MY KIDS get some of their more troubling traits from me. Eve, for instance, likes to talk until her listeners' ears bleed. Little Solomon? He likes to exercise his imagination by cannibalizing toys. Good for the imagination. Bad for the toys.
I can't really fault either of them for their unique little habits, however. As the old folks say, they got it honest. And to tell you the truth, they got it early.
Eve was about 2 when we discovered her talent for talking. She would tell long and involved stories about people who lived in far-flung corners of the world. When she was about 4, she told the biggest tale of all - that she was married to R&B singer Charlie Wilson, who was 50-something at the time.
Thankfully, Charlie took it well when we were both guests on a local talk show. I told him that Eve, who once claimed him as her husband, had since moved on.
"Tell my ex-wife I said hi," he said with a chuckle. Then he signed an autograph for her.
Of course, Eve isn't the only one who likes old-school stuff. Little Solomon does, too. But my kids didn't get their old-time taste from me. They got that from LaVeta, whose entertainment preferences include Victrola-era songs and silent movies.
OK, that's an exaggeration. The movies she watches include sound, if not color. And while her TV favorites stop with '70s-era shows like "The Six Million Dollar Man," the music on her iPod is a little more eclectic.
Thanks to LaVeta, our kids can recite the words to "The Show," by Doug E. Fresh, or "Fly Me to the Moon," by Frank Sinatra. I'm glad she's given our kids musical versatility. But, while I share LaVeta's love of '80s hip-hop, I was initially skeptical about her affinity for Old Blue Eyes. That is, until I watched LaVeta silence my crying son by putting on a Sinatra CD. In the nine years since then I've never complained.
Apparently, LaVeta's love of really old music is turning Eve and Little Solomon into Flower Children. Born in the new millennium, but stuck in a '60s time warp, they are in danger of putting on tie-dyed dashikis, removing their shoes and chanting in the middle of Market Street. As their father, it's my duty to stop that from happening.
The fact that I am now their last hope is ironic, because in many ways it's my fault things have gotten to this point. I should've known that when LaVeta started burning incense in the house, the children's love of '60s tunes could morph into something ugly. But I didn't act on my instincts, and sure enough, the hippie undercurrent in the Jones household is now a full-blown tidal wave.
The truth came out on Saturday, when I was driving the children home from the mall. We'd just completed a nice, focused shopping trip. I was proud of myself for resisting Little Solomon's Lego Store demands and Eve's unspoken desire to visit the cologne-drenched aisles of Hollister.
The ride home was peaceful, at first, because we were listening to a station that plays 'round-the-clock Christmas music. When Amy Grant's rendition of "Winter Wonderland" came on, everything changed.
"I like the Carpenters version better," Little Solomon said.
"Me, too," said Eve.
And then, seconds later, before I could adequately prepare myself for what he was about to say, the boy dropped the bombshell: "I like all the Carpenters music."
I almost swerved off the road. Visions of flower power flashed before my eyes. It was like I could see my kids 10 years into the future. They were aimless, penniless, and their feet were really dirty. Instead of going to college, they were backpacking across Europe in a never-ending quest to "find themselves."
If I didn't stop them at that moment - and I mean right then - my children would graduate from high school, hock their belongings and buy acoustic guitars. They would embrace the folk-song movement hook, line and sinker. And while they would probably become really good singers, they would never get jobs, and they'd be living off me for the rest of their lives.
I couldn't let it come to that, so I looked in the rearview mirror at the children I love, and I did the only thing I could. I changed the station, and hoped that the materialism, pettiness and stupidity of today's music would balance out all that peace and love stuff.
Hopefully, I got to them in time.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.