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  • Darryl Cheeks

Fruit Salad, Yummy-Yummy

When my kids were younger, there was a really popular musical children’s group called The Wiggles. My children easily watched a couple of hours a day of the show (I am embarrassed to confess). They had catchy songs (like Fruit Salad, Yummy Yummy) and videos that were quite captivating I must admit. In fact, they were so popular in the Cheeks’ household that we actually went to three of their concerts over the years. I too cheered for them like a little kid. When we had an opportunity to meet them when they came into the audience, I did feel a bit faint.

The Wiggles had four characters and each of them had a different color: Red(Murray), Yellow (Greg), Blue (Anthony) and Purple (Jeff). My oldest son, Gabe,was enamored with Jeff. You see, Jeff had an issue with his sleeping and had a bad case of narcolepsy. So as the gig went, every time Jeff fell asleep, the kids would have to shout, “WAKE UP JEFF.” Gabe loved this and often pretended that he was Jeff. Purple was also Gabe’s favorite color during those times.

Those were the good old days, as they say. Simpler times filled with joy, carefree spirit, laughter, and innocence. Where have those days gone? Have they disappeared forever? I know each generation questions and feels the generations following them have lost their minds. But I am actually frightened for these generations following me. I am sad today. I feel a sense of loss for our children today. We live in mean times. Again, I suppose times have always been tough, but it seems to be so thrust in our faces now. You know, hurt people, hurt people and children, for that matter.

When I was growing up, our elders were to be respected whether we had direct relations or not. Today, parents are fortunate if they themselves are respected by their own kids. Not the kids’ fault, but ours. My grandmother used to send me down the block to Bill’s Grocery Store, at the age of 10, to get ham hocks and collard greens. But not today. In the summer (when I was not working in my father’s dental office) I would wake up and leave my home in the late morning and not return until that night. Whether on my ten-speed or by car, I was cruising with my friends. I did not have a cell phone at that time and pretty much did not call my parents from the landlines, attached to the wall, to tell them the 20 stops I had made that day. I almost have a panic attack if I leave the house without my cell phone now. Gone for ten hours a day and my parents seldom knew where I was at any given time. But not today.

Our lives became much more complex with the emergence of COVID-19. If things were not challenging enough with our children, the pandemic introduced another level of challenge. In March of 2020, our kids lost their schooling, their proms & graduations, their athletics, their social lives and gained an ear-full of parental oversight. Hey, I did not realize how challenging things would get and be. I also did not imagine the joy of unity that we would experience.

Our kids actually did great during these pandemic times. However, there were those times, when COVID-19 was not at a peak dire state, that our children would approach us with, “Can I go work out with a friend? My friend is having a bon fire in their back yard, can I go (I promise to wear my mask outside 😊); can Leroy drive me to practice [we, the parents, would inquire as to how many are in the car]and we will stick our heads out the window until we arrive (double 😊).” How exactly do you say “no” to something you want to say “yes” to so badly? Our kids are fantastic students and very respectful. You want to give them everything. The Cheeks had some additional encumbrances though. I am a very sick man and in addition to my life-threatening illness, I was put on the high-risk list for COVID-19. Things were so risky for me that my doctor actually told me that if I got COVID-19, that I would surely die because I could not be put on a respirator and the hospital would not receive me because they would not have the room for me as others that got sick would have a much better chance of surviving. So, every time our kids did anything outside our home, it was like playing Russian Roulette with my life.

I think society is too far gone down some dangerous paths that cannot be rerouted. However, I believe there are some things we can do as parents to reclaim lost territory. In COVID-19 days, our family enjoyed the routine of eating together at the same table. We watched family movies together and even included our dog Cassius. Our place of worship suspended services, but we relied on the Biblical teaching that where two or more are gathered in the name of Christ, He is there. This was both life changing and unifying. We did not eat out as much and this gave my wife and I the opportunity to enhance our culinary skills. We now watch the Food Network more than any channel. Since we were going nowhere and needed only one car, I was able to give up the Lexus and that greatly improved our financial position. Although our home is fairly sizeable, all six of us would often congregate in our bedroom and hash out societal truths like Jordan being better than Lebron and 80’s rap music being far superior to today’s rap artists. Our times of sharing certainly was a game changer for our family.

Lastly, without trying to inject too much of my personal beliefs, we as parents must be more purposeful in the raising of kids today. It is still a good idea for us as parents to know the families of the friends our children have. Yes, get the phone numbers and addresses to where our children go and call to make sure they have arrived, asking to speak to the other parents for confirmation. Kids today will have you running around to multiple restaurants to satisfy their cravings while acting like the dinner you fixed is not sufficient for their taste buds. My mom told me that when she was coming up, if she did not like the peas that were being served, her grandmother would say, “Peas if you want them, peas if you don’t want them.”Critical! When we set standards and pass down our value systems to our children(whatever that may be). We should not compromise ourselves because of the chaos of society and its thinking to appease our children and sooth our conscience. There is nothing admirable about that. Some people call it tough love. No, it is simply love.

I suppose I have no solutions, but just observations. I can say, however, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

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