Sunday, December 28, 2008

Me Time...

"So I was walking around the 'hood with the Life Force Sucker tucked in his Baby Bjorn... And I noticed this [INSERT INANE OBSERVATION HERE]"

Good God, if this turns into one of those blogs in which every banal thought of the writer is captured, every un-blogworthy anectode told, just to fill up space... PLEASE KILL ME.

Here is something I swear to you, my readers. I will only share deep philosophical ideas about parenthood and New York City with you. I may illustrate these ideas with anecdotes and minutae. But I will never throw in something just to clutter up this mother of all clusterfucks we call blogspace.

This picture speaks to the essence of fatherhood.

So let's get to today's point: Me Time. Or the abject lack of it once you become a father.

And let's also be honest about our true selves and natures. If you live in Brooklyn these days, there is strong chance--some statisticians put it at 90%--that you came from a town called Elsewhere, USA. In other words, you are a transplant. Or to put it less kindly, you are a gentrifying interloper who followed your vital stores of self-delusion and self-aggrandizement and your strong gut feeling that, like, Tony Manero, you were destined for better things, to the Big City. You found Manhattan a touch twee and vulgar (and too expensive) for your artistic tastes, and hence, you went to Brooklyn and joined one of its various colonies of hipness.

(How ironic, no? That just three and some short decades ago, John Travolta wanted to go to Manhattan to make it? But now, Manhattan is about as hip as a stockbroker's gilded bathroom... Brooklyn is where it's at.)

In other words, my fellow Brooklynite, you are a SELF-CENTERED TOOL. I'm not being righteous; I, the Unit Parental, am just like you. Yes, I can admit it. That's one of the things parenthood does to you--it takes away the places to hide; it makes you stare at the misshapen thing in the mirror and take honest appraisal... But enough about me. Back to you...

Being a self-centered tool, you took it for granted that the hip universe (e.g., the East Village, or Williamsburg... depending on when you came to New York City) revolved around you. In other words, you were the beginning and the word, the alpha and the omega, the sacred and bejeweled and fabulous THING around which all things spun. You came to the City to make it, because if you can make it here... well, you know the rest.

And now, my friends, a full decade and a half after you first arrived in the city, you are still living in your shitty little apartment, which doubles as your painting studio, your novel/screenplay writing space, your shitty band's rehearsal space. Your hair has grayed, your fabulous youth has faded. Oh, the crow's feet! The cellulite! The widow's peak! The ache in your overtaxed liver.

But in that deluded head of yours, you are still the shit. It's just a matter of time before you hit it BIG.

But I must break the bad news to you: the only reason you are still the shit is because you have not yet had a child...

Take my own life as a moral lesson. I too once thought I was the shit. I thought I was the biggest stinkiest shit around. But then, reality came in the form of my parental schedule and obligations. Oh, I rebelled at first. I can still go biking with my friends. I can still go out drinking and, well, I’ll just get up at 5am with the kiddie. I did it in college, didn’t I???? Living large all night long… And in between all this partying and merrymaking, I'll just work on the novel.

But no amount of energy can put up with this schedule:

3:35AM – Wake up to Life Force Sucker screaming that his Magic Turtle nightlight and musical toy “Needs battewies.”

4AM – Locate 4 double C batteries. Unscrew battery console of Magic Turtle. Take old batteries out. Mix them up with NEW batteries. Curse under breath. Feel guilty for saying Fuck as sleepy Life Force Sucker looks on in half-darkness.

4:30AM – Finally identify new batteries, stick them inside Magic Turtle correctly. Turn Magic Turtle on for Life Force Sucker. Go back to bed.

5AM – Get up to Life Force Sucker screaming for milk. Get milk. Give it to Life Force Sucker.

5:30AM – Get up to Life Force Sucker screaming, “I’m finished.” Scream back that Life Force Sucker should put cup on floor beside his Big Boy Bed. Life Force Sucker screams until I go into his room and take cup from his little hands and put it on floor myself.

6:30AM – Get up to Life Force Sucker screaming he wants more milk and he wants to watch Dragon Tales on Mommy’s bed. Carry Life Force Sucker, who is heavy and bloated with milk, to bed. Go get more milk.

7AM – Get up and shower and shave. Put on work clothes. Take Life Force Sucker to living room, make him oatmeal, put on coffee.

7:30AM – Try in vain to get Life Force Sucker to eat the oatmeal I have lovingly microwaved for him. Stand before my new GOD, the Krups coffeemaker, and slurp Fairway’s Organic blend.

7:45-8:30AM – Wait for the Life Force Sucker’s nanny. Wife leaves for work. Sit there and tap foot for a long time because our nanny, let’s call her The Saint, is perennially late. She is also unapologetic about it. She knows she has me and Mrs. Unit Parental by the short and curlies. She takes loving care of my son; better care than I myself am equipped to give my son (Reasons for this will be discussed in future entries).

9:30-5PM – Arrive at work breathless and late. Work like an indentured servant until 5pm, because I have to get back home by 6pm, or else pay the nanny overtime, even though she owes me many back hours due to her morning tardiness. But my liberal guilt won’t allow me to collect on those hours.

5-6PM – Put coat on and run to subway station. Try to read on commute back to Brooklyn. But I only manage to Hate myself and Hate my beloved City. I am a Web project manager, meaning I am expected to work from 10am to 11pm, regardless of the fact that I have a kid. In other parts of the country, of course, having a kid is considered part of the HUMAN LIFE CYCLE... But here in New York, having kids is known as a CAREER LIABILITY and a SIGN OF WEAKNESS, i.e., you were not cool/hip/powerful enough to resist your own built-in biology. How St. Louis, Missouri, of you...

6-7:30PM – Fight with the Life Force Sucker about eating his dinner and how much TV he seems to be watching and how many ice creams and treats he is asking for during the course of the evening.

8PM – Bathe and groom the Life Force Sucker like he is Sea Biscuit.

9PM – Watch fifteen minutes of mixed martial arts on Versus or Spike and cry.

10PM – Pass out with Mrs. Unit Parental on the sofa.

3:34AM – Wash, rinse, repeat all of the above…

I could, of course, become one of those parents who neglects his child because he's too busy pursuing his own dreams. Or one of those parents who lives his frustrated dreams through his child--a child who will, in turn, develop a severely stooped posture from having to return again and again to his parent's deep well of bitterness, to scoop the foul water there and carry it in a clay urn, atop his downturned head, back to the poisoned village called his childhood.

But I swore to myself I would not have one of those fucked up New York City kids who is already so self-conscious and uber-hip that he is not really having a childhood but is, in fact, suffering the childhood his suburbs-to-Brooklyn transplant parents wish they had for themselves.

So what am I doing? I'm trying to raise my kid with as much, gulp, dare I say it, love as i can. I'm trying to teach him that he is NOT the center of the universe. Only the center of my (imploded, wrecked) universe.

Oh, I am like an astronomer of old who, after years of looking up at the stars, after years of scribbling calculations on my notebooks of parchment, makes the startling, world-rattling discovery that it is the earth that revolves around the sun, and not visa versa!

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