The Great Santini

There's no manual for being a parent. You don't get a book, or an 800 number to call. There's lots of reference material available on some of the technical stuff -- but for the rest you're pretty much on your own.
It's just you, the kid, a pile of diapers and insurance forms, and some mental
notes of that one time your mom or dad seemed to know what they were doing.
The reason for this is because regardless of what Dr. Spock, Mister Spock, PBS, or any of the billions of people out there who think they can raise your child better than you can -- there's really no way to escape the fact that you are you, and your kid's personality is unlike any other child in the world.
Which is what makes them so special.
I mean sure they like the same cartoons and get suckered into the same toy commercials and fast-food chain kids meal dependency patterns; but how they react to things, how they approach the world, and more importantly how you react to those reactions -- those things are like fingerprints.

The problem is, because you're learning to understand it all in real-time, it's sometimes tough to gauge when you're doing things right. Hard to know when you're encouraging future bad habits or mindsets by doing the one thing parent's so often fall victim to, which is
Forgetting that their child is still just a little kid.
I don't know if it's like this for everyone, but the trap I fall into most often as a parent is thinking that the little kid I'm always having fun playing around with isn't a longtime buddy that just happens to be really short. That's not to say that my kid isn't one of my best friends in the whole world, but that occasionally I have to remind myself that there are things he doesn't know, jokes he's still not ready to get. It's more my issue than his -- but it leads to some interesting moments.
Now for those of you who haven't met him, my son Curren is amazingly cool.
He's this little ball of unbridled energy who does impressions of TV personalities and likes to ask unprompted impossible-to-answer questions like:
"How do they make spiders?"
Seriously, I'll be in the bathroom brushing my teeth and he'll come in and say, "When you're done, we're gonna build a robot, k?" His laugh is infectious, he's seemingly indestructible (the speed at which he bounces back up after slipping and falling on the playground is mind-boggling), he loves heavy rock and roll (a love he shows by doing little kid hip-hop dance moves whenever his favorite song, "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" plays on the radio), and has what seems to be a selective photographic memory that enables him to recall word for word the dialogue in his favorite TV shows but renders him utterly helpless when it comes to remembering where he put his other shoe when he took it off the day before.
He's 8 going on 8 million miles an hour, and every minute I get to spend with him is gold.
So when this weekend came around filled with sunny days and little or no errands to run, I was more than happy to spend hours on end in the apartment complex pool with him having little swimming races, seeing who could hold their breath the longest, playing Marco Polo, and watching him dive. The thing about it is, marathon amounts of time in a chlorinated pool like that tends to make you hungry -- so each day after we finished swimming, we'd end up chowing down at some local restaurant (including the time where we hooked up with my dad for pizza).

Where it now occurs to me that he must have been a witness to my fathers recent criminal activity, and didn't snitch -- which might be an important thing to remember once we get to closer to his teenage years.

Anyways, one of the jokes that my dad and I always pull whenever the three of us go out is to make sure the waitress gives the bill to my son. We sorta make a reading activity out of it -- but it's mostly just to make him laugh.
The thing is, once you've played out a joke enough times -- people tend to get used to them.
So Sunday night when I cooked Curren up a quick dinner at home and carried it out to the couch in my apartment where he was sitting (no dining room table at Chez Dan) and set it down on the TV tray and he asked me to get him another juice box, I kinda joked around with him and pretended that I was a waiter. He played along for a second, but then went back to watching Lilo and Stitch for the bazillionth time.

After I got him the juice box I thought I'd have a little fun with the idea, and while he worked on his food I found a little piece of paper and mocked up a quick little fake bill for the meal.
Then, once he was done eating I took his plate away and handed it to him. He took a moment to look it over, and then read it out loud to me with a questioning tone in his voice. Still playing the part, I asked him if he would be paying with cash or charge -- at which point he looked at me with this weird sorta look on his face
And then started to cry.
When asked what was wrong, he sniffed back a sob and said, "I don’t have a million dollars, I'm just a kid!" before running into the other room.

Suddenly the whole things going south and I'm trying to explain, when I catch up to him in and see him talking into my cell phone, asking his mom if he can borrow the money. And I'm like -- "It's just a joke!" but then I'm on the phone with the ex explaining the whole thing (which doesn't really go over all that well), and the boy is still in disaster mode -- and I'm wondering what my Dad might do in this kind of situation;

Only to discard that thought, because as great as my father is -- I know damn well that he'd just keep twisting the knife (which he probably stole from some restaurant) between my ribs before busting out in laughter at the exact point where I was worried I'd be grounded for life or whatever, only to realize that he was just fucking with me.

So son, if you're old enough to be reading this -- I just wanted to let you know that I'm sorry for the whole "million dollar macaroni and cheese" thing -- but for the record:
..It's your Grandfather's fault.

[Listening to:  The Vandals"I've Got an Ape Drape" ]


Anonymous said…
A totally off-topic post which harkens back to an earlier post on a Lebowski party you were attending.
Did you ever find a purple jumpsuit? I'm organinzing a Lebowski party in honor of National Bowling Week - the last week in August. I'm going as the Dude but a friend who was born to be Jesus is desperatly searching for a jumpsuit.
Heff said…
1 Mil WAS a little high for Mac & Cheese, wasn't it ?
whatigotsofar said…
Oh damn, that was a great post. I was laughing out loud at my desk at work. Then I jumped up and screamed at the monitor when your son called his mom.
JerseySjov said…
haha little kids are so unpredictable, but i like the ones that act like unpredictable little kids over the ones that act like teenagers.
my aunt, who is in her 50s, has two daughters, one 12 y-o and one 7 y-o, but they all act like theyre 16.
JerseySjov said…
ps very cute kid (:
Awww crap ... I am laughing so hard still that I am crying. That is too funny. Poor little guy. I cannot believe he called his mum though. you poor guy. I miss you my friend. Please email me or something.
Peanut Angel said…
You know, I can think back to plenty of things my parents probably thought was soooo funny but hurt my feelings horribly as a kid. Don't worry, you only scarred him for life. (Just kidding, I'm sure he will forget all about it.) But remind me not to have dinner at your place. I can't afford it either.
Satorical said…
I was walking around with a giant plastic TinkerToy tube in my mouth one day when I was about that age, making trumpet noises, and my stepfather batted the end of it. It cut the roof of my mouth and bled horribly. He was drunk and told me to quit being a crybaby.

So, you know, keep your guilt about this one in perspective.
Hex said…
Anonymous -- Unfortunately I wasn't able to find a purple jumpsuit before that party (I only had a few days to get myself together, so I wasn't able to go whole-hog on the thing), but there were a bunch of guys there who we're dressed up as Quintana. One admitted that he'd known about the party for weeks and had the suit made specifically for the occasion. I'm sure there are ways to find one -- and my first thought would be thrift stores or something like that, but like your friend I was unable to come up with a one-stop solution in short time.

You might also check out the website for the annual official Lebowskifest they throw every year -- they have pretty active message boards, and I bet someone there would have better suggestions on that front.

Still, the party was a blast. A guy showed up in a wheelchair dressed as the Big Lebowski and called us all a bunch of bums. Good times.

Heff -- the mac and cheese was actually pretty cheap, but my kid kept going back for multiple drink refills, which as you know is where the real money in the fake restaurant business is made ;)

wigsf -- Yeah, he called in the law, and the game changed real quick.

Jerseysov -- oh man, what are their names, Miley and Hannah?

Peanut -- It's like Mortons steakhouse. The entrees are pricey, but the happy hour rocks!

Satorical -- I hate that whenever I write about good times with my kid that it's impossible to forget that not everyone had times like those. I think that's part of the reason that I try so hard to be there for him.

ps -- You turned out pretty good, bro, regardless of that past.
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