Friday, July 17, 2009

The Kids Are (Not) Alright

It’s not you, it’s me.

When it comes to child interaction, you don’t want me involved in the water balloon toss or wheelbarrow race. And you certainly don't want me loitering near petting zoos or schoolyards, mischievous grin intact as I encourage insubordinate behavior. You see, stirring the proverbial pot (or stuffing the occasional potato into the microwave) has always been my forté. And should this instigation score your kid high honors on Santa's Naughty List, so be it. Like the crazy uncle banned from family gatherings, I’m amused by the utter gullibility of children.

Before you paint me as some child-hating abscess, leading your offspring into kindergarten thuggery, consider that I adore contact with babies. Clad in silly one-piece attire, their precious innocence explodes into hearts, minds, and diapers. Other than wicked stepmothers or Joan Crawford, who hasn’t brightened to the charming hysterics of a newborn’s first peek-a-boo? They look like bald aliens and behave like primates, but after the post-umbilical hose-down, cuteness prevails.

Unfortunately, I enjoy the squeals of rugrats much better when they can’t speak; which is to say, unless some third world doctor offers to extract their larynx, I’d just as soon return the babblers to the Vlasic stork before they master the alphabet. Toddlers are boring, adolescents are pricks, and high schoolers are full-blown assholes. It’s tiresome enough conversing with an acne erupted, half-wit nose picker who’d rather sniff glue than learn algebra (especially if he's your own son, God have mercy). But networking with the mind of a three year old is an exercise in patience beyond anything asked of Job; akin to holding tête-à-têtes with drooling hobos who spew incoherent nonsense. In other words, feigning interest in choo-choo trains with humans who consistently vomit lunch and soil
underwear out of convenience is exhausting, whether in homeless shelters, trailer parks, or pre-schools. Yet many of my peers communicate amazingly well with the younger set, killing brain cells with puerile gibberish, whereby dinners in the Easy-Bake oven start to look appealing as their grasp on reality loosens.

Over the course of time, dear reader, the mettle of my penis will be tested. Virile stallion or empty vessel, the answer remains unknown. Should the former ring true, I too will assume cartoonish voices, appease imaginary friends, cleanse skinned knees, throw baseballs, and attach training wheels. For a short while, I will pretend to know everything, and cherish my standing as guidepost and protector. I will wipe tears and rub noses. Encourage, praise, and punish; support, console, and eventually release. From tricycles and ice cream cones to recitals and rebellion, however messy or disappointing, whatever the outcome despite the expectation, unconditional love will prevail. With boundless depth. Empty diaper or full load.

Either that, or I’ll just institutionalize the little bastards after they hit kindergarten, and grovel for their sympathies once I contract Alzheimer’s. Greater dysfunctions have been overcome when an inheritance check lies on the line.