You know, I thought when I’d have a kid, I’d write about him all of the time. And yet, I just don’t have much to say. He’s teething. He drools. He likes when I hold him sideways in mid-air. When he smiles, his entire face becomes the smile.
So far, parenting seems to be kinesthetic. It’s in the muscles. In the tendons. In the joints. It’s primordial. It’s like sleeping and breathing and eating. I just don’t have much to say about these things, although I love doing them all deeply.
There’s been such a rash of truly terrible things happening in the world. Of course, there always was and always has been. Yet before, I could steel myself off from everything. I could harden myself. I could give a shit for nothing, fuck all, the most extreme degree of nothing.
With this kid around, I can’t do that.
Once I heard a quote about writing and not having the pen or paper to write it down — so you’re desperately turning the words over and over in your head, carrying them all by the arm load, carrying them like you’ve being stabbed in the stomach, trying to carry all your guts, careful not to spill or lose a single thing, or single thought.
At least, I think I heard that. Although now it looks like something I made up. Anyway. Writing is like that. And so is having a kid. It’s like carrying all your guts around, constantly. The vulnerability of it, I mean.
Sometimes, when a metaphor isn’t working, you’ve got to just delete the thing. But I’m leaving it there.
I often find myself telling my son that I’m going to teach him how to stand up for himself. Of course, when I’m saying it, I’m cooing it at him in a sing-song voice. “You gotta be a tough guy,” I coo, “you can’t let other people get to you.”
I’ll teach him how to lie, cheat and steal. I’ll teach him how to hurt people and punch them in the mouth. The way I figure it is, if you know how to do these things, you’ll be able to see when someone is trying to do them to you.
Of course I’ll teach him to never, ever actually use any of that knowledge.
Except, sometimes you do have to use that knowledge. For instance, in high school, I cheated my way through calculus. The teacher doubled as the wrestling coach, so he was always too busy on the other side of the room talking wrestling and demonstrating headlocks.
There was that. And then there was me. My math skills are so bad that I’ve added two plus two before and actually gotten five.
And then there was Phil, the kid I copied everything from that year. He was ridiculously smart. When he handed his homework over to me, he did it in a patronizing, pitying manner. He’s probably a millionaire now.
So what I’m saying, son, is, it’s never okay to cheat — except when it is okay to cheat. It’s a subtle, subtle line. Wrestling teacher leaves rest of class for dead + idiot math skills + a future millionaire who just feels sorry for you = not really cheating.
Then again, justifying these things to yourself is another skill altogether.
Then again, I won’t be the one teaching my kid any of this stuff. The world will teach him these things. I’ll just be the one mumbling old chestnuts like “honesty is the best policy” and “be true to yourself.”
I bought a sixty-inch television on Black Friday. We’ve been re-doing our house to be more child-friendly, including stuff like getting rid of our eye-gouging, tempered-glass entertainment center, and mounting the television instead. And it wasn’t like I could go ahead and mount our measly forty-six incher with a dead pixel. It only made sense to get the brand new sixty-inch. It was the child-friendly thing to do.
Justifying these things is perhaps, the most important skill of all.