Until recently I have always had the luxury of being considered a casual to part time adult male role model. I had all the privileges of that ranking; such as hearing about the strife involved in child rearing decisions; but as I had no voice in the recourse, all I had to do was sit upon my high throne and laugh at the silly things those mortal parents did. In truth, I’m not sure what happened. One day I was saying, “If it were up to me”, the next, I ended up with the mother of three boys pronouncing, “To thee I grant full time status to do what you wish”.
I wasn’t shaken up at this handing over simple consultation to partnership status. After all, I had been a six year old boy, a seven year old boy and a nine year old boy at one point in my life. Unlike their mother, I had that connection of shared gender; I understood the minds of those children because I was once in their place in the universe. I graciously accepted this new found power, smug with the knowledge that this was going to be a cake walk. What I did not anticipate was that when children discover that you were a child before the “PSP”, “DS” or three hundred zillion cable channels it meant that you spent your childhood playing with mammoths, battling saber tooth tigers and living next door to the Flintstones. I discovered things that I, as a man, may have forgotten or never knew when I was a boy.
It has been made clear that spending two hours creating a flavourful feast of a balanced evening repast doesn’t impress the preteen palette; however tossing a couple of “Pogos” into the microwave will elevate you to superstar status…for five minutes.
I’ve discovered that grade one teachers will not commend you on any creativity that you show in handling touchy situations. I thought I had handled one particular incident rather nicely; the six year old, unbeknownst to my conscious mind, had decided to sit beside me one night as I was on the phone clearing defining a suppliers character – an asshole. When I got off the telephone the six year old asked what an asshole was. As a child, I never accepted “it’s an adult word, don’t use it” as an answer. I had to come up with a reasonable and boring explanation that would make the child lose any interest in the word “asshole”. I sat the child on my knee and gently told him of the rare and gentle prairie rodent called the “donkey gopher” which looked very much similar to a regular donkey but much, much smaller. The donkey gopher lived in burrows that they dug into the ground to use as their homes. How was I supposed to know that the child, the next day on the playground, would be asked by his teacher why he was looking so intently at the ground that he would say, “I’m looking for assholes”?
I’ve updated my notion that kegel exercises are solely for women, thanks to the local swimming pool and the seven year old’s future legacy as the next Marquis de Sade. I don’t know why it is but the indoor swimming pool at an even temperature just above freezing – polar bear swims are warmer- yet keep their Jacuzzi around the same temperature required to boil a lobster. I understand that the prepubescent scrotum lacks the same elasticity of the adult male, but what kind of person goes into the swimming pool, then runs to the Jacuzzi, then back to the swimming pool over and over again just as one’s body is adjusting to that area’s water temperature? For two hours it was scrotum up and hold, scrotum down and relax, scrotum up and hold….
There comes a time in a man’s life when he longs for the long, long ago; when he begins to miss the simplicity of the golden era of BC; before children; and wishes to revisit that time where the gods he had to bow to were porcelain and did not wear size 2 shoes. I went from a reasonably intelligent person to an utter moron. I realized that because of my stupidity and blindness in the realms of actual child-rearing I could possibly screw these children up for the rest of their lives. I did what any man facing no possible chance of parole does; I started coming up with an escape plan. Fortunately I have seen plenty of prison escape shows so I knew the right type of action to take – I hid a soup spoon up my sleeve one night after dinner. When the children were in bed, I found a darkened corner in the basement where the shadows would hide any evidence of my plan and by the dim light of my lighter I began to dig my escape hole. For weeks I was paranoid that one of my guards would come across my little secret, but luck was on my side. After I managed to chip and gnaw through the concrete fortifications into the softer soil, I chose the following evening to go on the lam.
Thanks to all the prison break shows that I have seen, I also knew the flaws of those other escapees; they left evidence of their escape for their captors to follow. I dug fast, and as I crawled into each newly dug section, I collapsed the tunnel behind me. The spoon worked as a front end loader. It must have taken hours for that spoonful after spoonful of freedom scraping off in front of me to be sprinkled between my legs then back again. I had thought that it would take days, maybe months of sleeping and working in my tunnel until I would reach an end, but to my surprise the spoon began to form a doorway to a deep underground cavern.
I stood in a roughly carved out cavern. Boulders the size of a man littered the gargantuan space tucked neatly underneath the pitter pattering of little feet on the ground above. I could hear sounds coming from in front and beside me; sounds of feet unable to lift themselves fully off the ground, heavy with the weight of resignation upon their souls. I could hear whispers and rushed, hushed barks. Terror struck deep within me – where had my panic driven me to? At a boulder a mere foot in front of me; in the shadows; I saw a pair of wild, weary and fearful eyes looking me up and down. My body tensed as I strove to keep my combination jet propulsion unit/mustard gas organic weapon of nostril destruction in check. Slowly the eyes crept forward into the light to reveal a man. He wore what looked like the remnants of what once were “Homer Simpson” boxers, rag strips that may have once been a bathrobe and in his hand, held tight, was a long oxidated soup spoon. I stopped myself from flinching when his dirty and heavily soiled hand reached out and touched my goatee. A tear rolled from his left eye as his fingers ran through the few hairs that protected the bare skin atop my head. His eyes darted to the quickly filling hole behind me, terror screamed from those greyish orbs, as he half expected for something to come in behind me from behind the curtain of silken soil. Moments passed by before the man stopped staring at the hole and fixed his gaze at the soup spoon in my hand. For the first time I saw a smile; a bond had grown between us, or at least our spoons, as he let his own spoon tink against mine.
“It’s an adult!” the man’s raspy voice cried out, “It’s a grown up!”
I could feel the bottom of my eyelids becoming heavier with tears as one by one, haggard and soil laden men with various stages of beard growth appeared from behind boulder after boulder. In each one of their hands, as if a flare of solidarity, held tightly was a spoon. Discovering that I was not alone in the universe, I became overwhelmed with emotion. I saw in each man’s eyes what reflected back at me in the mirror – we had been duped by Bill Cosby, Alan Thicke and Bob Saget into an unattainable fantasy of what being the male influence in a family was supposed to be like. Problems could not be resolved in 22 minutes, children don’t look at you lovingly when you are teaching them a life lesson; they scowl, pout, cry and mutter horrible things that should be done to you that would make the writers of “Saw” cringe.
I wanted to communicate the overwhelming joy I felt at my new found brothers in arms. I forced myself not to let my voice crack as I conveyed the depth of the kindredness that I felt:
Somewhere in the middle, off to the right, I heard a single deep voice answer my impassioned greeting.
This was not the response I was expecting.
I pushed through the mass of manly humanity towards the voice until I came across its owner; a dour looking man with long hair, an equally long beard and wearing a robe that could have been white at some point, but now, as was the luminescent circle of light that surrounded his head, crusted with blackish dirt. He had the look of a man next in line at the express lane to the gallows; the large wooden spoon he held bent slightly from the amount of time he had held onto that eating/digging implement.
“Jesus?” I asked softly. The man’s eyes closed as he asked if he said no would I believe him. I shook my head. He let out a sigh.
“What can I do for you, my son,” he asked in the same voice a person peering into a clogged toilet with his hand just above the water line but at the end of the snake line and trying desperately not to have to try to get the snake in that extra six inches. I had to know why he, of all people, would be here – after all, it is written that he had neither children nor any practice in their creation. He laughed bitterly.
“That’s what I thought,” he said with sneer, “I thought I was free an’ clear – being nailed to that crucifix I thought to myself, ‘well, it was nice, but it had to end sometime’. But it never ended, it just continued on.” Jesus shook as he continued, “Do you know how much pressure it is when you have people thanking you for their meal when you didn’t have anything to do with it? What if it sucks? Or they get food poisoning from it? Or how about being given the responsibility of watching over a lot of people when they are sleeping? I’m not Santa Claus – I can’t watch over everyone who expects me to keep them safe! For my sakes, I turned water into wine – what kind of role model is that supposed to make when I show my preference for alcohol over non-alcoholic drinks? It’s not fair, I tell you, it’s not fair – the world isn’t my fault! Why do people keep on asking what would I do? I don’t live in their era – what am I supposed to know about computers, data entry or guns – we had spears back in the day, for my sake!” After that, Jesus rolled down onto the cavern floor into the fetal position and started crying uncontrollably, sometimes letting out moans of “It’s not my fault” and “Why are you asking me to do the impossible”. Needless to say, finding Jesus had brought a revelation to the forefront of my mind.
I looked around at the faces of my new found brothers; the want of connection, the desperate attempt for acknowledgment of their manliness and the whiteness of their knuckles grasping onto their spoons – perhaps a faint connection to the lives they left behind. I looked at my own grip on the soup spoon. I couldn’t stay, I had to go back and I did so.
Why did I choose to go back? Well, you see, I concluded that…hang on, I’ll have to get back to you on that – the seven year old has the nine year old in a headlock, screaming “When I say ‘thank you” you’re ‘posed to say ‘You’re welcome’ cuz it’s the polite thing to say”….