Ellen Nordberg, Author

The Pick-Up Artists

Errant Parent
Originally featured in Errant Parent

When I discovered I was pregnant with identical twin boys, I had lovely fantasies about what that would be like and who they might become: matching denim overalls, sweet manners, a lack of interest in girls until puberty, and a curiosity about the earth that would lead them to become environmental engineers and save the planet, or at least the ocean.

The reality is something completely different. Instead, I find myself with five year old blond, blue-eyed tag-teaming hustlers, unafraid to approach any pretty female, regardless of her age.

It started in preschool when Axel came home and informed me, “Mommy, Tory’s my favorite girl at school.”

That seemed innocent enough and kind of cute, so I turned to his brother and asked about his favorite. Aidan sighed and ran through the list – Steffie, Emily, Rachel, Charlotte, Lily, Maggie, Olivia, Hunter. He crinkled his forehead as though the whole exercise were exhausting. “You know Mommy, they’re all my girls.”

That should have given me a clue of what the future would hold.

In the spring of that same year our family visited the zoo. My husband and I sat eating popcorn and conversing in the sun at the snack pavilion, but were interrupted by Aidan’s voice calling out, “Hi! Hi! What’s your name?”

Axel was holding Aidan’s popcorn in one hand and his own in the other, peering over a shrub at a blonde five year old girl in a purple velour dress who was studying a pigeon.  Aidan had edged around the shrub.  Clearly this girl wasn’t responding because she hadn’t heard him, (certainly no cute older girl would ignore him on purpose,) so he cranked up the volume.


My instinct was to leap over the shrub and grab him, and then scold him for embarrassing me and pestering other people’s kids, or maybe stick the popcorn bag over my head and duck behind the chair, but my husband put a hand on my arm.

The girl in the purple dress finally turned and squinted at Aidan without smiling.

“Hannah,” she said.

Aidan turned back to Axel, his wing-man in the wings, and gave him the wink and the “How you doin” finger point learned from Uncle Mike the bachelor.

“So,” he said to Hannah, stepping closer. “You here to see the animals?”

The ability to create pick-up lines on par with those of Joey on the TV show “Friends” had not been on my imagined list of skill sets for these children. And successful or not, they were undeterred.

At 3:39 p.m. on their first day of kindergarten, I hovered on the sidewalk, nervously watching all the kindergartners, first graders, and eventually the second, third, fourth and fifth graders, exit the bus. Where were my children? Had someone kidnapped them? Had the sixth graders bullied them to a pulp where they lay bleeding and clinging to their teddy bears on the bus floor?

Finally Aidan came slowly down the steps, but with his head turned back toward someone taller. Two eighth grade girls with long brown hair came next, followed by Axel who shot me a quick look like, “Hey Mom, don’t blow this for us.”

I stepped back in shock as the little parade filed right past me. This was the soundtrack:  “So anyway, my name is Aidan and this is my brother Axel. We’re identical twins and we go to kindergarten. We’re big boys.”

I trailed speechless along behind them. Were they annoying these girls? Should I spare my sons’ embarrassment and yank them off the sidewalk?  Then one of the girls said to the other with a giggle, “Oh, they are so cute!”

This was all the encouragement Aidan needed. “That red shirt is so pretty on you. Did I tell you red’s my favorite color? I have a red shirt too…”

By this time, we had reached a turn-off toward the bike path, and Axel sensed a need to close the deal.

“Hey, do you guys babysit?” he asked, raising his eyebrows toward me, as in – “Get the pencil ready for the digits.”

“Sure, we took the babysitting course at the rec center.”

“Well, my mom can get your phone number,” Aidan said, finally acknowledging me.

I opened my purse, like a dutiful personal secretary. They cheerfully waved goodbye to their new found friends, high-fiving each other all the way through the garage and into the house. So much for my panic attacks about their safety on the first day riding the bus. I put the paper with the phone numbers on the kitchen counter and forgot about it until the next day.

“I’ve been thinking Mommy,” Axel said, scooping Raisin Bran into his mouth. “You know those pretty big girls from the bus? I think you should have them both come baby-sit us at the same time.”

“Oh, really?” I continued pulling sandwich meats from the fridge. “Why’s that?”

“Because, then one of them could be playing a game with us while the other one makes us breakfast!” He smiled at the ingenuity of his plan.

I placed a box of Zip-lock baggies on the counter. Bad enough my five year olds know how to get phone numbers out of eighth-grade girls, but now they’re cooking up Hugh Hefner-style scenarios?  I put my hand to my chest and indignantly repeated the story to my husband as he came down the stairs. He promptly picked up the phone and began dialing his brothers, bragging in great detail about their “operator” nephews.

I’m resigned to the fact that my career aspirations for my sons need to be adjusted. Perhaps salesman, politician, or entertainer will be more appropriate. As long as we can coax them to channel their powers for good and not evil, and get them to carry their own paper and pencil.

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