2008-09-05 / On Second Thought

Thirty- something speaks

Utopia does not contain plastic golf clubs
Mike Maddock

When my dad was alive he had very fond memories of me as a child. He didn't remember me climbing to the top of dressers and china cabinets pretending to be one of the monkeys I used to watch on Wild Kingdom. He had no recollection of my forward flips from our upstairs loft onto the first floor couch. My dad did remember the five glass tables I shattered with various baseballs and bats, but barely. And even so, he said those five separate incidences were all innocent accidents.

I'm not complaining. My dad's memory loss worked out well for me. As far as he was concerned, I was a little angel incapable of any wrongdoing. The problem is that his memory put unrealistic expectations on my son. At the time, my son was a prototypical four- year- old boy. He didn't mean any harm, and he listened to his parents for the most part, but he was four and he's a boy.

That meant dirt was a fifth food group. It meant anything within reach was fair game and that included statues, plants, and, occasionally, eyebrows. It meant he may take a whack with a plastic golf club at anyone in range, not to intentially mame the people surrounding him, but just because he could. If it felt good, he generally did it, and nothing was off limits. There was no real thought process going on inside that little head back when he was four.

Girls usually learn the smart way by asking questions and approaching things with caution. Boys, on the other hand, often learn the hard way. Injury and collateral damage are a regular part of their education.

My dad had forgotten the hard lessons I learned along the way. I wouldn't call it senility; there's just something God does to the parental memory to help ensure the continuation of the human race. If my dad had remembered how many tables or vases or stereos I destroyed as a kid trying to break Hank Aaron's home run record in our living room, then he may have tried to talk me out of having kids. Since God clouded his brain with only the images of me doing homework, cleaning my room, and riding a big wheel harmlessly in the street as opposed to my occasional trips through the hallway and through various houseplants, my dad encouraged me to have children.

His Utopian memory came face to face with reality in the form of three- foot- tall bundle of destruction. I live with the bundle of destruction. My memory is just fine as of today. So I watch, and I punish, and I live in a house that's somewhat prepared for the little guy.

But my dad was a different story. He lived in a house for adults and rightfully so. It's just kind of difficult when we visited.

My dad glared at me with a look of utter and absolute bewilderment when my son tore through his house like the Tasmanian Devil. It was incomprehensible to him that someone would rip the leaves off his Easter Lilly for absolutely no reason. He couldn't believe someone would play football with his remote control. He was astonished when his couch was treated like a trampoline, and devastated when he took a plastic five- iron to the forehead.

"You never did anything like this," he used to say to me.

"That's right Dad. I never did," I said maintaining my untarnished, but completely untrue image. I figure my son will get payback when his son is ripping through my living room in 25 years. Until then, I get to be the good son.

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