My son drives me nuts sometimes.
If you are a parent of a child over the age of four, you are lying if the above statement isn’t partially true. Come on, be honest. There are times when you look for that damn receipt given to you at birth, at least the one you think the hospital gave you.
Eight years ago, in the afternoon, my wife gave birth to a six and a half pound boy. The kid came screaming out of the womb like the bed was on fire. He was having none of this bright light bullshit. The doctor gave birth like Peyton Manning took a snap at the line of scrimmage. I swear she walked to my wife, looked right and left, and then backed away to call an audible. Maybe I was sleep deprived or something.
We named him Vincent. It’s a strong damn Italian name, and also the name one of my favorite action stars, Vin Diesel, shares. Yeah, eat me, because it’s true. How many film franchises spanning 18 years and running do you have under your belt? Vincent was born and I was scared shitless. Instead of merely needing to know where my keys and wallet were, I had a kid to take care of. Is there a manual that comes with a plastic package of parts and assembly?
When they took Vincent over to the table for examination, I immediately went back to my wife. The lady has just shoved a kid out of her body, and looked like she was ready to stab someone or pass out. One of the biggest fears I ever had was fearing I would lose my wife during birth. I simply couldn’t do it alone.
The rest isn’t exactly history. Vinny had a serious heart condition just after a few weeks on Earth. I won’t medical science the shit out of you. Let’s just say he flat-lined for a few minutes. The doctors had to shock his heart back to life. He was gone for a bit, and it was the hardest moments of my life. Imagine reaching the top of a mountain, and then being immediately kicked back down the side of it. He sprung back to life, and that’s why we call him our miracle baby.
Before he could turn four months old, he dealt with and defeated a stomach condition. The poor dude couldn’t eat anything for a while, which made us all restless. I still have the picture my wife sent to my phone while I was at work of Vinny sucking down a bottle of formula afterwards.
These days, he’s an opinionated little man, full of life, emotion, and smarts. He hears everything and wants to know everything. He also feels everything. Last year, we lost our beloved cat, Jack, and just this past week, Vinny wrote a letter to Jack and paused for a minute in our backyard next to the magnolia tree we buried his ashes next to.
He’s a nerd, not into sports, completely into movies. He looks like me, but can act a lot like Rachel. He’s as an old lady at breakfast and as resilient as a piece of duct tape. The kid takes a lick and keeps on going.
He’s my son, for better or worse. We are amigos when we hang out alone. I can’t go too far without being called. He wants to show me everything he draws and does. The other day, we had a small chat about 9/11 because his school talked about it. “I hope it doesn’t happen again, daddy,” he said. Me too, kid … me too.
He frustrates me, enlivens me, and keeps me grounded. Part of being a parent is knowing when to lean into a punishment and when to back off and show leniency. It’s a hard job, so be careful. Please wait until you are ready to have a kid, because a tiny fucking human IS NOT like a dog or cat. You can’t leave it for six hours and know all will be well. Forget it. Going out will seem foreign to you, and the couch is your new friend. Elastic pants will become more sexy than the new pair of skinny jeans, and copious amounts of coffee are required. Fuck hot tea.
Here’s the thing. You don’t have to be perfect. No parent is. You’ll say things you regret. I’ve made Vinny cry so bad that I felt like I ran over an old lady in the grocery store parking lot. I’ve nearly hit him and stopped. I’ve shouted when I should have calmed down. Every time he gets my blood boiling, I need to remind myself he is me and I am him. It’s an endless battle with no winner. Show compassion and try to teach him something.
You just have to give a shit. Be there. Hang around. Do your best. Vinny notices that stuff. I can tell. He’s not keeping score, but he’s paying attention. The small moments will floor you. The other night, Vinny asked for a hug before I left to Uber drive. As we hugged, he patted me on the head. It made the entire shift better knowing he was in my corner.
Parenting is the hardest job on this Earth. And yes, it’s a JOB! Every tough task in this life should be labeled that way, so do it right and show that kid some love.
Now excuse me, I just stepped on a giant toy on the ground and need to scream into a towel.