This Past Week With My Kids Was Great
The rain finally stopped here at my little patch of Connecticut. I suppose that’s good, although I am a fellow who appreciates precipitation and does not even mind the word “moist,” as so many people do. Inclement weather affects my wife, though. She gets mopey and agitated whenever she cannot see the sun for more than a couple days. Perhaps she believes, like some ignorant pagan, that the sun has gone away forever, I do not know. On those days when she is moody, I try to do what any responsible husband would do and tell her that her problems are all in her mind and she should just shut up about it. Even though this never helps her mood, at least it lets her know that she’s annoying me. That way, if it ever gets violent, I will already be on record that it’s her fault.
Fortunately for her, she missed this week’s poor weather because she spent the week in sunny Los Angeles with friends. After taking care of the kids pretty much by herself for three months while I was in production on my show, we decided that she deserved some time off. (She decided; I had no say in the decision-making.) So off she went to Malibu while I remained behind with the children. Big mistake.
The mistake was hers, because now I know, beyond any doubt, that I am the better parent. These children were never better cared for than this week. God, they are some well-cared-for children! When my wife is home with them alone, I am constantly receiving panicked phone calls from my spouse about how terrible the kids are behaving, the messes they have caused, the fires they have started, etc. When they were with me, however, they were models of decorum. Am I saying that they were perfect because I am a perfect parent? Of course not. Nobody is perfect, but I will say that, at least when it comes to parenting, I am as close as a human being can get. Perfection is like the speed of light; nothing can go faster, but this week I think I proved that we can get awfully close.
These children have never been happier than when their mother was out of the picture, a lesson I am definitely keeping front and center in my mind the next time she gives me any shit about anything. The fact that they were so happy without her is by no means an indictment of her. On the contrary, she’s a terrific person and I’m sure she has her own special gifts. But when it comes to parenting the children we made together, I am far superior. Example: our daughter enjoys hurting things. (Her brother, the dog, all living creatures.) This week, instead of reprimanding her for her casual displays of cruelty, I sat her down and made her watch “The Silence of the Lambs.” Whenever Anthony Hopkins’ character came on, I would say, “Is this how you want to end up? IS IT???” Later that night she told me she couldn't sleep. I said, "If you can't sleep, watch the movie again." Highly effective.
Another example: my son often gets upset when loses at any competition. After camp this week, I took him mini-golfing and promptly whooped his ass. When he started to cry, instead of reprimanding him for being a sore loser, I told him if he was really upset we could play again until he beat me. Needless to say, he never did. I absolutely destroyed him at round after round of mini-golf, and after five hours he said he was too tired to keep playing. I said, “No, cry baby, you want to beat your old man – now’s your shot.” He said he didn’t want to beat me anymore. He just wanted to get out of the dark. I gave him a hug and we went home.
People will undoubtedly read these examples and think I am being cruel. But love isn’t always lollipops and teddy bears. Sometimes it’s Tabasco sauce and bloated raccoon carcasses. Sometimes love is showing your kids the world the way it is and not the way we wish it could be. This is a lesson my wife has yet to fully grasp. She wants their childhoods to be “happy.” I want them to be happy too, the same way Marines are happy when they are done with boot camp. Which happiness is more satisfying? The milquetoast happiness born from goodnight kisses or the kind forged from a crucible of steel? Ask anybody who has ever survived a near-death experience. They will all tell you the same thing: they never took life for granted again. That’s how I want my kids to feel when they emerge from childhood.
Which is not to say it’s all “hard-nosed Daddy.” Not at all. We play games together and read stories at bedtime. Right now we’re reading a book about the way things work. Last night we learned about oil rigs and Soviet tanks. Did you know that the T-34 Soviet tanker commander was also the gunner? They didn’t and I didn’t either. So we both learned something.
My wife got back late last night. The first thing she noticed was how muscular the children looked. Damn right. That’s what happens when you get rid of the baby fat. Now that she’s home, there’s going to be a struggle for primacy in the house. It’s abundantly clear to me now that I am the superior parent, a point I’ve been trying to make to her ever since she first got pregnant. The question: what to do about it? I don’t want to demean her by making a blanket rule that I’m in charge of everything but I’m afraid that’s what it’s going to come down to. She’s not going to be happy about the new situation but she’s not happy about much these days, anyway. Part of me wonders if the weather is really the problem or if it’s something else. My guess? It's the weather.