I am NOT old. I’m not!
I say that to myself all the time. I’m only thirty-three…that’s not old, right? And on good days, I can even convince myself that it’s true. Then my children come along and happily, oh so happily, blow that personal illusion out of the water! I just love them.
They don’t do it on purpose. They haven’t reached the point of referring to me as their “old man”. They have never once looked at me and said “Daddy, you’re so old!” But they make me feel old. How did this happen? I used to be…no, okay, I was never cool. I was a nerd, before nerds were cool. If you’ve perused the links on this page, you see that I wrote Power Rangers fanfiction (and not the nasty, raunchy kind that floods EVERY CATEGORY of fanfiction) as a teenager…you don’t get much nerdier than that. But at least I felt young then! Something went wrong here!
Many people much funnier than me have talked about turning into their parents. I won’t try that. Of COURSE I catch myself using their parenting tricks, their sayings, and so on. Why wouldn’t I? I had a good childhood. No, the things that tell me that I’m old are more immediate than that…let me give you an example.
This morning I put the kids in the car, instructed them to buckle up, and got out to scrape the windshield. When I got back in, I asked them if they had buckled up. Emma (age six) says “I did!” Ethan (age five) says “No! I can’t reach!” Emma looks at him and says “Because he’s playing with his ***** (HINT: It rhymes with walls). After my heart attack, I discovered that she was not in fact implying anything off-color about her brother; she was referring to his Bakugan toys. Bakugan, for the uninitiated like me, are little plastic monsters that fold up into a ball shape, then spring out when you drop them. Intrigued by this, I did what any responsible parent would do, and confiscated the toys. For, you know, research purposes. And do you know what I found?
I can’t make them fold up!
I tried. I tried as hard as I could. Ethan sighed—my five-year-old SIGHED at me—plucked the toy from my hand, and instantly transformed it. Twice. The indignity! You see, I had this illusion that I knew how toys worked. Hey, I was a kid once! I played with toys! I had Generation One Transformers—some of those were insanely difficult, and I could practically make them sing and dance! So how is it that a little plastic ball could defeat me?
That’s when I knew the bitter, bitter truth: I was old.
But it’s okay. I don’t mind being old. Being old makes me at least somewhat smarter than them (although Emma tries her best to top me), and of course there is the value of experience. I have discovered the singular thrill of being able to pick my child up from the dust of his (or her) mistakes, put him back on his feet, and sweetly say “I told you that would happen! Listen next time!” Because, of course, while they make you feel old, they make you feel young, too. What a paradox!
This is not going to be a parent blog. There are plenty of good ones out there (If you have young kids, I’d recommend http://www.thelaughingstork.com, which is very funny). But I can’t resist talking about them sometimes…and besides, my experiences with them shape my writing as much as anything else in my life. So be prepared: Here there be monsters, also known as children! I promise they don’t bite. Much. Anymore. You believe me, don’t you? After all, I’m authoritative…because I’m old!