Last night, at a neighbor’s house, I was cleaning mud out from between my daughter’s toes. We were in the back yard. My dogs were there. My son was there as well. My wife was working. The neighbors are a good squad and they’ve got two kids, just a bit younger than my kids. It was gonna be a relaxing evening of ‘put all the kids together and let them do all the work while we sit around.’
For those of you who have young kids, or are about to have kids, lemme tell you, this is the ultimate in power-parenting. If you can get your kids to eat outside with someone else’s kids, you’re killing it. The kids exhaust each other. They have fun. They socialize (which, I can’t stress enough is the MOST important thing children can learn to do. Quick quiz: who would you rather be around: a super nice, empathetic guy who’s favorite series of books is the Garfield anthology or a withdrawn, anti social genius?) and you get to sit there and relax, have a beer and get just a smidge of that perspective that’s so crucial when it comes to appreciating how cool it is to have kids. This is what this night was supposed to be.
So we served ‘em dinner outside. No one was eating, but that’s not a surprise because kids generally only eat when they absolutely feel like it. Lots of parents go insane about this, and there’s a good reason to. If kids are hungry when they go to sleep, they wake up early and that means YOU have to wake up early and that’s a fucking dick punch. They don’t care that it’s early. They’re kids. They nap. They go to bed at 730. They do things like pick their noses and eat the results. They don’t care about anything. If they’re up at 5, they’re up at 5. But the difference between, say, 545 and 615 to an overworked, hungover mommy…well, shit, son. That’s the difference between pre-emptive victory and defeat.
The fact is, however, that kids don’t need that much food. You and your fat ass and your big sandwich, you’re overfed. That kid you’re stuffing full of (best case scenario) broccoli and (worst case scenario) White Castle Chicken Rings…she’s tiny. Her stomach is the size of a goddamn coin purse. She doesn’t need to eat nearly as much as you think she does. And the amounts you’ve put on her plate are arbitrary. “Just finish your carrots” you say. But why? You didn’t put thirteen carrot medallions on her plate because that’s some kind of FDA recommendation. You put 13 carrot medallions on her plate because that’s how many you haphazardly cut/grabbed out of a Tupperware while hastily assembling her shitty dinner that she’s not gonna eat anyway. Quit stressing. If she’s hungry, she’ll eat a handful of dirt. Getting riled up about a kid refusing to eat is like getting riled up about getting old. No one else but you cares. Recognize.
So anyway, my daughter (who didn’t eat anything but a few wayward slices of hotdog and a couple of noodles, by the way) is getting the mud cleaned out from between her toes by me. Suddenly, I smell this mud and begin to wonder “is this shit?” I look at the dogs. I scan the yard. “Where did this shit come from, sweetie?” I ask. She points at the bench she was sitting on, which is smeared in poo. “Oh.” I say. “Is this YOUR shit?” She nods.
Suddenly, her muddy face and hands are a way, WAY bigger problem than I had previously assessed. I grab some paper towels and begin to clean human feces off my neighbors’ patio furniture. I do some casual yelling of the phrase “FINGERS OUT OF YOUR MOUTH!!!!” over and over again while I clean. My neighbors bring me a bag into which I can deposit the doodoo laden underpants and nightgown (this bit is a crucial piece of information. She is potty trained [in theory, obviously] so this was not a traditional ‘accident’ so much as it was an act of lazy aggression. What I mean by that is this: Kids don’t give two shits about making messes or you cleaning them up. To them, their entire lives are being picked up, wiped down, scrubbed, reconfigured, combed, brushed and spitshined. What IS of crucial importance to them is to not miss out on the good times while they’re happening. SO, there you are. You’re almost 3. You’re having a cool party with a bunch of your friends and your big brother. You’ve gotta poop, BUT that’s a big pain in the ass. It involves finding a hand to hold while you walk up the stairs, getting someone to turn on the lights, and negotiating some sort of footstool to get you to toilet height. AND at the end of it, someone else has to wipe your ass anyway. Where’s the downside in just shitting your pants right there in the yard? There’s none. Sure, you know better, but fuck it. Daddy’s not doing shit right now anyway. Boom. Lazy aggression.). As I take the underpants off, the poo goes everywhere: Down the legs, hanging off the heels, etc. It’s a grim scene.
I begin wiping this child down thoroughly only to have the neighbor child tap me on the shoulder to announce that my son is around the corner barfing. “Interesting development” I casually think to myself, and then, full of nothing but dignity and total composure, I stroll around the corner to ascertain that, yes, in fact, my kid IS barfing all over my neighbors’ deck. Vivid red barf is…well, everywhere.
When I was a kid, I was a mad barfer. This kid has the gift too. Barfing in kids is amazing. If you can learn to barf well, you can overcome all sickness so much quicker and generally, you’re set up to jettison queasiness whether it comes from bad shrimp, too much tequila, a mild fever or the sight of your sister’s legs smeared in fecal matter.
So yeah. He barfed. The entire back yard was full of Kelly child human waste. The dogs were barking like crazy. It was a real scene. My neighbors are super nice. They have two kids and so they know the score when it comes to random deuces and ralphs. They hosed the barf down while I mopped the poo and put the female child in the bath. Then we had a rather large water balloon fight. It was, actually, a great night.
The thing is, there’s a lot of discourse out there about what’s appropriate in terms of what you write about your kids on the internet. Is the above story needlessly embarrassing to my children? Am I putting my own quest to regale you with a sensational parenting tale above my kids’ right to privacy? You know what? I don’t know and frankly, I don’t care. Kids are embarrassed by their parents about 100% of the time, last time I checked, and the only people who are genuinely mortified about shitting their pants when they’re 2 are teenagers, who are, in my experience, a bunch of shitheads who could do with a little humility.
Everyone out there knows what’s good for your kids and what’s turning them into assholes and what’s gonna make their lives SO hard and different from ours. Well, here’s the thing. I didn’t turn out that great. Neither did you. These kids’ lives are gonna be different and hard because they’re gonna be fighting to the death for the last gallon of clean, drinkable water at the Piggly Wiggly. Their lives are gonna be different and hard because they’re gonna grow up in a world where they have almost no chance to avoid cancer due to the preponderance of cellphones and wifi signals everywhere, not to mention all the preservatives and chemical shit that’s in absolutely everything that we eat. They’re gonna be fucked up because they grow up in a world where everybody gets a hit, everybody gets a trophy, everybody wins, they’re gonna watch their friends’ parents yell at teachers for the bad grades their friends get, and they’re gonna get told over and over again that sex is dirty and wrong but blowing people up is good fun. If the worst thing that happens to my kids is that they have a dickish, anecdotal dad who writes down what they do on some obscure corner of the internet, I think shit’ll be fine, but somehow, I don’t event think that’s gonna be a blip on their radar. Hopefully I’m wrong.
In closing, wow…what an adorable fucking mess children can be. Nice world we’ve set up for them.