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My Toddler’s Guide to Musical Theater

December 31, 2016
My Toddler's Guide to Musical Theater

The stories he tells are of hostile tests and enlightened triumphs. He takes on the bear and the brew. He is rarely alone in his trials, scaling mountains with flair and determination, never quite on beat. At times, he is unsure, but perseveres forward in a syrup-thick darkness, seeking and seeking with fingers outstretched. During others, he takes care in an excited confidence, driving cool with the top down. He reaches for his chosen coconspirator, the love-hate profoundly evident in a pat and a push. My toddler and his best friend.

Our vacuum cleaner. My toddler is best friends with our vacuum cleaner.

My toddler’s bromance with the vacuum, henceforth called “Victor,” makes for one fine dramatic musical.

I have never seen anything like this.

Not even a month prior, my 3-year-old would clear a room if the vacuum cleaner was rolled in. Stored in our hallway closet at rest, Victor Vacuum posed a specific life stressor for Jrue, especially if that closet was left halfway open or if Victor was temporarily left out. Jrue, a wanderer of the house, would walk upon Victor, then speed towards the opposite direction in a comedic haste, usually accompanied by verbal howls of distaste.

One Saturday afternoon, Jrue sauntered up to me and expressed his usual misgivings about the vacuum, even though it was away in the closet. Used to the usual repartee, I addressed his timidity, encouraged braveness, and kept cleaning my bedroom. I pulled the vacuum out of the closet and, per his routine, Jrue dove onto my bed with the ambition I’d have of jumping into piled cash. I parked the vacuum by the bed.

When I returned to my bedroom after retrieving a dust cloth, Jrue was standing beside the vacuum, gesturing towards the “on” button. “Do you want to turn it on?” I heartened, knowing that his customary reply was an vehement “Noooo” sung high-pitched and undeniably certain. “Turn it on?” he responded. I shrugged my shoulders and tapped my foot onto the footrest while clicking the “on” button. The machine instantly hummed what was usually the toddler’s cue to run like hell.

Jrue just…stood there. Then he smiled. Then he snatched the handle from me and pushed the vacuum down the hallway, having to hold it with both hands and at head-level to apply an appropriate force for forward movement. I shrieked at the hubs to look, and the hubs grabbed his camera phone. This moment, even if provisional, was one for the books.

Jrue’s obsession with Victor was amusing because we had gotten accustomed to his fear, so much so that it was well-known throughout the family and had become quite the running joke during the holidays. We’d often use the vacuum as a punishment device, placing it in front of him as he sat and stared at it hatefully.

Now, the obsession is just, well, annoying.

Enter: the lovely revue, “Dance of the Jrue.”

According to John Kenrick of, the “best musicals have three essential qualities: brains–intelligence and style; heart–genuine and believable emotion; and courage–the guts to do something creative and exciting.”

Jrue’s performances surpass these features.

For example, Jrue can carry on a full, inspired monologue while enveloping Victor. One of his favorite lines of nurture is, “Let’s go vacuum…” as he nudges it slowly through tight gaps between furniture and walls, grunting for strength in the process. The good news: He has vanquished his particular aversion of the vacuum alone, randomly, and that is admirable. And he is learning a level of care for something(someone?) other than himself. Dawn of Momsanity describes a similar infatuation witnessed between her toddler and their vacuum, so I suppose it’s also fine that my toddler pulls up the vacuum near him when it’s TV time so that he’d have a movie partner.

However, if Jai is paused in the hallway from a crawling expedition, and Jrue cannot get around her, he “scolds” the vacuum, then pushes it to the floor and wails like a maniac. He commences jumping up and down and babbling to mommy about the vacuum now living on its side. I often roll my eyes and ignore his tears until he has a free moment to return to his semblance of rationality. Oh, the times he has attempted to suck up his baby sister…and becomes surprised by Victor’s noncompliance of this definitive request.

Jrue also likes to point to the vacuum and tell everyone, “It won’t hurt you,” as if this is a phrase he manifested and not something mommy has repeated with each cleaning spree a few times a week for the last year.

Perhaps what’s most interesting in all of this are the songs. This is the most definitive element of a revue, of course. Jrue can remix “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” with “Bingo,” then go into a soul-stirring rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” He sings these to the vacuum…or, in a duet with the vacuum…?

The dances are elaborately choreographed, as well. Jrue makes giant motions with his arms and will pluck his feet into the air in low kicks. He will grab the handle and work it side to side as he swings his narrow hips in time to his harmony. It’s unbelievably comical…mesmerizing, honestly…and just strange.

Once his attention has lapsed to another activity, Victor is left slain, sprawled out on the floor or, if mommy is lucky, placed lovingly/intensely back into the closet. I’m assuming it depends on the scope and context of the performance itself, which is determined strictly by the voices in my toddler’s head. The hubs and I are left stumped, mostly out of a sense of collective shock.

My guess is, Jrue’s musical theater presentations with Victor will no longer be atypical once a Tony Award is sitting on mommy’s shelf.

Works Cited

Dawn. “My Toddler and the Vacuum: A Love Story.” Momsanity, 21 Mar. 2014, Accessed 6 Dec. 2016.

Kenrick, John. “What is a Musical?”, 2003, Accessed 6 Dec. 2016.

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