Five Little Ducks

I yelled. They went to bed. The end.

Parenting. We all have our own way of doing it.

The more that I have done this—the writing thing—the more stories come to the front of my mind. This one, however, this one… This one was given to me by my oldest daughter.

Some traditions have happy endings, others do not. (I know what I wrote)

When my children were much younger, my wife and I would sing to them before bedtime. Well, mostly my wife. She would do most of the singing because she is a great singer and I am… I knew one song. In my attempts to learn Russian (years ago—a long and different story. still don’t know it. okay, I know like, three or four words. and the song. four words and the song. four words, the song, and a thing) I learned a short lullaby. Years later, I buddy of mine, who actually did know Russian, gave me another verse and explained how the lullaby worked. How the verses could be local to an area or village. That was cool. My wife, on the other hand, knew lots of fun and playful lullabies.

Bedtime was a big deal in our home. It still is—only because now that I’m older, that’s where I wanna be at the end of the day. So yeah, bedtime…

If you have four small children, the end of the day is an event (on the best of days). For us, it was an hours-long activity. First, there was storytime. This was my event. I have been reading to my kids for years. I do voices. Volume changes. I am very engaging and entertaining. I would story. Then, my wife and I would take our turns in assisting with the changing of our children’s clothes into pajamas. And the big one: Teeth brushing. And, of course, the whole potty things. You gotta go potty.

For those who have small children… Let’s be more clear. For those who have young children (because size is relative), you know that tooth brushing can be a difficult time of day (morning or night). Some kids don’t like it. Some don’t wanna do it. And, just for clarity, not liking something is not anywhere near the same thing as not wanting to do it. I can not want to eat bacon and still like it. I know. I know. If you like bacon, you do eat it. Not wanting to eat bacon is either a sign of mental illness or blasphemy. Maybe both.


It’s both.

So, we’re off-topic. But, bacon… mmmm…


Bedtime. Stories. Teeth brushing. Songs. potty…

After the teeth were all brushed and bodies went potties, we would tuck the wee ones into their beds and then sing their songs. Ahh, the songs that would be sung. My wife would take requests. Each child would get to pick a song and their mother would sing to each of them, in turn. One of the popular lullabies was “Five Little Ducks”.

The song, “Five Little Ducks”, is a simple and fun tale of a mama duck who, when she calls her children back home from a day of play, is short one baby duck each time. This continues until all the baby ducks do not return. It goes something like this…

“Five Little Ducks” tune found at

Like all folk songs, the exact wording varies. My wife sang it this way:

Five little ducks went out to play, (hold up five fingers)
Over the hills and far away. (wave hand as if going up and down a hill)
When the mama duck said, “quack quack quack,” (make opening and closing motion with hand, as if a beak)
Four little ducks came waddling back. (hold up four fingers. repeat actions, using the corresponding number of fingers as the numbers count down.)

Four little ducks went out to play, 
Over the hills and far away.
When the mama duck said, “quack quack quack,”
Three little ducks came waddling back.

Three little ducks went out to play, 
Over the hills and far away.
When the mama duck said, “quack quack quack,”
Two little ducks came waddling back.

Two little ducks went out to play, 
Over the hills and far away.
When the mama duck said, “quack quack quack,”
One little duck came waddling back.

One little duck went out to play, 
Over the hills and far away.
When the mama duck said, “quack quack quack,”
No little ducks came waddling back.

But when the daddy duck said, “quack quack quack,”
Five little ducks came waddling back.

As this simple little diddly counted down, the tensions wound up—as did the giggles. It was my fault. Those kinds of moments with my children usually were.

The first time I sang the song, I sang it the way my wife had. Fun, soft, and calmly cheerful. However, after that, I began to add my own personal touch of silly. My touch of playful. My touch of… well, me.

With the disappearance of each duckling, my children knew that they were just that much closer to the good part. By the time only two little ducks came home, subtle, audible snickering snuck out of my children. They tried hard to contain it. But, their foresight into the future made it nigh impossible. By the time all the ducks were gone… well, let’s just say that the laughter wasn’t concealed, by any stretch of the imagination. If needed, I would pause to both let them calm down a little and to add dramatic tension to the story.

Enter daddy duck.

This was my moment. This was where I shine: The silliness. When the daddy duck was supposed to say his “quack, quack, quack” I wouldn’t. My daddy duck didn’t quack. My daddy duck threw a fit. He yelled. He threw a tantrum. He swore (not really). See, my daddy duck was more of an angry Donald Duck.

I’m sure most of you—if not all—are familiar with the incomprehensible sounds that fly forth from the bill of the famous Walt Disney character Donald Duck when he becomes enangered. The flying fists and feathers. The jumping. The spit. The noises. All of it. We find joy and humor in watching this sailor lose his cool. And I would mimic those sounds—and sometimes gestures.

That would be followed up with my rapidly spouting the last line of the ducks returning home, as fast as I could. Then I would say (in mock sternness) something like, “Now, be quiet! Go to sleep!” and close their bedroom door as I stepped out of the room, leaving them all struggling to stifle their sniggering.

It was fun to hear my daughter recounting her positive memory of this event. To hear of how she (and the other children) enjoyed and looked forward to their daddy’s daddy duck. As a father, it is nice to know that while my children were young, I did something right.

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