17 January 2013

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

Becoming a parent really lays your shit bare. You can’t hide who you are when you’re a parent. The act of parenting forces you to see who you really are and what you’re really made of. You learn things you don’t always want to learn. Things you wished you’d never learned. Sure, you could take the entire experience to heart and try to figure out how to become the best possible version of yourself. Or you could let those lessons pile up like so many unread issues of The New Yorker or unwatched Netflix DVDs and face the most devastating truth of all: You don’t measure up and you probably never will.

One thing I’ve learned about myself lately (although in hindsight, I’m not sure becoming a father should have been necessary to learn this particular lesson) is that I would not hold up to torture. Hell, I wouldn’t stand up to intense questioning of any kind, forget about taking it all the way to torture. Of course, I possess no valuable information or secrets that people would be driven to such extreme lengths to extract it from me. Then again, my children are not most people.

It’s the Doozer, mostly. Although I’m sure that he’s really just working me over for the time when Little Brother starts talking—and asking questions—and I’m just a shell of a man who can’t stand on his own two feet under direct interrogation.

At the same time, I have also learned that perhaps in another life and under a different set of circumstances, I might have made an excellent tap dancer. Like Fred Astaire.

And here’s the thing. The kid’s not even after juicy secrets or illicit revelations. He wants to know about Star Wars and cartoon characters and why jokes are funny. And I am dancing around stuff. Literally dancing. We watched Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the Disney special, this year. It’s obviously, the same story as Dickens and it ends with Scrooge’s tour of a graveyard and, in fact, his own grave. 

“What’s that?” the Doozer wanted to know. “Why is he scared? What’s all the fire?”

“What? Huh? I don’t know.”

I don’t know. Honestly, I keep saying this to him. What happens when that ship blows up? What happens to those guys? I don’t know. At the end of the Three Little Pigs book, said three little pigs trap the wolf in a pot, which sits on top of a fire, and revel about never seeing him again. “Why?” the Doozer wants to know. Because they're going to cook him. You know, wolf stew and all that?

“Umm, because he’s trapped in the pot.”

“Why doesn’t he just push up the lid?” 

“Why? Ummm, because the pigs are holding the lid shut. And three pigs are stronger than one wolf. So, he can’t get out. Right? Right. Okay, time to go to bed now.”

What are we doing? What are we afraid of? 

They should just train kids to do interrogation. No enhanced techniques required. Nobody could stand up to the onslaught of questioning and curiosity. No one. I defy them to. Wouldn’t happen.
And this isn't even the important stuff. I’m currently reading Manhood For Amateurs, a collection of essays by Michael Chabon, that mostly have to do with fatherhood. (More on that at another time.) In one, a question from his children about Beatles lyrics results in his revealing to them that he has smoked pot—a lot—in his life. Are we supposed to do this? Is this what’s supposed to happen? The wife and I haven’t talked about this yet. Our oldest is only 4. Maybe we’re supposed to be figuring this out. How much do we reveal to them?

Where is the manual for this? A kid’s life is pretty black-and-white, stark, simple. But life is full of nuance. And complexity. And how do you navigate that with them? How do you balance your desire to be honest and straight with them, while also protecting them? Not to mention protecting yourself. It’s not weird to be overly worried about how your kids perceive you, right? Don’t answer that. 

Where’s the line? How much do we reveal? Do we just treat them like adults? I don’t know. Where does that end up? That seems like a slippery slope.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go change. Just thinking about being questioned by the Doozer—at anytime, about any subject—has caused me to sweat through my shirt.

1 comment:

  1. You complicate it too much. Just roll with it.