INFORMATION I DEARLY WISH MY IMPENDING CHILD CAME PREPROGRAMMED WITH
I got about two and a half babyless months left, and then I’m gonna be in the shit, as they say. There’ll be this new, needy, increasingly dissatisfied presence in the house, and I’m gonna have to share my food with him. Granted, he’ll also, I’m told, be cute and funny, cause me to well up with touching emotions, and if we’re all lucky he might even end up making enough money to put me in a nice nursing home. What concerns me the most about all this, or what I’ll pretend concerns me most in order to facilitate an opening to this blog entry, is that I’m going to be expected to teach this child things about the world.
My kneejerk comment on this expected instruction, because for whatever asinine reason I’m never fully comfortable unless I’m actively decrying my rampant perceived ineptitude to whomever will begrudgingly listen, is to state that I know almost nothing and that the very idea of an individual whose clean-slate brain is dependent on my filling it with facts and helpful life lessons from my supposedly well-stocked brain is the very vortex where funny, sad, and frightening meet. But if I reflect on it a little, I find that I really have learned quite a few things here and there, primarily via the very embarrassment and tragedy I would ideally want to give my child the opportunity to avoid (thereby denying him, it must be said, an important growing experience) by implanting the following data into his cerebral cortex or whatever the hell it is that makes brains know stuff.
1) If you’re doing something simply to get someone to like you, make sure you’re getting some sex or money out of the deal. Otherwise, what are you getting but a “friendship” based entirely on what YOU can do for your “friend”? I know it doesn’t seem that way when you’re sitting by yourself in the cafeteria, but you’re better off having no friends at all. We all need and want friends, but you shouldn’t have to work overtime to stay in their good graces. People will either like you or they won’t. Treasure and be good to those who do; don’t lose any sleep over the rest of ’em.
2) It is possible for a kid to be smarter than an adult. Just because someone is taller and has a deeper voice than you do doesn’t automatically mean they know what’s going on. Experience is the only valuable commodity a grown person has over children, and they’ll either use it to help or harm you. Us adults are just a bunch of kids who got kicked out of the house. You’re not required to trust them any more than you would any other kid.
3) If you don’t pay your bills on time, it’s going to be difficult for you to buy a house later on. I’m just throwing that out there. It may turn out that you’d rather have an apartment with a bunch of unpaid electronics in it than a cozy home to call your own. That’s your call in the end. I think it’s important for you to be informed that there’s at least a choice there, because while your school is most assuredly going to provide you with all manner of useless information to fill time in between your teacher’s smoke breaks, it probably won’t tell you anything about this.
4) Speaking of school, don’t sweat it till you hit high school. Nothing before ninth grade means anything. Seriously, your elementary school report cards probably get shredded. If you care about going to college (and you should, because it’s a good time and a lot of exciting stuff happens) (also, purportedly it can lead to a well-paying job, if you’re in the market for one), you’re going to want to start paying attention once you hit your freshman year, at least enough to pass the tests after which you can selectively forget most of what you’ve learned without affecting your life too much. If you do really well, I (or, let’s be honest, you mostly) won’t have to pay for your college, and that’s an excellent plus.
As for K-8, just have fun and try not to get expelled. I busted my ass in middle school and fucked off in high school like an idiot, bumbling my way into one of the few colleges that would accept me. Now I do things I don’t enjoy all that much for not quite enough money. If you’re anything like I was as a teenager, it seems probable that you won’t listen to me when I eventually try to beat this information into your head in a manner that annoys and disturbs you into catatonia; hence, I’m requesting that the doctor scientifically injects it into your brain, whether my insurance covers it or not.
5) Just sit on the toilet and shit and be done with it. I know, I know. Shitting is gross. It smells, it feels terrible squoozing out of your asshole, it uses up valuable video game time, and the variables are vast in number and all distinctively disgusting. Just to name a few examples: you may end up grunting on the toilet for upwards of twenty minutes, only to produce a couple of shit Raisinettes and a burst blood vessel; you may spatter several quarts of dank, searing, syrupy waste all over the toilet and its surrounding area; you may even shit blood if things are really going poorly for you. And this is all before the logistical nightmare that is wiping your butt. Boy, are you ever going to do a bad job of wiping your butt, and for an unreasonably long span of time. Poop will get on your hand, because you are not attentive, and poop will get on your underpants, because you are not thorough. It is likely that this will continue long after your mother and I have decided that you are old enough to watch an R-rated movie. People will be able to smell your bottom, without needing to go out of their way to do so. There will be days where your rectum itches so badly that you’ll want to fuck yourself with a small cactus. Your mother and I will need to suppress, with a very possible lack of success on both counts, both gagging and scornful comments while doing your laundry. Yes, there is nothing overly pleasant about the act of shitting, and beyond the obvious badness of it all, there are all the snakes and tarantulas that live in the sewer, just waiting to shoot out of the toilet hole and lay eggs in your butt. But even in spite of all these horrors, this is simply not a world where you can continue to defecate in your trousers. Open-mindedness is an attribute that we as parents will strive to encourage, but the fact of the matter is that everyone in the world will hate you and think you are stupid and vile if you keep crapping your pants past the age of five or six. You have to do it on the toilet. Just sit on the can and get it over with, and your mother and I will help you out the best we can.
As a towheaded lad, I squandered a good deal of unrecoverable time and dignity in the interest of avoiding toilet pooping, a practice I feared and loathed. I engaged in such unproductive but occasionally effective if unsavory pursuits as rubbing my ass on the wall in an effort to ram the recalitrant turd back from whence it originated, or concentrating really hard on reciting the books of the Bible (I only wish it weren’t true, my poor son) to distract myself from my contracting sphincter. Following “death and taxes”, Benjamin Franklin may well have added “shits rocketing out of our colons” to his small but definitive list of events that are certain to occur. To date, toilets are the only sensible place to deposit these inevitable shits. Don’t fight it. Please, for the love of God, don’t fight it.
6) It is more important to me that I appear to be a good parent in the eyes of others than it is for me to actually be a good parent. Honestly, in the long run I’m glad you’re not privy to this information (it will be difficult enough to get you to do what I tell you), but I guess I’m appealing to your decency here. Look, if it were just you, me, and your mother in the world, you could run around naked, shoplifting with abandon and tossing rocks through windows at random while screaming the foulest obscenities imaginable throughout for all I care. Provided you didn’t break anything belonging to me or hurt my feelings in any way, and as long as you weren’t disrupting my 312th viewing of “Sleepaway Camp”, I would deem you free to go to town. But your father is someone to whom the opinions of others are unreasonably important. This, above all else, has long been your father’s undoing and a considerable obstacle to his happiness and success. That first rule I mentioned, about not worrying about the people who don’t like you? I am HORRIBLE at following that rule, which just goes to show you how true rule number two is: While I believe few concepts to be more true than that which I’ve tried to express within rule number one, I still, even having had over three decades to nail it down, cannot seem to convince myself that it is okay and natural for people to dislike me or to disapprove of something I’ve said or undertaken. How dumb is that?: I come up with a set of rules to live by based on concepts that are tried and true several times over assuming that my past wasn’t some sort of cruel illusion, and continue to return to behavioral patterns that foiled me then and foil me today.
Now this is not to say I haven’t gotten better. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Only dreams happen overnight, and those don’t buy groceries. Feel free to use that line; it’s not a bad one. Why not write it on the cover of a notebook and share it with classmates? It’s important that they know what a cool and smart dad you have. What was I talking about? I forget. At any rate, the point I’m trying to make here is you should shit on the toilet. Wait, let me scroll up…oh right, I’m going to yell at you a lot, despite the fact that your misbehavior is more than likely not affecting me much, because I want people to think that I’m a good father who cares about politeness and decorum. Give your dad a break and simmer down. He has a falsely perceived reputation to uphold. Also, your mom likes manners and that type of crap, so if you cut in front of someone at the store without saying excuse me I’m gonna have to hear her obsessing about it later, and that’s distracting when I’m trying to think about having a tickle fight with 1981-era Catherine Bach. Appreciate you looking out for your pops, that’s all I’m saying.
7) Try to say funny stuff whenever possible. Being funny is pretty easy. It mostly involves saying the first thing that comes to mind. That thing is usually the funniest. Not always, but often enough. This practice also nurtures a willingness to potentially look stupid, a surefire recipe for satisfying if stupid-looking success in this day and age, and it can even help you get chicks from time to time provided there aren’t any athletes in the room. Practice a few lines on your less attractive female acquaintances and see how you fare before hitting the big time, and remember: the best sound in the world is a cute girl laughing at something funny you just said, whereas the worst sound in the world is that same worthless bitch laughing at whatever stupid crap whoever that other asshole is just said. Have fun and play nice!
8 ) Coffee filters are an undervalued kitchen item. Just today I used them not only for their intended purpose of making coffee, but I wiped up a small spill with one, thus saving money and counter space by not futzing around with paper towels, and even fashioned a perfectly workable bowl from which to extract and consume jelly beans. It may be a surefire conversation killer, but versatility is a essential trait. The ability to detect it in things can be lucrative and rewarding, if somehow undynamic.
9) Be mindful of feelings and wary of opinions. When you’re younger, it’s hard not to confuse people’s feelings with their opinions, but as you go along it turns out it’s pretty easy to figure out which is which: People never shut up about their opinions, but often go to great lengths to cover up their feelings; furthermore, too often the former negatively affects the latter. Opinions can be interesting and even fun to discuss, but when they’re used to make someone look dumb under the guise of “making a point”, that opinion is nothing more than a 2×4 with a nail in it. There are much better ways to share what one feels is interesting information or a potentially enlightening outlook, and those who do so just to win a fight or look smart are to be pitied and ignored, or, failing that, set ablaze. The fact that everything in this paragraph would technically be considered an opinion by most should be disregarded due to the fact that I am your father and shut up.
10) You’re going to die. I just wonder if it wouldn’t be more beneficial to be born with this realization innately stored in your mind, instead of it being a terrifyingly mind-boggling discovery a few years into the experience. Would it become something to work toward instead of dread and fear, or would you still pussyfoot around it, watch TV and play it safe? Maybe when the doctor hands you over to your mother and I (after we wrench you away from your grandmas), I’ll stroke your wispy hair, ever mindful of your mysterious and revolting fontanelle, and whisper lovingly in your ear, “You’re going to die someday.” You know, just to give you that little kick in the ass we all need to make a go of it in this crazy, mixed-up world.
Anyway, we’re gonna have a lot to talk about, so we’ll probably just play it by ear, and I’ll see you when you get out.