Why I am the Macklemore of Toddler Bedtimes

I’ve already written about Elsa’s favourite bedtime books, some of which she has heard so many times that she can recite them back to you. I also mentioned that she has a four book limit, after which she is meant to go to sleep. I say “meant to” because, as you can imagine, the reality is very different.

Many evenings I creep downstairs, hoping that her appetite for stories about buckets full of dinosaurs or talking teddy bears has been sated. Within seconds of attempting to indulge in some fun adult activity like feeding the dog or washing the pots, I  tend to hear a familiar sound drift from the tinny speakers of the baby monitor – “1,2,3…DADDY!”

Of course, I try to let her settle herself, but sometimes she just HAS to hear another tale and you just know when she’s not going to drift off just yet. It’s at this point that I decide to bring out the big guns – Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. It’s the ultimate toddler book and even the irrational mind of a two-year-old realises that, at the second time of asking, it’s not going to get any better than this – you may as well sleep and start tomorrow with a clean slate.

And yes, I have tried reading it first. It doesn’t work. If only parenting was that easy.

I’ve been struggling for an analogy for this for a while and it hit me last night when Jill and I went to see the spectacular Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at the Leeds Arena. It’s the equivalent of the fake encore so beloved of musicians.

In the early 90s, the Mary Whitehouse Experience had a sketch about indie popsters EMF leaving the stage at the end of a gig, with the crowd baying for more. The scene saw the band debating in the wings about whether they had anything else left to perform and it becomes clear that they had forgotten to play Unbelievable, by far and away the real EMF’s biggest hit, in a dig at bands who purposefully keep their fans waiting for the good stuff.

In the intervening 25 years, nothing much has changed. You’ll see your favourite artist step off the stage in a low-key manner suspiciously early in the evening, awaiting an outpouring of chants and cheers to ‘persuade’ them back on stage to complete their set. It’s an odd ritual that makes no sense, especially as it has just become so commonplace. 99 percent of bands would return to play some more even if the crowd sat in stony silence on their departure. I went to see Nick Cave a few years ago and, having valiantly struggled through a throat complaint to put on an engaging show, he took his leave. If there was any sense of peril as to whether he would return, it was more than a little ruined when a stage hand scurried on stage to place a fresh Lemsip on a table by his piano as soon as the great man had exited through the curtains.

Last night was a stunning, electric performance from Macklemore, a performer at the top of his game who also pitched perfectly his interactions with the crowd whether it was discussing earnest issues, expressing gratitude at their display of love towards him or just being downright funny. However, when he bade farewell  without playing Downtown, the massive lead single from his latest album…well, you don’t need Question of Sport‘s Sue Barker to tell you what happened next.

It dawned on me that this plays out every night in our house; I’m Macklemore and Elsa is the raucous Leeds crowd at the Arena, demanding I return to fulfil my obligations and read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which in this metaphor is the dancefloor banger, Downtown.

I’m willing to bet that’s a comparison that has never been made before.

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