleMania II, which was obviously King Kong Bundy, and I'm going to go get drunk now.

Besides, if quality television so happens to involve endearing humans rocketing themselves down million-foot makeshift watersides and crashing backhoes into things, well, SCIENCE! Last night, for real, I told Little Man that we could go to the grocery store for something tomorrow, and his instant response was: "Don't forget the Diet Coke and Mentos!" We also did a science fair project on Diet Coke and Mentos. Whenever he finds an errant Mento in the house, you can see him surreptitiously looking around for something carbonated to try dropping it in. This is actually a little worrisome, but at least it means he's not yet experimenting with motorcycles.

Jeff Vrabel has never been blinded with science, but he got a cold from algebra once. He can be reached at www.jeffvrabel.com and/or followed at twitter.com/jeffvrabel.

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