Tuesday, August 29, 2006
An Argument For The Fourth Child
I'm sitting here at my desktop computer trying to compose this. Directly over my right shoulder, at the edge of my desk, my youngest child is at the laptop computer doing... something. I set him up with a Sesame Street computer game, but that was minutes ago. Attention spans being what they are, I'm sure he's moved on. Could be anything. A Grand Theft Auto game, online poker, internet porn, I have no idea. I couldn't even guess. And that's kind of scary.

See, I've been at this parent thing that I do since '99. The last day that I worked outside the home was the day before my oldest boy was born. I like to think of myself as something of an authority on the subject of child-rearing. It sounds impressive, but I figured out a long time ago that parenting all comes down to one thing: closets with external locks. People like to talk up the whole love and attention and support thing, but really as a parent the only thing you really want is for your kids to leave you alone for one goddamn minute. Love and support are nice, but they don't really achieve the separation and sound-proofing that the externally-locking closet does.

I know, you're thinking "Won't they get lonely locked in that closet?" To that I say: that's what siblings are for. Throw a pair of them in there and it's fun, fun playtime! Kids and their imaginations! What will it be this time? Space explorers? Daredevil spelunkers? Vampires? I can never tell. So long as the unifying theme is closed darkness. It's really hard to make out what it is they're doing exactly because of all the screaming. The muffled, muffled screaming.

But now here I am alone with just one of them. The last time I was alone with one of my kids during the day, he was from age Newborn to just under 2. Those are actually pretty easy because they don't really expect you to entertain them. At those ages, all a kid is really interested in is trying to fit things into its windpipe. Hours and hours of unsupervised fun there.

This one I'm going to have from ages 3 to 5. You know, where they talk and walk, which implies conversation and activity. I'm all for conversation and activity, just not so much on the three-year-old level. I tried to gauge his interest in this whole Israel-Lebanon thing, but his grasp of the intricacies of the situation I found to be tenuous at best. Lots of facile, superficial sub-logic that always somehow manages to ends up at Zionist aggression and granola bars. It always comes back to anti-Semitism and snacks for the three-year-olds.

It occurs to me that I've left a lot of the parenting responsibility with regard to my youngest child to his older brothers. I'm responsible for getting him dressed and feeding him, but past that, we don't have a great deal of one-on-one contact. At least not before today. As he sits behind me tapping away at the laptop, I realize I don't even know this person. What does he think about? What does he do? Does he even like internet porn? He's a fierce little tow-headed enigma in a Wiggles t-shirt. Oh my God, is he Australian? He might be, for all I know. I have no clear idea.

This is freaking me out. I should be writing about something else--I mean, it's the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, so I really should be offending all your sensibilities by crassly using the destruction of an American city as a jumping off point for dick jokes--but this particular transition period has really got me spooked.

I guess the answer is obvious. The best cure for any socially awkward situation is alcohol. If nothing else, I'll find out what the kid likes to drink. Then we'll have something to talk about.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 10.0 (two in a row!)



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