I was standing in the living room the other day when Henry
waltzed in and made an announcement.
"Dad, deez are my pants."
It was an unexpected comment, for a lot of reasons really.
But mostly, it was unexpected because in his 3-year-old fist he was
clutching a very tiny pair of red sweatpants that, until that moment, belonged
to his new baby brother, Charlie.
Charlie is 3 weeks old. He is a lot smaller than Henry.
The pants, obviously, would fit a Ken doll, but Henry? No.
Still, my older son is in the throes of his terrible twos
(they often come at 3, in case you were wondering) and his commitment to
following through on seemingly ridiculous ideas is actually pretty staggering,
to the point of impressive, really.
Anyway, I looked at Henry standing there in his shirt that
he had put on all by himself. Then looked at the pants. And I looked at the big
rubber fireman's boots he had thumped down on the floor in front of him, and I
knew, just like any toddler's parent knows, that resistance is often quite
But, I had to try. That's my job. You have to waste your
breath 8,000 times a day when it comes to kids or else you're doing it wrong.
"Dude, those are Charlie's pants. You'll never fit in them.
I think you should go back up to your room…"
"NO!" he cut me off with his big brash voice of impenetrable
Here we go.
"These are MY pants, dad, NOT CHARWEE'S! Charwee has
diffwent pants! Charwee's pants are diapers!"
There comes a time in the course of any unfolding moments in
the presence of the young and the restless when you know deep down in your guts
that you are a beaten man, that you have no case in this court of
ridiculousness, and that you might as well just toss all of your court papers
up in the air and holler, "Wheeeeeeee!"
"OK, then." I said as I put the binky back in the baby's
mouth for the 43rd time in the last seven minutes. "Do what you want. But I guarantee you that
they won't fit your body and in like 15 seconds you're going to be bawling
and screaming and biting your own arm."*
I left the room then. When the shit is about to hit the fan,
I leave the room. Try it. It works wonders.
My toddler was wearing what looked to be a pair of spray-on ultra-tight Euro nightclubbing summer pantaloons.
Not long after our conversation, I was balancing a bottle of
formula between my chin and Charlie's mouth so that I could LIKE stuff on
Facebook without having to stop all the damn time to worry about a starving
infant, when I heard the desperate groans and grunts of a frustrated arm-biter
coming from back in the living room.
In my mind, I was satisfied. Here, Henry would learn a
valuable lesson about common sense and what it means to listen to the rational
and wise adults in his life who only tell him things he doesn't want to hear
because they make perfect sense.
I snickered. I am such a great dad, I told myself. I handled
this so well. God, I was born to parent even the craziest kids.
"Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" My boy had met his match. The pants
would never go on. They were 50 sizes too small. "Ugggggggggghhhhhhhhh!"
I pictured him in there eating his own wrist.
But then, the world went sideways.
And in walked Henry. In walked Hank the Tank. He was wearing
the pants, Charlie's pants. My toddler was wearing what looked to be a pair of
spray-on ultra-tight Euro nightclubbing summer pantaloons. He looked like main
character from a very bizarre risqué dream, the kind of dream you basically
keep to yourself.
He was smiling, of course. He was prouder than hell, and it
showed. The bottle dropped out from under my jaw because my jaw had dropped
down onto Charlie's squinty little mug.
Holy hell, I thought to myself. He's done it.
In that moment, so much changed for me. It really did. All
of the bullshit I had just been shoveling into my own egotistical pie hole just
came raging back up in a torrent of "in-your-face!"
"Wow. Henry, you did it! You made it happen!" I told him.
He beamed at me and then spun around like a runway model
just so I could see how impossibly possible things really were in this world.
The pants were no longer the loose, baggy sweats of a baby. They had been
transformed, by a lad with a vision, into a pair of biker shorts that limited
human mobility but offered up a certain type of different power altogether; the
kind of power that enables a young kid to feel as if he can lay claim to any
damn thing he wants to in this life, no matter what brand of crap any towering,
pessimistic adult tries to sell him.
In those few seconds then, just before I had the good sense
to snap his picture with my phone, I was transformed into the proudest dad on
the planet Earth. Not because I had been proven right in my rambling to my boy,
but rather, because I had been proven so very, very wrong.
And, sometimes, when you're standing there staring at a 3-foot-high pile of hot pants and heart,
that is the most liberating feeling you will ever feel in your life.
*Henry, my lovable, beautiful son, bites his own arm like a trapped badger when things don't immediately work out for him.