COMMENT: Parents all over New Zealand have spent the last few days with ridiculously cute and utterly annoying ear worms stuck in their heads (Romp Bomp a Chomp! Romp Bomp a Chomp!) thanks to The Wiggles' tour of the country.
It all came to an end yesterday, with the crew's final show in Christchurch - but not before I had driven seven hours (and collected my imaginary Mother of the Year Award) by taking my daughter to the Dunedin show on Friday.
Seeing this one-hour show involved taking a day off work, staying up late the night before preparing road trip snacks for her to reject and throw all over the car, leaving home in the dark, in negative temperatures, driving over icy mountain roads and singing along to every song she normally loves while she sat there, holding the balloon that cost me 15 whole dollars, looking thoroughly unimpressed by the whole thing.
Parenting is such a joy, aren't we all just so blessed? ROMP BOMP A CHOMP!
I know, I know … she didn't ask me to take her, I did so out of my own free will and my complete lack of self-respect.
For that 60-minute show, I spent seven times that long locked in the car with the worst road trip companion ever, who, on that day, chose to learn to unbuckle her own seatbelt multiple times.
We also played a fun car game I'd never heard of before, which involves pulling over three million times on the side of the road to answer her painful cries to TAKE SHOES OFF and NOOOOO, PUT. SHOES ON. Such joy.
("Can you point … your fingers and do the twist … can you stand … on one foot, and shake your hands?")
Anyway, setting aside my newly discovered car trauma, the show itself was pretty good.
But that's the cunning little trick The Wiggles have up their sleeve isn't it? Failing some major event like all the lightbulbs blowing up or whatever, it's always going to be a good show: the kids love it because they were allowed to dress up in their Wiggles
merchandise, probably got an ice cream treat to keep them happy for an hour and got to dance to some songs they knew.
The parents enjoy it because, let's admit it, we've been in this game for a while now and these are now truly the only songs we know off by heart, as all knowledge of life pre-children departed our brains to make room for more complex Wiggles lyrics.
All the angst we once felt listening to The Smiths, swearing we'd one day bring down the system, has been replaced by the angst we feel when we have to do the propeller for the seventh consecutive time.
And if you really must know the truth, I am far more emotionally invested in Lachy and Emma's potential reconciliation than Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga's thing-they-say-is-not-a-thing.
So, so blessed.
The Wiggles showed up almost on time. I guess they know children are little tyrants who will not deal well with waiting more than 7.4 milliseconds for something they want.
Also, despite being major superstars, they didn't dare pull tricks like leaving out any greatest hits. Fruit Salad, Hot Potato … it was all there. And the friends came along as well: Dorothy was there, our buddy Wags, the Captain (albeit looking suspiciously young for his actual age) and the new one too, Shirley Shawn the Unicorn.
(Oh, dear lord, why do I know all these names?)
They knew that half their audience was made of grownups so made sure to squeeze in a couple of jokes only the paying 50 per cent of us understood, like how the kids only really care about Emma and don't give a flying toss about any of the boy Wiggles.
It's a joke for some, but less of a joke when you take your kid to the merchandise table and they're all out of Emma Wiggle plush toys and only have Simon, Anthony and Lachy left. Then the joke is well and truly on you, when you find yourself apologising to your child (while secretly happy you don't have to spend those forty bucks).
(Whooo, wiggy wiggy wiggy
Whooo, wiggy wiggy wiggy
Gimme that, gimme that, gimme that, hoo)
It's all pretty carefully orchestrated, with plenty of audience participation and no real strict rules about kiddies walking up to the front to dance. It's a show for older toddlers and younger children, who can sing and dance without feeling too overwhelmed in a room full of people they don't know.
At one point, the Wiggles ask the Wiggly dancers to go around the audience collecting all the "artwork" the kids did for them (well, when we say for "them", it's really all for Emma). They then spend some time going through them on stage and showing some of them to everyone, which is pretty neat if you're the six-year-old who sat there for an afternoon making an Emma Wiggle out of ice cream sticks and yellow paint (but less neat if you're a parent who'd rather not sit through another session of fake-admiring children's drawings).
It's a fine balance, packing enough into the show to make it worth the parents' time while also catering for young children's incredibly short attention span. The Wiggles are masters of their own domain and achieved that with pretty impeccable precision.
As for the parents, whether they'll admit it out loud or not (and let's not), a live show of something you normally listen to at home is not the worst way to spend an afternoon - even if it did involve the crappiest road trip of all time. Plus, we got to do it in a room full of other parents who can relate to the pain of numerous hours enduring The Wiggles at home - and we all know misery loves company. Just not as much as my daughter loves The Wiggles.
We drove another three hours and thirty minutes back home right after the show finished, and the same child that spent an hour inside the Dunedin Town Hall looking awfully suspicious of those adults dressed as The Wiggles on stage, sang their songs to herself all the way to sleep (but not without first popping the most expensive balloon I've ever purchased).
We arrived home in the dark, my brain a treasure trove of Wiggle lyrics, my child still completely oblivious to the enormous efforts I make for her.
And isn't that what parenting is all about anyway?