I’ve made declarations many times, and most of them because of something my parents did or said over 30 years ago. ‘I’ll NEVER dress like that!’ ‘I’ll NEVER say that to my kids!’ I can actually remember making these proclamations with the conviction of Mel Gibson in Braveheart. “FREEDOM!” Freedom from doing things like mom and dad, freedom to be the world’s coolest adult and, eventually, its most understanding parent: this was my decree. Others might age and grow odd in the eyes of the young, but by the grace of God, not I! NEVER!
‘Never’ has come to my house. It didn’t make a big scene, either. I had no idea it had arrived, nor how long it had been here when I finally noticed, but there’s no doubt that ‘never’ is here. I first noticed ‘never’ out by the mailbox one afternoon. Working from home, I’m no longer compelled to conform to the world’s view that you HAVE to change out of your sleeping attire in order to be productive. I’m a husband, a father, and a mortgage-holder, so leave me alone.
‘Never’ appeared wearing black dress socks, slippers, Mickey Mouse boxers and a too-tight T-shirt, standing at my mailbox. Remember ‘jolting’ awake in class, feeling as if everybody else was staring at you? That’s how I felt, standing at my mailbox, realizing I’d unknowingly (or subconsciously, if you wanna go there) dressed like my father. Here’s the personal revelation that kept me awake that night: this wasn’t the first time. And no, I do NOT want to talk about it anymore.
As the kids grew older, ‘never’ appeared ever more frequently. Many times he came in the form of a Jeopardy game show answer (“WHAT is wrong with you?” or, “HOW does your mind work??”). The mother of all ‘never’ moments, the one that I knew I could never EVER utter is tossed around like confetti now. “Because I’m your father and I said so!” Yes, I know. Don’t judge me.
There are also many undeclared ‘never’ moments. These are the things that you wouldn’t imagine, couldn’t imagine in your wildest nightmares ever saying. Thinking about them would be like buying a padlock for a shed you don’t have to protect things you don’t own: why would you do it? But, nevertheless, they pop up everywhere. “Is that your underwear? Then why is it on your head?” I never imagined I’d have to say that to anybody anywhere. “Don’t bite the bottom of your shoe!” Nope, never crossed my mind. “Yes, it’s yours, but not everyone wants to see it, ok??” Not unless I moved to New York city would I have imagined a need for that one, but I underestimated what kids can make you say.
My kids have broken down my social guards. If my socks don’t match, it’s usually because I was busy making sure my sons’ did. If the inside of the car looks like McDonalds after a birthday party, it’s because at some point, having a happy meal was the most important thing in the world to somebody in the back seat. And when my wife and I giggle at something that makes my daughter roll her eyes, we just keep it up until she gives in and giggles with us. And when kids make their ‘never’ proclamations, I just smile. You see: I won’t make those anymore. Never.