Kinder Dregs

I’ve finally gotten to the stage of life where people have stopped asking me, “When are you going to have kids?” This is because I’m now old enough that the idea seems unlikely (barring a Chaplinesque desire for younger and younger wives, who can someday change both the children’s diapers and my own). But it’s also because those who know me fairly well are relieved that I have no impressionable young minds under my jurisdiction. My children would undoubtedly be mouthy little schoolyard terrorists, suffering from both delusions of grandeur and crippling neuroses. I would see to it. They would be the first to tell the other kids that Santa Claus isn’t real and the last chosen for team sports or student council. They would make me very proud.

Oh, I know you hapless daddies and medicated moms will tell me I’ve missed all the heartwarming aspects of parenthood, like upchucked gummy worms, pee-stained mattresses, and a living room perpetually littered with Legos and Pokemon. And I know you say it’s an amazing adventure to watch your children’s minds grow, marveling as they learn the Spanish word for buttocks and discover that their farts are flammable. But here’s what I feel is the strongest counter-argument against those claims: I slept until 11:00 this morning. And I could have slept much later if I’d wanted to. When I got up, I had a tough time deciding if I should finish reading that lengthy New Yorker article on the Indonesian economy or go back to sleep or both. Feel free to pretend you’re not jealous of that while you’re trying to clean hurled Frankenberry out of Tyler and Britney’s hair before the school bus arrives.

And on the rare occasion I can locate an actual adult among the Yoda-addicted peers of my generation, I get to engage in grown-up conversations. We get to trade information about health insurance, speculate on the philosophical ramifications of corporate globalism, and muse on mankind’s true purpose in an ever-expanding universe. I’d try this with you, but within a couple of minutes you’d be interrupted by a pantsless toddler, questioning at high volume the fairness of Caitlin having eaten the last Fruit Roll-Up. You are no longer allowed a continuous stream of adult thought. What’s worse, tending to tantrums over dropped cupcakes and persistent questions about Dora the Explorer’s odds of winning a fight against Spongebob have reduced your thinking to a juvenile level. You can name the Power Rangers, and are capable of singing all 72 verses of “Old MacDonald,” but you can’t remember if Antonin Scalia is an opera singer or a catcher for the Mets.

Look, I know you’re in the kid’s zone all day and you no longer have an outsider’s perspective, but believe me, the rest of us are made keenly aware of what you’ve become. We’ve heard the sort of parental dialogue you spout any and everywhere, oblivious in your parenting as to just how infantile you sound.

“No! No! What did I tell you? Now, didn’t I tell you? Huh? What did I tell you about chewing on your sister? Huh? What did I tell you? Didn’t I tell? Huh? Now, don’t you start that! Don’t you start! Okay, we’re not going to Chuckie Cheese if you don’t stop! Is that what you want? Huh? Didn’t I tell you? What did I tell you?”

Seriously, you are this close to “nanny nanny boo-boo.” The childless and comparatively sane among us listen to this gibberish coming out of you everywhere: in the library, at the ball game, at Hooter’s. It stands to reason that this sort of habitual exchange isn’t going to leave you prepared for a formal debate on Middle Eastern theological practice. But frankly, it’s your children I feel sorry for. In these moments, I’d like to take young Kaylee and Brayden aside and reassure them that the jabbering idiot lording over them will someday be too frail and helpless to resist being committed to a nursing home – and that when they grow up, they can change their names to something less nauseating.

Because as clearly disappointing as your children appear to be in every respect, I’m on their side. Parenting has warped your mind, and you have become an emotionally unstable, irrational dictator with the reasoning ability of a baby chimp on bath salts. Worse, you are now addicted to micro-managing your child’s every romper room rampage, leaving no time for your adult world of Proust and pornography. What your children really want is to get your manic, baby-talking culo out of their faces so they can have a meaningful conversation.

I’m reminded of a terrifying scene I witnessed in a mall food court a few years ago. A toddler girl was sitting, contentedly chewing on a chicken sandwich. Her hair and tiny nails had obviously been professionally done, and she wore an expensive, fur-trimmed coat with matching boots. Her mother sat across the table, leaning forward, her bulging eyes locked on the child with the intensity of Renfield. She began interrogating and barking orders at her perfectly quiet daughter. “Is your sandwich good?! Eat some more of those fries! Are the fries good?! Sit up straight! Drink some of your Coke! Is that Coke good?! Eat some more of your fries!”

The kid merely nodded and acquiesced, silently chewing. The woman paused, leaning in closer, her eyes now blazing with fevered psychosis.

“Are you going to stay with Mommy forever?!?!?”

Seeing this level of parental meltdown on display reinforces my conviction that it’s better not to have children. But I’m also convinced it’s even better not to have parents.


Alex Goetchius said...

Wow! Now I just wanna stuff my kids back into my wife's vagina!

Carrie Boyd said...

Loved this! "pee-stained mattresses, and a living room perpetually littered with Legos" LOL! It's funny the things I said I'd never do as a parent, but ended up doing anyways. Like yelling, "Stop that!" all the time. We try to not let the kids overtake our lives with their extracurricular activities, and make time for ourselves to continue doing things we enjoy and making time for adult conversation.

Esri Rose said...

Proust and porn - that's what it's all about at our house, too.

Now I have to look up Renfeld.

Lory French said...

omg I am giggling like the chimp you mentioned.

Pinkhamster said...

Now that I've heard you reading your work, I couldn't help but hear this essay read in your voice. I think it makes an interesting difference, because before I heard you read your essays aloud (via the internet) I was hearing this material with a harsher, angrier voice. But in your readings a more playful tone comes through the words and clarifies the intent. (I think!)