09 August 2010

Growing Up is Hard to Do

Something they neglect to tell you about parenting is how, overnight, your behavior has to change. That there comes a time when you have to put childish (or are they adult?) things away. That the demands of parenting result in a forced maturation, one for which you might not be entirely prepared. Suddenly, there are rules. There are things you can't do. You have to go all Tipper Gore and censor your music choices, lest your child begin to repeat some of the inappropriate language and sexual innuendo that appears in the music you favor. You have to watch the words that come out of your own mouth, too. You have to be sober and sober-minded. Can't stay up late, or drink too much, or drive too fast (not at the same time).

So, the Doozer is starting to repeat things at random, causing me to reflect upon all that we have given up in service of parenthood. In many ways, real, true adulthood does not begin until you have progeny. And here's the thing. Now you're a role model. For the first time in your life, probably. Your kid is looking up to you (literally, in fact, physically looking up at you--until he's a teenager and hits a growth spurt and starts to look down at you--I don't want to think about that now). You have to set a good example. It all reminds me of that old public service announcement from when I was a kid, the one where the dad confronts the kid about the drugs he found and asked where he learned to do it. "You, all right! I learned it by watching you!" Followed by that ridiculous horrified expression. Don't be a drug addict, dumbass. It's not that hard.

So, in our quest to prevent the Doozer from repeating inappropriate things, we have to banish certain songs from the stereo. So long, "Rehab" and "Gold Digger." I hope to see you someday, when we meet again, introduced as friends. My wife has had to resort to yelling out, "Your socks are on fire!" when riding in the car with our son, listening to Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire." Since she was not quite ready to give up the song entirely. This is what we've been reduced to. Why doesn't anyone prepare you for this? Because we actually need to prevent him from yelling out "This sex . . . on fire!" in the middle of a grocery store. Yes, that would happen. He will repeat something totally at random. It is impossible to predict or curtail. Which means you have to be "on" all the time. You have to get up in the morning, wearing that good role model hat and you've got to go to sleep at night wearing the same hat.

And you can't just get him to repeat stuff you want. Something funny that you think will be a riot coming out of his mouth. Then he gets all tight-lipped and looks at you with a withering stare that says, I am not your monkey. You just never know what he might pick up on. Like, "lawn mower broken." This is the refrain of the summer.

As new homeowners, with our very own lawn to mow for the first time (and a pretty big one at that), our new mower broke down and we've had to borrow other ones from relatives and pay a lawn service and, in general, not be able to keep it in the shape we'd like. And one of us, I'm not sure which, made the mistake of telling the Doozer that the lawn mower was broken. And he never misses an opportunity to remind me of that fact. "Lawn mower broken." Dolt, loser, failure, being the subtext, I'm sure of it. Who can't maintain a lawn mower? Who breaks a brand-new lawn mower?

Stop judging me! Baby jerk.

This is the onset of true adulthood. It makes you want to shout, I want my MTV! The good one, where they used to show the music videos. (Instantly dating yourself.) Now, as a parent, you're no longer a teenager or a college student or carefree twentysomething. Someone is depending on you, and worse, someone is looking up to you.

Stop it. Stop looking up to me. I can't possibly live up to your impossible expectations. Oh, you don't have any expectations. You think I'm great just like I am. You'd rather I sit on the floor, than the couch? That's it? Okay, I guess I can live with that.

You make the rules, pal. Apparently, as long as I live under his roof . . .

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