Phyllis Talks About Their Super-Son Christian
Interviewee: Phyllis Nesmith
Editor: Ralph Benner
Published: December 1967
Publisher: Laufer Publishing Co.
What are some of the things you talk about?
He usually tells me he wants to go to the car. Anything to get out and do something he loves. He has a tremendous memory for things that he has done before. Whatever has made a terrific impression on him he will talk about for weeks. We went to the zoo a couple of weeks ago and fed the animals. Now sometimes he will come in the first thing in the morning and look me right in the face and say, “I went to the zoo and saw all the animals!” And I’ll say let’s talk about it later. Also, he loves his nursery rhymes. I have to sing “Twinkle Little Star” to him at least nine times before he’ll go to sleep at night.
Does he ever sing any of the Monkee songs?
Oh, sure! That’s one of our longstanding jokes. When he was a year and a half old I would sing “Hey, hey we’re the elephants… I mean Monkees,” and he would laugh so hard. Now he won’t laugh anymore, he’ll say, “That’s old, mother.” But he knows all the words to the top songs on the radio. He’s loved screaming with the Buffalo Springfield song “Bluebird.” Whenever it came to the part that says “she’s got soul,” he would scream “She’s got soul!”
Are there any other little things you can tell us about Christian?
One day he decided he was going to bark at me and he did. I say, “Christian puppy, how are you?” I called him by that name and then he learned other animal sounds so that he could be anything he wanted to be.
Can you always figure out what he wants to be?
No! One day he went running around the room with this funny face and I said, “What are you?” And he said, “I’m Christian fish!” Another time he put his face right up to mine and opened his mouth as wide as he could and slammed his teeth together. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing, so I said, “What are you?” And he said, “I’m Christian alligator!” I don’t know where he got that. But I love to see him use his imagination.
When did Christian start walking?
Mike was always very casual about Christian, but whenever he did something like taking the first step and so forth, Mike wouldn’t say “Oh, that’s my boy, that’s my boy, look at him, he took his first step.” He would say, “Christian, that’s really groovy!” He would let Christian walk from one of us to the other. I think that he was about one year old. At one year he didn’t walk or talk, but once he started it was like all over. Once he decided that he would talk he said everything in the world. He’s very outgoing; sometimes he calls Mike, “Mike” but most often he says, Daddy.
Does he watch the Monkees on TV?
If you ever want to get anything done, you can do it between 7:30 and 8:00 on Monday night because Christian is glued to the television set. When the Monkees come on he points to the set and points out each one. He’ll say, “That’s Davy, that’s Micky, that’s Peter, that’s Mike.” And he’ll point back at Mike on the TV set and say “Daddy,” just to let you know he knows that Mike’s his daddy.
When does Mike get to see Christian?
Christian is usually in bed by the time Mike gets home, but occasionally I let him stay up and have dinner with us and then he goes right to bed. We have dinner table conversations and Christian is allowed to take part in them if he is mature and he contributes. If he starts acting dumb, Michael will say, “What a dumby, Christian. Please, your mother and I are talking and if you don’t have anything to say just sit there and play with your mashed potatoes.”
What does Christian contribute to the conversations?
He tells us his experiences of the day, like, “I went swimming and I blew bubbles.” As long as he has something to contribute to the conversation, that is worthwhile. Beating on the table with his silverware is not worthwhile and he gets completely put down. He’s got to be very “with it” to have his father listen.
Is Christian interested in music?
Weekends are the only time that Mike is really around. We may have a leisurely day and be sitting around. Mike will go over to the organ and be fooling around and Christian will come up and say “I would like to play the organ.” Mike will say, “okay.” Mike will tell Christian, “It’s groovy not just to bang on it, but to make some music. Let me show you something.” And Christian responds to him so beautifully, he just adores Mike.
Do you ever spank Christian?
Yes, I’m a firm believer in it. It’s about the only way that you can get their attention.
What other ways do you discipline him?
If he’s doing something we think he shouldn’t be, we’ll say, “Man, that’s not cool.” He’ll think about it and you can tell that he’s thinking about it. He’ll decide maybe they’re right and then he’ll stop. But something he decides, “No, mother, you just don’t understand, I’m having more fun than I can bear to part with” and he’ll go right ahead. He really has a mind of his own. He’s very considerate about what we have to say, which is big of him.
Does he use some of the vocabulary you do?
Oh, yes! He’ll be reading a magazine with me and he’ll say “Do you see the groovy girl?” “Look at her stockings.” Once I had all these clothes laid out on the bed trying to decide what I was going to wear and Christian kept picking things up off the bed saying, “See the pretty dress.” He really appreciates things like that.
Was he excited about the new house?
When we’d go there he’d say, “This is a very pretty new house.” He knew where his room was before we moved in. His room isn’t too much out of the ordinary; it’s just got lots of groovy colors and fabrics in it.
What do you think is Christian’s favorite activity?
Getting in my hair! Every morning around 6:30 while his dad was on tour he would get up and he knew I had to sleep a little more. And he would come in, and I sleep on the edge of the bed, and he’d stick his face right up against mine. “Hello, mama, wake up.” He would wake me up and say, “Are you sleeping?” I’d tell him, “Yes, I am.” He’d say, “Come watch TV.” He tries anything to get me up. I’d say, “Why don’t you go watch TV and I’ll be right down.” So he would go down and get involved and maybe I would get a half hour more sleep.
What are some of the things you and Christian do together?
We really don’t have a schedule, except that he has a nap every afternoon. We talk all the time. He’s gotten to the stage where he doesn’t want to amuse himself, although he used to do that very well. Now he wants to talk to me all the time. I can be taking a bath, anything, and he’ll say, “Mama, come talk to me,” like, “don’t leave me alone for one minute we have too much to discuss.”