A Father's Diary

By , Contributor

Andre and Myriam Burger in 2002

Andre Burger (born 4/95) and his sister Myriam (born 4/99) have been keeping their parents well entertained. Between smiles, their father, Jeff Burger, has been taking notes.

1998

I reminded Andre that his mommy is having a baby in April. "You're kidding!" he said. "No, really," I answered. "You've seen her tummy—what do you think she's got in there?" His answer: "I think maybe it's food."

*****

Andre always cries when I wash his hair. Last night, though, I managed to keep him smiling initially; then I said, "Hey, you're not crying! Your crying machine must be broken!" He was so intrigued with that thought that he didn't cry once during the rest of the hair wash. Instead, he just proclaimed, "My crying machine is broken!" But this morning, when I went into his room, he cried and said, "Go away—I want Mommy!" "What's going on?" I said. "I thought your crying machine was broken." He thought a second and said, "I fixed it."

*****

Andre's been using the word "mystery" a lot since asking me about the title of the Beatles' album Magical Mystery Tour. The other night, when he was tucked into bed, I said, "Can I have a kiss?" His answer: "Well, I'm very busy right now." Me: "Well, could you call me at work tomorrow?" Andre: "I don't want to talk on the phone." "Why not?" Andre: "It's a mystery."

*****

"See your belly button?" I asked. "You got food through it when you were in Mommy's tummy." "You mean my umbilical cord?" he said.

1999

Last night, Andre said he wanted to stay awake forever. I told him that there are six billion people in the world and every one of them needs sleep. "They do, but I don't," he said.

*****

I asked Andre whether he wanted pizza for lunch and he threw a tantrum. "I don't want pizza! Don't make it! I won't change my mind!" I heated it up anyway. He walked in and saw the pizza. "Would you like a glass of milk?" I said. "Yes," he said. "I'll have it with the pizza."

*****

Andre likes to pretend that his food is various people, including past presidents. The other day he told me he had George Bush on his fork. "George Bush?" I said. "Yeah," he said. "George Bush is a waffle! Did you expect that?"

*****

Andre's doctor said, "I hear you're getting a baby sister! That's exciting. What are you going to do when she comes?" Andre's reply: "I'm trying to decide. I'm either going to be mean to her, or get rid of her, or move to Philadelphia."

*****

Andre said that we don't love him anymore but will "after I get rid of the baby." So I said, "You're wrong, little guy." (I often call him "little guy.") His reply: "You're wrong...grown-up!"

2000

Andre was denying vehemently that Myriam was his sister. I explained to him that it was a simple fact—that when a boy and girl have the same parents, it means they're brother and sister. "Not this time!" he said.

*****

Last night, Andre asked why Madeleine and I make rules in unison. I told him it would be too confusing for him if we each had different rules. "Like what if Mommy said to eat noodles and cheese and I said to eat Cheerios? You wouldn't know who to listen to." His answer: "Well, if you wanted me to eat Cheerios, I'd listen to you."

*****

Andre was sitting on the couch this afternoon and asking me what made the sun, and I told him no one knows for sure how the Earth and sun and stars were made, but it was billions of years ago. So he said in total seriousness, "Was it before this couch was made?"

*****

Madeleine and I were trying to get Andre to go to bed and he was telling us we weren't being patient enough. Finally, he turned to his sister and said, "I'm sorry, Myriam. Your parents aren't being very good right now."

*****

Andre asked me why I hadn't stayed married to my first wife. "Well," I said, "I was young and I made a mistake." "How old were you when you married her?" he asked. "Thirty," I said. "That's pretty old," he said. "Do grown-ups make mistakes, too?"

2001

When Andre got a doll for Christmas, he asked whether I thought Santa made it or bought it. I said he had a toy factory at the North Pole, so he probably made it. "Then how come it says, 'Made in China'?" he asked.

*****

"Do you know where milk comes from?" I asked Myriam the other night. "I do," she said proudly. "It comes from the kitchen."

*****

I was driving home with Andre and Myriam when they started saying they had to have pizza immediately. "What do you want me to do?" I asked. "Cook in the car while I'm driving?" "Yes!" Andre said. So I reached back and pretended to hand him a slice. "Here it is," I said, and he held out a hand to take it. "Hey!" he said, genuinely annoyed. "This isn't real! You're just pretending!"

*****

Andre was upset that we wouldn't give him a puppet he wanted. "We'll find something else to give you," I said. "OK," he said, "but it has to be something very, very big—like you and Mommy move out of the house and I own it."

2002

I was trying to get Myriam to go to bed, but she wanted to sit up. So I said, "Can you cuddle up with me? I need someone to keep me warm." "I can't do that but I can get you a blanket."

*****

Myriam: "Andre, you're not the parent!" Andre: "You're not the parent either, Myriam!" Myriam pointed to her dolls and said emphatically, "I am the parent to my babies!"

*****

I told Andre that his mother's cousin was flying in for a visit. "Why is he taking an airplane after all the tragedies?" Andre asked. "He's coming from Israel," I explained, "which is across the ocean." "Well," he asked, "why can't he swim?"

*****

Andre lost his first tooth this morning. Later he started misbehaving, and I told him that the tooth fairy doesn't just automatically come to every kid who loses a tooth—only to the ones who also are good. "Daddy," answered Andre, "everyone knows she comes to every kid no matter what. Stop making up stories!"

*****

We were looking at a globe, and I commented that I thought Greenland was once connected to North America. Andre asked, "Did they just separate naturally or did people pour water there because they didn't want to live next to each other?"

*****

Me: "Did you sleep well last night?" Andre: "I don't know. I wasn't awake to see it."

*****

Tonight I happened to tell Myriam that Mommy and I "made you." "And you made Andre," she said. "That's right," I said. "And did you make Kiwi too?" she asked, referring to our cat.

*****

Maybe Myriam watches too many videos. When I'm reading to her and she wants me to stop for a minute, she asks me to "pause the book."

*****

Myriam likes to pretend that she's the parent and I'm the baby. The other day she said, "Lie down and take a nap, sweetie." So I stretched out on the couch, and she put a blanket on me and said, "Now go to sleep, sweetie." Thinking she might be talking about sleep because she herself was tired, I said, "Mommy, could you lie down and take a rest with me?" Her answer: "I'd like to, sweetie, but I have to go to a meeting."

2003

Myriam: "I gave my doll cough medicine today." Me: "That's good." Myriam: "Not really. She threw up right after."

*****

Myriam's solution to cold, rainy weather: "Let's kick the sky and teach it a lesson."

*****

Me: "How was your play date with Mary?" Myriam: "Good. We had one little fight, but we worked it out." Me "What was it about?" Myriam: "Well, Mary wanted to go outside and I didn't." Me: "How did you work it out?" Myriam: "Mary promised to step on all the ants we see, so I went outside with her."

*****

Myriam was making silly faces and singing, "Happy birthday to myself!" "You're funny," I said. "You really make me laugh." "I know," she said. "I'm going to be a chameleon."

*****

Myriam: "I know why boys and girls use the bathroom at different times at my school. The more older you get, the more private your private parts are."

*****

Myriam was talking with her friend Mary about suitcases. "Isn't it funny they call them 'soupcases'?" said Myriam. "They don't even have soup in them!"

2004

Myriam told me that she and her friend Mary plan to build a museum. She said it will be bigger than several houses. "That could cost millions," I said. "Where will you get the money?" "Allowance," she said.

*****

I told Andre he couldn't buy something and he replied, "It's my money so I can do what I want with it unless I'm buying guns or weapons of mass destruction!"

*****

Myriam asked me how many people there are in the world. "About six billion," I said. "That's a lot!" she said, sounding as if she had some sense of the number. Then she asked, "Is that including you and me?"

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Jeff Burger (byjeffburger.com), a longtime magazine editor, has written about music, politics, and popular culture for more than 75 periodicals. His books include Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon as well as Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches and Encounters and Leonard Cohen…

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