Unlike Cale, the hero of White House Down (played by Channing Tatum), the coolest thing I’ll probably ever get to yell is “Toilet seat down.” I sincerely doubt I will ever have the opportunity or need to rescue my child (and, along the way, the President) from evil terrorists who are plotting world destruction.
While my wife and I sat enjoying one of this summer’s best action movies (just don’t think too hard about it), I couldn’t help but think about how nice it would be if all of our parenting problems could be solved with a swift kick to the gonads of the bad guy (or a stab to the thigh, or a wrapping of a string of grenades around the neck, or…). The problem is, as a parent there often is no bad guy, or at least not one you can do bodily harm to.
Our son has been hospitalized twice in the past couple of months for pneumonia. I tried to kick the germ cells in the nether regions, but it didn’t seem to help. I couldn’t get the fluid in his lungs in a headlock or suplex the fever through a skylight.
Not only that, but I can imagine all sorts of terrible things in the future, none of which I can prevent or fix. What do I do the first time he gets his heart broken? Or when he really, really tries to achieve something and fails? Or the day he realizes that his dad doesn’t know everything? (All right, he might have figured that one out already.)
It doesn’t end there, though. The other day the garage door was making a funny noise as it went up and I had a sudden image of the spring snapping in half, creating a whipsaw of destruction. I steeled myself to dive to the ground on top of my boy, in case it happened. It’s not bad enough to deal with actual physical and emotional trauma, now I have to deal with imagined trauma as well. I sometimes play through worst-case scenarios in my mind, just to be ready. I have a mental dossier for all kinds of stuff, from how to pay for Harvard to what to say when I catch him doing something insanely risky (that I may or may not have done myself when I was a teenager).
The point I’m trying to make is, all the parenting books give you bland advice about how many diapers you’ll change and how to get your kid to fall asleep. They don’t tell you that for every situation that is manageable and has an actual solution there are a hundred other ones that are more esoteric and abstract, things you worry about as a parent that you could never imagine otherwise (and I have a pretty good imagination).
The good news is, later this week we’re going to see This Is The End. That shouldn’t give me anything new for my checklist at all.