One of the biggest challenges of being a parent is keeping your shit together around your kids.
Sure, When they’re little, they do little kid stuff like drawing on themselves, the couch, the wall, and the dog in a very black, thick, and hard-to-get-off Magic Marker. Or they whizz in their pants when you’re a whopping five minutes from the front door. Or if you’re raising boys, they pee everywhere that isn’t a toilet. Or these minor demons refuse to eat when you let them pick out every ingredient on the plate.
(God, how many times have you made Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or pulled out a cheese pizza from the freezer? Most adults need a multiyear detox after the kids’ palates expand.)
But I’m not talking about those kinds of moments of small furies.
Instead, it’s when kids say things that make you clasp your hand over your mouth, look away and pretend what they just said wasn’t hilarious.
Here are a few I don’t want to forget.
This past Spring, my ex-wife took our two boys to a birthday party at this art-camp compound in the Austin, Texas hills.
I can’t even begin to imagine the price tag on what the joint is worth; the place is way up in these twisty hills where if you’re not paying attention you could meet your maker due to narrow roads, but also other driver’s flying past like their fucks were packed at home beneath the clean underwear their mother’s told them to put on in case they ever got into an accident.
My ex misses the turn into the place because it’s built way into these hills with a little rinky-dink sign, despite the location being this beautiful, artsy lair with goats, multiple houses, and some old cars.
She pulls a U-turn and makes it to the driveway just before a car rips down the road, out on a leisurely drive, either window or top down, because it’s stunning out there.
She takes a breather momentarily to reflect that it was a close call. She affirms that it was scary and that our two boys are ok.
“Whew, that was scary. Is everyone ok?” She asks.
My son, Luke, turning the corner on seven, replies, “I almost said what the fuck! That was scary!”
“Lukas!” She replies.
And, of course, he comes back with, “I almost said what the fuck, I didn’t say what the fuck!”
The other day, this same child humbled me at the community pool, saying, “Daddy, you’ve got a belly. You got fat.”
I said thanks in my best, I just got a reality check voice.
He happened to be swimming with a kid from his class, and this kid had my back in the pettiest of parental ways, “your dad isn’t as fat as my dad! My dad is huge! He is big and fat! Your dad’s belly is small; mine is as big as a house!”
And, of course, he made the gestures to show size with his arms.
(For the record, I’m an XLT – I’m 6’4 with a beer gut. I would have stood beside that kid’s dad to make myself feel better.)
I wish I had some funny anecdote about the other one, the older kid, Jackson. But he’s a genius.
One day he asks me if I know what sprites are. I was like, uh, the magical creatures that live in the forest or the lemon-lime soda that competes with 7up? I was not correct in either guess.
Instead, my child broke down the scientific properties of red lightning in space that only happens in the mesosphere (I am a dumb person who writes these silly little stories. I do not know what the mesosphere is) and way above the regular Earth clouds.
He also programmed his own video games as a hobby and explained to me what the point of Minecraft is, which from what I gather, escapes most people who play it.
He’s about to turn ten, and I will feel very stupid around him by the time he’s fifteen.
Once, though, we were driving to Chicago in some small town in Oklahoma where Jackson bellowed out, “Arby’s! We have the meats!”
While my mother and I were in the middle of a serious conversation. He’s very good at timing.
The other was when the car was dead silent after yelling at the two of them to stop fighting with one another.
And out of the calm of the backseat of the car, in the Google voice, a simple, robotic phrase traipsed across the ether, “Luke is a butthole.”
Every parent has these stories; it’s just a part of seeing your kid mature into something semi-human, this snarling beast with new body hair that takes extra long showers.
But, until then, we should cherish these small moments; they’re something to keep as mental postcards down the line.
Because who doesn’t love blackmailing their offspring when a new love interest comes around?
Getting clowned on by your dad around your new girlfriend is worse than popping a boner in gym class; at least we knew how to tuck and hide those.
Now that my kids are older and reaching full-blown middle school age for at least one of them, playing language police is another thing.
Do you know how hard it is not to laugh when one kid calls the other a “pee hole?” Out of nowhere, it’s hilarious. After the seventh time, it’s annoying.
Hearing them volley “yo momma’s” at one another when they have the same mom is entertaining, if only amusing for a moment.
Kids are these insane little weirdos, but sometimes, you just gotta hide the laugh when you explain to them that “we don’t lick other people.”
What a lie that is.
Robert Dean is a journalist, raconteur, and enlightened dumbass. His work has been featured in places like Mic, Eater, Fatherly, Yahoo, Austin American-Statesman, Consequence of Sound, Ozy, The Austin Chronicle, USA Today, to name a few. He’s appeared on CNN and NPR. He also serves as features writer for The Cosmic Clash, Culture Clash, and Pepper Magazine. He’s Editor in Chief at Big Laugh Comedy, Texas’ premier comedy production company. He lives in Austin and loves ice cream and koalas. His new essay collection Existential Thirst Trap is out now.