I remember the exact moment that I decided I'd never have kids. I was in seventh grade and I was helping my friend Heather babysit at her church. ("Helping" actually means "watching." I really had no interest in anyone younger than me.) Two kids started struggling over possession of some cheap plastic piece of shit toy, and Heather pulled them apart and gave them an impromptu lecture on the virtues of sharing. And I was completely, utterly dumbfounded that she'd even think of (1) separating them (really, how badly could they hurt each other? It's not like they had any weapons), and (2) inserting the concept of sharing into the melee (my philosophy being that someone gets the toy, someone doesn't, that's life -- also, with two older brothers, I was inevitably the one that had to be shared with, never the one who had to give up anything meaningful). Never mind that Heather had twin younger siblings and had probably done this or seen it done a hundred times. When I saw her peacefully resolve the situation I knew that I'd never have the brains or the tools to raise kids, and from that day forward it became one of the bedrocks of my self-definition.
Yeah, well, that worked didn't it. I was horrified when I became pregnant, and yet having Jackson has been one of the simplest, finest, most logical things I could ever have done to straighten out my selfish-ass bitch personality. It makes me wonder, what other things did I decide when I was thirteen, or younger, that still drive me unconsciously today? (The mind reels.) Will I be able to steer Jackson away from similarly jackassed decisions? Probably not. He's one-and-three-quarters years old and already he's developed four disctinct, extravagant, and perfectly natural ways of dealing with something as basic as physical and emotional pain. Today's quiz: which one will serve him best on his path to adulthood?
Scenario One I have slammed the safety gate shut just as he's making a mad dash to run through it and fling himself down the stairs, leading to heart-rending sobs and tears as big as lightbulbs rolling down his face.
Type of pain Frustration
What does he do? Wails until I open the gate, then slams it shut himself and cries even harder. This process repeats: open, slam, cry harder, open, slam, cry harder, until the crying gradually abates and it turns into open, slam, give mommy an elbow to the chin, and run off to play.
Scenario Two He falls backward and slams his head into a door frame.
Type of pain Physical
What does he do? Gets up with a miserable expression, goes over to his trike, and puts his baby doll on the seat. He then I would say viciously knocks the baby doll off the bike, yells "Ow!", laughs gleefully, puts the baby back on the trike, takes another karate chop at her, and etc. all over again for another, like, thirty minutes.
Three (I got tired of writing "scenario," and don't tell me that in pointing that out I just did it again): Whatever he's playing with falls off the table and lands on his foot.
Type of pain Physical mixed with stupidity
What does he do? Yells "Ow!" and then slaps at the fallen object and says, "Bad!" which I guess is absurd even to him because he inevitably finds the whole process delightful and will even go back later for another slap at the thing just to keep it in its place.
Four Whatever, insert random knuckle scrape here.
Type of pain Minor physical
What does he do? He starts bonking the heads of his Sesame Street toys together until the stuffing's about to come out, then, by way of conciliation, he makes them kiss and hug. Then he starts bonking their heads together again. It's his own deeply satisfying version of Fight Club, and I think it explains a lot about the warrior class specifically, and people in general. I think it especially explains a lot about sports on network television. Last week we were watching a basketball game and we saw
Tyrone Tyronn Lue get fouled and have his face smeared into the polished wood floor of the MCI Center. And they replayed the incident, in s l o w m o t i o n, about fifteen hundred times. And Jackson clapped every time. It was a perfect reflection of how he, too, deals with pain: relive it, or do something that enhances it or distracts you from it, over and over and over again until you've bloody well had enough and it's time for a snack.