Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Exhausted Dad: Mystery of the secret voice

by TYLER WILSON/Coeur Voice Contributor
| November 18, 2023 1:00 AM

In a few short years, I’m convinced this generation of Helicopter Parents will invent a device that will monitor their children 24 hours a day. Forget about phone trackers and nanny cams. I’m talking about a full-time robot with the surveillance capabilities of the NSA.

To be clear, I would not want such a device. I strive to be an involved parent who understands that a child also needs to be independent and solve at least some problems on their own.

But…. I might rent one for a few days. Because I want to see how my kids act when I’m not around. Because there are some mysteries that won’t be solved without it.

For example, my 10-year-old son decided to join choir this year at his elementary school.

I have never heard that child sing a song in his entire life.

When he was little, he’d mumble or hum along as I sang “You Are My Sunshine.” During the school performances he’s had over the years, he’s appeared to move his lips without the kind of breathing that “singing loud for all to hear” would require. He looked like someone performing on a float during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the 4th-tier member of a 2000s-era boy band.

So why would a kid who doesn’t ever sing want to join a voluntary, extra-curricular singing group?

I’ve asked him this question many times.

“What songs are you singing for your first concert?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” he says.

Me: “Sing a little bit of one and see if I can guess.”

Him: “I don’t think it would sound right if I sang it by myself.”

I told him to try anyway. It’s fun! It’s a guessing game!

Him: “I don’t really know any of the words yet,” he says.

Me: Aren’t you singing at the Veterans Day assembly in a couple days?”

Him: “Oh, too bad you’re not a veteran and won’t see my assembly.”

I’ve tried other tactics to hear his singing voice. None have worked. I did get close once…

My youngest son, 6, likes for me to sing a few songs before bedtime every night. Currently I’m performing the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” TV theme song, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story,” and that “I Love You” song from Barney… a children’s program none of my children have ever seen.

Until fairly recently, my youngest also had me sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” complete with a self-made alternate ending that goes, “He’ll go down in history… like lifetime achievement Oscar winner Samuel L. Jackson.” My youngest then screams things like, “Plays Nick Fury! Plays Frozone! Plays a guy in ‘Jurassic Park!'” I’m the coolest parent I know. I’m currently taking November off for Christmas songs though, just so they feel fresh in December.

Anyway, in the middle of a couple different renditions of “Rudolph,” I’ve stopped midway and made up a reason to fetch something upstairs. I then told my oldest son to take over for me and sing to his little brother until I returned. Then I left the room and lingered in the hallway around the corner, hoping to hear a few bars of that possibly majestic, 10-year-old singing voice.

Well, he loves his little brother, and so he’d never decline to recite the words to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to him.

Yes, I said “recite.” Because he didn’t sing the song. He just said the words in a regular voice. I’ve heard more melody at a junior high slam poetry reading.

Look, maybe he’s nervous about singing in front of others by himself. Or at least around his parents and siblings. After all, being in a choir isn’t as scary as performing alone onstage. Still, he claims he’s never been nervous, and he even did a magic act with his friend for a talent show in front of the whole school. If it is nerves, it’s linked to singing only. I don’t believe it.

I need to know if my son sings. Unfortunately, I feel like if I ask him again it might be characterized by some as verbal harassment.

Going to his upcoming choir concert won’t solve the mystery either. He’ll be there, sure, but he can get away with lip-syncing or using his “Rudolph” speaking voice again.

I could try asking someone else (like his music teacher) to have him sing a few lines of a song alone… then I could conveniently be standing in the hallway to hear it. No, nevermind. He’ll know I said something and refuse. He’s so strong-willed. The drug dealers will have no chance of peer pressuring him!

There’s only one solution: Advanced surveillance robot. I fundamentally believe in every person’s right to privacy. But just like Batman using intrusive surveillance to locate the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” I need to catch this man.

• • •

Tyler Wilson is a freelance writer, full-time student and parent to four kids, ages 6-12. He is tired. He can be reached at

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