I have a lot to impart.
Which is good, because I’m a father now.
But really, I am a man of skills. Mad skills. I can pay bills with aforementioned skills. You wanna know how to change a tire? I got that. String a guitar? Watch and learn. Write a paper? Balance an equation? Make the kind of pad thai that gets you marriage proposals? These are all covered in the curriculum, grasshopper.
A friend of mine once made the distinction that women are all about babies, holding babies, cuddling babies, admiring other people’s babies – where men were more interested in the kid when they could talk, interact, when they could be instructed in things. And this has most certainly been the case with your humble narrator.
Don’t get me wrong, this baby I got is great. Better than HBO. Seriously, there is nothing funnier than an 11-month old stone-facing your best pirate jokes, only to completely lose his shit when you turn the light on and off.
But I don’t think I’m the only dad out there who, whilst mama was reading Dr. Sears and throwing out anything large, old, and yours to make room for the bouncy chair, was prepping for baby’s arrival by working out whether to start him watching Star Wars when he’s 3, or to wait until he’s 5.
One thing’s for damn sure, we’re starting with original Episode IV, none of that re-release CGI crap. That shit turns kids into commies.
I’ve got my lesson plans figured out for twirling nunchuks, and for operation of a jackhammer. We’ll have to wait a little while to learn to parse the metaphors in 80’s B-movies, and then he should be at least 10 before we really work on how to tell a 5-minute joke and still make it funny, but these are all lessons I am qualified and prepared to teach.
And then last week a friend of mine died.
And then, like so very, very few things in parenthood, I had a glimpse of what’s coming down the way in a year or two.
I will have to teach my son about death. Not only that, but about stupid, pointless death. Somewhere in the not so distant future I will talk with him about witty, gifted wonderful people dying randomly and I guess I need to start prepping for it.
But I don’t want to teach this. Can’t we just not acknowledge it at all? There’s no way that’ll mess him up, right? I want my son’s life to be Tennessee and death to be homosexuality – might fly in Iowa, but not in my state dammit.
I mean really, Michelle Bachman denies the existence of scientifically provable reality, can’t I just ignore death? I can get enough people to edit Wikipedia for that, I bet.
The thing about Death is, it’s a gateway drug. If I teach my son about death, then pretty soon we’ll be talking about religion, and war, and the death penalty and then it’s genocide and dictators. And the next thing you know, he’ll be asking me about the Jersey Shore. Where does the madness end?
It’s not really about him, of course. Let’s be honest here, like my every subject of conversation, this is all about me. He’ll be his very own cynical yet handsome adult man someday, whatever I teach him or don’t. Despite my dreams of him forever giggling with delight over stuffed monkeys and Dr. Seuss, as powerfully as I wish he never gets his heart broken, never understands the rage of humiliation, that he never loses someone he loves to a hit & run, this hideous world will find its way past me and scar him deeply and forever. And that just pisses me off.
As a father I refuse to come to terms with this. Kicking and screaming, I may one day have to teach my kid about death, but not now, dammit. Now we sing “Walk the Line” and gurgle and chew our tiny feet. Now, I’ll carry the grief, he carries the bunny.
For now, Death can suck it. Viva la vida.
Post Script: I do, however, have to allow that without death Johnny Cash would have never had a career. So, I guess everything has a good side.