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‘Breaking Dad’ (Revised & Updated)

November 16, 2015

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Originally appeared on Buffalo Comedy.com September, 2014.

Imagine that you’re made responsible for a meth addict in your own home. Said meth addict trashes everything in your house on the regular, doesn’t get the memo when his entire body is running on empty and it’s time to go to sleep, and he can’t ever be distracted when he has a goal in mind (which is usually some insane directive like opening and closing a cabinet eighteen hundred times in a row or throwing all of your clothes on the floor to climb into a laundry basket and hang loose). Oh, and he makes a B.M. about five times a day and laughs directly at you making eye contact while he’s pissing on you. These are the beginning stages of parenthood.

I have a fifteen month old little angel named Benjamin. His favorite hobbies are: yelling at the top of his lungs while he barrels through the kitchen at warp speed 5, pulling all of my diet soda out of the fridge, throwing it on the floor and then yanking the shelving out, squeezing blueberries between his thumb and forefinger and grinding them into the carpet, and light napping. He has two speeds: psychotic hypomania and unconsciousness. His interests include: spinning wheels to figure out what their general deal is, terrorizing my rescue cat Morris and shitting out pigments that are as yet undiscovered by our standardized color wheel.

I love him more than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything combined and cubed. This has to be with the help of some strong evolutionary failsafe programmed into any parent’s DNA sequence. We protect and nurture our young so that we can maintain and occasionally further our species. You have to love them because they’re nigh-impossible to appease. Note that ‘nigh’ is the key adjective in that previous sentence.

I’m the first parent ever who thinks that their child is the cutest thing that ever scampered, scurried or scuttled. I’m the first parent ever who takes ten thousand pictures of his child blinking with snot running out of both nostrils, apple juice dribbling down his chin and the remnants of his lunch molecularly fused to his clothes like a hybrid Jackson Pollock painting and finds the photos to be adorable. I’m the first parent who thinks that when he pulls his own socks off, shoves a round peg into a trapezoid hole or monkey punches his fists into a xylophone that these are the early signs of genius. I can’t help it. I’m proud of my boy. There’s no avoiding the wave of emotion symbiotically associated with this tiny little perfect facsimile of myself.

I wrote a long time ago (‘March Of The Diapered Soldiers’ from First Person, Last Straw) that I didn’t know how to deal with newborns. If you can identify with that statement, let me make this small suggestion: practice, practice, practice. All it takes is the patience of a saint, the endurance of an Olympic athlete, the medical training of a Home Health Aide, the innate psychic abilities to determine how said newborn feels without verbalizing their emotions or even sending corresponding facial signals, and the olfactory knack of blocking out most of the smells that you’ll encounter around the clock. That’s it. If you can get the hang of that whole situation, you’re good. If you haven’t mastered some, any or all of that, there’s plenty of on-the-job training.

Caring for a child that you had a fairly substantial role in creating is the best way to comprehend the philosophy of living in the moment. You’re forced to mirror your baby, you can see the cogs and wheels and lights and buzzers going off in their head and because everything is new for them, everything becomes new for you again. Laying on the floor and looking sideways changes your perspective on the world so much that you want to do it again. Studying a toy in a way that you truly want to know what the object is inside and out and what it’s purpose is in your life helps you to understand it completely. Seeing other babies, meeting other human beings for the first time and marveling at animals, trees and motor vehicles are all experiences that you cherish and appreciate. Every second of every day is new and fresh and exciting. I haven’t lived in the moment like that since, well, since I was a child. Zen masters urge their followers to see the world through the eyes of a child. There’s a reason for that. It’s so you won’t take the world and everything it has to offer for granted.

If you asked me sixteen months ago or more, I would have told you that most stand up comics lost their edge and stopped being funny once they had kids. That might still be true. I can’t be objective about my life. No one can. Now, though, I get where all of those comics were coming from. They refined their demographic and started appealing to a different audience, mainly people who took the next step in their lives and decided to have children. I’m not saying it’s selfish not to have kids or that it’s a nobler decision to have them. Don’t even try to pull me into that debate. If you have them, though, you better love ’em with everything you’ve got. Go out, procreate and see if I’m wrong. If I am, you can piss all over me and laugh at the same time. I already went through the training module for that one.

buying up stock in Gerber,
Tom Waters

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