I’ve gone back and forth this week on whether or not it’s OK to call you kids “dumb.” I mean, OF COURSE IT ISN’T OK. You’re just three little boys, all under the age of 6… who act like little boys. Dumb little boys.
All of life is all about connotation– what feelings a phrase or situation brings out in you, regardless of literal definitions. As far as the definition of dumb, I’d say “lacking intelligence or good judgment” is fitting for you boys from time to time. One of the other definitions is “refraining from much speech,” and in that case, I wish you three were dumber. Especially around bedtime.
Unfortunately, I know from experience how the oldest of you reacts to being called dumb. In an intense game of “copycat,” you had repeated everything your mother said with a near-perfect mocking inflection and tone. Seeing that she was near the end of her wits, I whispered “Micah is dumb” into her ear. Without thinking, she blurted it out to see if it would stifle your relentless repetition– or if you’d say it back, which would count as a win for her under the hallowed unwritten rules of copycat. You did not say it back. Instead, your feelings shattered, right there in front of us. You cried for an hour, moped for a weekend, and brought it up with passive-aggressive precision for nearly a month.
So you might be asking yourselves, if calling you dumb is 1) obviously blatantly wrong, and 2) unwise based on actual experience, why am I trying to find a loophole to insult my own children?
Well, because you’ve been acting pretty dumb this month, that’s why.
Fisher, you might just be 11 months old, but at some point, you’re going to have to register that attempting to choke yourself with action figures has negative repercussions. Get with the program.
Micah and Jett, y’all decided last month that every single rule we have in this family was worth ignoring for one quick session of “trampoline pillow death-jousting” atop our bed. The result? One of you now has a fractured humerus and an appendage wrapped in plaster. You both cost yourselves a summer of swimming, AND video games. This is Arizona! What am I supposed to do with you boys all day every day? HOW COULD YOU BOTH BE SO D….. (deep breath) deficient of good sense?
That was close.
Now, according to some of my closest friends, I have no right to be surprised at the less-than-intelligent antics of children who share my bloodline. As it was once put, “Ralph, your kids are the Karmic result of 100+ authority figures in your life muttering to themselves ‘Just wait until you have your own kids.'” What I’m trying to say is that I’m no stranger to fatheaded and ignorant behavior. To keep myself from being too hard on you in the wake of our family’s latest completely preventable hospital stay, I posed the following question on social media:
I figured I’d get a couple of useful responses that would allow me to gain some perspective and not be so frustrated with the decision-making skills of my own children. What I ended up with was 100+ examples from people who seemed to have been waiting for an opportunity to remind me of exactly how absurd of a human being I can be from time to time. Here’s a small sample of the responses I received:
“Building a snowman in your dorm.”
“Falling asleep while eating a brownie, and waking up covered in ants.”
“Not graduating high school.”
“Sending a company-wide e-mail of Steve Carrell eating a banana to 16,000 people.”
“Reheating food in the oven and falling asleep for 3 hours while it filled the house with smoke.”
“Throwing pizza dough on the ceiling of Peter Piper Pizza, and having it fall on your manager.”
“Spraypainting all of the flowers in your aunt’s garden.”
“The time you broke your future mother-in-law’s nose.”
Before I go any further, let me just say that without context, the information above makes me seem like a ridiculous person. I am not. At least I don’t think I am. That argument might not hold up in court.
One instance of my buffoonery that didn’t make the list is one I’ve kept secret for a very long time. Your grandfather and I didn’t always get along like we do now. As a kid, I did my best to keep my head down and mind all the rules, but every once and a while, my penchant for errors in judgement would lead to my father questioning whether or not I possessed a functioning brain. On one such occasion, I had popped my own waterbed with a fork by falling asleep after eating a piece of cake. The house flooded. My dad was furious. I’ll never forget his incensed reaction- “WHAT KIND OF MORON POPS A WATERBED?” He shouted. “THEY MAKE THESE THINGS SO THAT PEOPLE LIKE YOU CAN’T DO STUFF LIKE THAT. CONGRATULATIONS, IDIOT.”
Much like Micah in our ill-fated game of copycat, I was crushed. Here’s the thing though- I’m not passive aggressive. I’m just aggressive. One week later, to lash out at my dad, I walked into his bedroom, and forcibly brought his whole world right out of the 1980s by popping his king size waterbed with a thumbtack. It slowly leaked out, flooding our house (again). It was the first and last time I ever intentionally did something to spite my parents. When he came home that day I remember he had a bewildered, disbelieving look on his face. We were either both idiots now, or neither of us were. I accepted his confusion as his way of apologizing for insulting me. It felt great for a moment, sort of the way sugar tastes incredible right before slowly and methodically rotting your teeth and giving you diabetes. I’ve carried around the guilt of that mean-spirited act of vengeance for the last 18 years, and in preparation for this letter, I had to tell him the truth.
A couple days ago I shared a few adult beverages with my dad to build up courage on my end, and lubrication on his, before finally confessing to my act of aquamatrecide. His reaction? He laughed. Not only did he laugh, he went on to tell me several stories of his own youthful idiocy– the kind of stories involving shenanigans that only a small town country boy could get away with. Stories I won’t share here in case there’s still some tiny court in Montana that possesses outstanding warrants. He made sure to repeat over and over how good he thinks you boys are, and how excited he is for me to get to deal with your inevitable transgressions. The experience left me feeling relief, empowerment, and apprehension simultaneously.
The point I’m trying to make is that we’re all entitled to a few dumb moments. More than a few in my case, apparently. These dumb moments don’t make us dumb, even if I’m dumb enough to consider calling you dumb when you’re acting, well, dumb.