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They’re basically tiny drunks

“We don’t lick the car,” is apparently something I say now.

Some guy heard me saying it to my kid as he was walking into the Walmart (that’s right, I am over thirty now, so I add unnecessary definite articles to proper nouns), and started laughing.

I’m so glad, sir, that this interaction was entertaining for you.

You’re like, what? Twelve?

Oh. Oh, I see, you’re twenty-three.

How cute for you.

I’ll bet you’ve never had a little human being for whom you are entirely responsible. So let me tell you a little bit about what people are like before they are successfully domesticated.

They’re basically tiny drunks. They’re loud, they’re demanding, and they smell a little like pee all of the time.

Imagine that you are one hundred percent responsible for your least grown up drinking companion. Let’s brainstorm your day as the person legally responsible for everything that clown does:

Good morning, beautiful. It’s 4:30. Yes, a.m. Congratulations! Your precious offspring is awake, which means so are you, chump. And why, praytell, are you about to enjoy the dawning of this glorious new day with your child flagrantly violating all of our boundaries?

It’s because his toe itches, of course.

Yes. Yes, it is entirely your responsibility to handle that. And good luck, because no matter how long you scratch every toe on both of his feet, he’s not going back to bed. Because this is in no way about itchy digits. This is about some Rice Chex, Lebowski, and it always has been, but you need to work through the compressed layers of subterfuge to get to that core truth, which will carry us right up until 6:15 a.m.

Aww, cheer up, buttercup! You’ve had a solid four and a half hours of sleep. That’s a record, this month. Now drag your tired hiney out of bed and into the kitchen. It’s breakfast time, homie. And kiddo can’t reach the cereal boxes because you’ve put everything that’s open on top of the refrigerator and locked all of the platforms he could use to gain access in the basement after the fifth and final time that an entire box of Rice Chex wound up pulverized into the fibers of the living room carpet, not to mention the very fibers of your crushed soul.

He wants a bowl of cereal with milk. But not real milk, because an episode of Untold Stories of the ER, which he watched in its entirety as you slept in one morning, has convinced him that if he eats real milk he will never poop again. And not coconut milk, because it doesn’t actually taste like coconut, but there’s a picture of a coconut on the carton and that’s enough to remind him that he doesn’t like it. He wants almond milk, because it’s the only kind of milk you don’t currently possess. He knows you’re not going to leave the house to procure almond milk right now. But he also knows that he’s bored, and it’s fun to watch you squawk when you’re angry. This is the button he can push most easily at this given moment, and so he will continue to slam it until you are freely weeping, face in your palms, stooped over the kitchen sink and pleading aloud with whatever God will hear you to “give me the heart attack now, please.” Then, and only then, will he eat the Rice Chex, without milk, but with a spoon.

No, a small spoon.

No, a small plastic spoon.

No, a small plastic spoon that’s shaped like broccoli.

No, the small plastic spoon that’s shaped like broccoli but is melted on one side from being left on top of the wall heater and nearly burning the house to the ground.

Mmm. Tastes like near disaster and the bitter, salty tears of a broken man.

In a word? Delightful.

The second you put the food in front of him you’re going to have to run. No, seriously, run – like you just crawled over the wall of the prison yard and you need to make it to the woods before the sniper gets you in his sights – to the shower. You’ve got approximately three and a half minutes to wash yourself. Hair included. Don’t worry about the temperature of the water. I mean, you’re already dead inside, broheme. The somatic sensory receptors in your skin may as well go numb too. It’s just easier that way.

He’ll ask for a second bowl of cereal, as you dress your second-degree facial burns and brutally assess your life choices up to this point, and you’ll tell him that he’s not still hungry, but rather bored. He will insist, shrilly, that he is literally starving to death before your eyes thanks to your malignant neglect, so eventually you’ll abdicate the additional allotment of Rice Chex in hopes that your effort to be accommodating will be rewarded with compliance for the remainder of the day.

You exquisite clown.

So then you’ll clean up the steaming pile of wet, beige, gluten-free stomach acid that he’ll hork up on the table halfway through his second bowl before relenting that he may, in fact, be full after all and accusing you of intentionally overfeeding him in an attempt to make him physically ill.

Because you are clearly some sort of sadistic miscreant who takes a truly depraved sort of pleasure in ruining the life experiences of small children.

You’ll need to go to the store, for more bleach, which is your only real friend in life at this point, and paper towels. Because, between your child and your cat, you are Dr. Dingus, Distinguished Professor, Department of Spew Management at the presitgious International Academy of Wasted Freaking Lives .

You’ll tell your darling spawn to put his shoes on.

Sixteen times.

While he stares through you into the vacuous nihility that is Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

When you finally wise up and turn the television off, you’ll spend the next fifteen minutes trying to coach him in the use of emotional regulation techniques like guided meditation, positive affirmations, yoga breathing, and turtle shelling before informing him, at the top of your lungs, that you are going to the store whether he’s coming or not, but that if anything happens to him while you are gone, no one will be able to hear him scream because the windows are all closed and he can’t reach the deadbolt on the front door.

This will traumatize him enough that you can wrestle those itchy tootsies into his green alligator Crocs, which you will agree to spend twenty minutes digging out of the summer shoe box in the basement out of guilt, even though it’s still only the first week of March and snow is expected this evening.

On the way to the store, your little treasure will quiz you on what treats you’re going to buy him. You’ll inform him that, because keeping him alive requires you to maintain an account in good standing with the gas people and the water people and the electricity people and the sewer people, you’ve already bought him some really neat-o things this week, like heat and running water and an outlet that can charge his tablet and a toilet that flushes.

These truths will not impress him.

Finally, you will get to the store and park your car, opening the door for him and asking him to wait for just a second while you retrieve your wallet from the passenger seat. When you emerge, five seconds later, there will be a damp trail, at a height of three feet, in the layer of road dust and anti-skid that crusts the side of your hatchback, where he’s drug his tongue across the length of the vehicle because, as he’ll explain, “clearly the car needs to be washed” and “you should really do something about that.”

And as you inform him that “we do not lick the car,” some jerk off who’s never spent even one minute of his life actively attempting to parent a child will giggle innocently at you and you will take it so personally that you will one day write an epic forty-five inch column about the interaction, which wasn’t even an actual interaction at all, because you’re too exhausted at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning, to even wade into it with a stranger in the parking lot of the Walmart.

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