Will I ever straighten them out?
They’re just kids. I’m not expecting miracles. However, it is my job to parent them and I haven’t given up yet. This is for your sake, too! One day these people will be driving your roads, shopping in your stores and maybe (gasp) dating someone you care about. I won’t be responsible for that asshole who doesn’t know better than to step to the margin of a busy sidewalk while having a conversation. You know, those adults out there who think the world revolves around them (yes I know… mostly guys)? Well, that shit gets dealt with right now: ages ten and eight.
I recently dropped a short piece on Medium wherein I described living in a bus with my wife and two boys. Therein I named my boys “Irritation and Annoyance.” This was mainly in reference to their effect upon each other (Irritation excels at provoking Annoyance), but yes, their daily offensives can chaff me too. But see here: I am not penning these frustrations in attempt to disparage my children. I love them beyond compare. I am chronicling their antics for future reference. You want to do the same with your children. Admit it.
My youngest, Annoyance, is ready to be a man. We all know that an asshole is, essentially, a man who wasn’t sufficiently corrected as a child. (We all know who exhibit ‘A’ is, right? Wink, wink.) Only an asshole, or a child, would suffer an injured pride while being reminded by loved ones, to “watch your step, be careful, slow down.” Today, for instance, we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Monument where a Park Ranger nearly destroyed Annoyance’s day when he stated that children should remain within arm’s reach of their parents. I assured Annoyance that it wouldn’t be entirely necessary, but that as a generally clumsy pre-adolescent, he should at least take it easy. Nonetheless, his pride was injured, and he was… annoyed.
Guess who fell down on the pathway before we’d even entered the caverns, all the way down, torso in full contact with the asphalt?
Once inside, it was Annoyance who had to be told, repeatedly to stop dangling from the handrails, let others pass, and by God don’t even pretend to be grabbing as the stalagmites! He responded to every single correction and instruction with a heavy sigh and rolled eyes. Annoyed.
Can I be annoyed yet? After all, I’m not the person who has recently been told to “stop licking your palms.”
Have you noticed that the attention span of an asshole adult, I mean, child just doesn’t permit them to sufficiently enjoy natural wonders? (Or historical, or cultural either?) While Eight hundred feet below the windswept surface of New Mexico in a literal wonderland of dissolved rock and two-hundred and fifty-million-year-old limestone, Annoyance would like to tell me about an episode of situation comedy, Liv and Maddie.
“Uh-huh. Oh, really? Whoa. Nice buddy.”
It’s not to say that Annoyance didn’t take notice of the caverns around him. At one point, he did inform me that two particularly smooth rocks “look like a butt.”
A future man of America.
Once again, I understand that they are children. Good thing too, since I’d be mortified if an adult friend of mine cut a bat-killing grease fart while we stood chatting with a Park Ranger upon the narrow dark path. It was silent release, but Annoyance had eaten the fruit. He knew it would be lethal.
Irritation is another matter. For some reason, unknown to myself, my wife and even Annoyance, Irritation is physically incapable of seeing massive warning signs on the roadway of human communication. “Calm down,” means nothing to Irritation. To him, the phrase “OK, that’s enough of that,” is just something that people must like to say. And often. Sometimes the words, “You’re the only one laughing right now, goddamn it! What’s wrong with you?” are leveled directly at Irritation’s head, with zero impact.
Guess how well things go in our family when Irritation is spazzing out even after Annoyance has told him for the fifth time to “Pleeese stop?” Yup. There’s violence.
Irritation, in fact, excels at the path of least resistance. For instance; he is still wearing his Crocs as his main, everyday footwear. I’m no fashionista, but he’s not wearing them out of style. He wears these slip on-and-off shoes out of laziness. Pure and simple. He can tie a shoe, kind of. The knot is loose and half-assed and will come undone within the hour. Mine is that ten-year-old who, if we weren’t traveling the nation, would be walking around the schoolyard with shoelaces flapping like triumphant pennants that read: lazy. Irritation insists that his Crocs are wonderful, and that the myriad of slips, falls, stubbed toes, spines (recall that we are traveling through the desert) are unrelated to the fact that he’s wearing rubber shoes. Irritation likes to tear paper into little tiny bits while riding in the back seat of our car. Irritation can’t brush his teeth without stopping five times to tell stories or ask questions… paste haphazardly balanced in cheek and upon tongue.
Is all of this unfair? I’m sure it is and I bet that what I’m seeing as ‘lazy’ would better be described as ‘distracted’. Irritation is a budding genius, a developing artist. One day he’ll go far (despite an awkward gait due to his lack of toes having lost them to frostbite that one winter as a child when he refused to abandon rubber shoes!) I’m equally sure that his brother, Annoyance will be unwilling to accept society’s limitations. Soon he will be the sensation that he frequently plays to his nonexistent ‘fans’ on YouTube. Sigh. Besides, my children’s lack of sophistication can be a lot of fun. Under a full moon we played ‘hide and seek’ in the City of Rocks State Park of southern New Mexico. The one square mile of labyrinthine stone became my personal stronghold as they pursued me. I’d watch them from darkened cracks, physically suppressing my laughter. It would have been a toss up: were they more scared of finding me, or having me stay hidden? It was like being pursued by the world’s dumbest posse. From time to time they’d holler into the dark, threatening me with “really good ninja moves!” as they clung to each other arm in arm. They may be kids, but I’m enjoying the task of working on them. And after all, who couldn’t use a little annoyance and irritation?