By Kristin van Ogtrop
Updated January 21, 2015
Joe Ciardiello

Or: What do you do when your 4-year-old has much older brothers?

Last night Middle was telling me about the short story he read in English class yesterday, and I asked if I could read it. It was “Charles,” by Shirley Jackson. The only Shirley Jackson story I ever remember reading was—of course—“The Lottery,” and I was surprised by how sweet, funny, and un-creepy “Charles” is by comparison.

For those of you who have never read it, let’s just say “Charles” concerns the misbehavior of a boy in kindergarten. After reading it, my thoughts immediately turned to our youngest who, at age 4, just started his last year of preschool.

Now, when you are a 4 year old and have two older brothers, ages 13 and 16, you are exposed to all sorts of things that you probably should not be. Despite the best efforts of your parents. Who really are trying their best. But cannot keep every single person in the house under lock and key at all times. And are, after all, a bit tired by child number 3.


  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Spore
  • Green Day
  • Soda with meals (well, Shirley Temples, and only at a restaurant, but still)
  • Cursing
  • Scarily liberal use of the word “stupid”
  • The trailer for Easy A
  • Cee Lo Green (the clean version of those famous lyrics—but still)

But, worst of all, is the possibility that his favorite song is something completely awful for a 4-year-old to have heard even once, faintly, from a transistor radio, oh, in the next-door neighbor’s yard. For a while his favorite song was “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” by Jet. Really, fairly tame. (And, inexplicably, he would laugh every time they sang “big black boots.”) Then it was “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Again, totally acceptable. But now, just in time for the beginning of school, his choice of favorite song has taken a terrible turn. What is a mother to do when he sings this one in school?!?!?!?!