Thursday, October 24, 2013

Destruction Derby

'Let's break something new today, HP.' "How about Daddy's spirit?" 'Again? Okay, I've got 5 minutes.'

In the opening episode of season three of Louie, there’s a moment where Louie walks to his car, which is parked in a construction zone. While talking to the foreman, the excavator in the background inexplicably drops its massive metal claw on top of Louie’s car. Louie barely even flinches as the claw smashes down on his car over and over again. He doesn’t yell or really even betray any hint of sadness or loss. Louie, you see, is a parent. He’s used to it.

Whoever said that destruction is a form of creation obviously never had kids. Destruction around here is part of the culture, the raison d’ many an etre. Our kids have taken the concept of destruction and really elevated it to a higher art form. They’ve given it a voice. And they channel out its wishes with fundamentalist panache.

It starts out as a learning process, cause and effect. What happens if I put Daddy’s smart phone in the big boy potty and then douse it like one of those rescue helicopters on a California wildfire? Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration—I would never invest in a smart phone.

The thing nobody tells you is that they only break YOUR stuff. Any and all of it they can get their grubby little paws on. It’s not that our kids are reckless or malicious; they just lack a certain finesse with their fine motor skills that has led to the demise of countless tsotchkes. ‘Hey, I wonder what this [CRASH]…was.’ I’m interpreting here.

Part of it is science. Our stuff is delicate--random trinkets from around the world, coffee mugs and remote controls. You’re putting them in the hands of creatures who take CDs out and put them in the Diaper Genie. They head-butt the windows and use mayonnaise as hair product. What do you expect when you hand Godzilla a Stradivarius, a concerto? Or kindling.

The other reason is that THEIR stuff has a median melting point of 3000 degrees Centigrade, and is nuclear fallout-proof. Sure it’s fun to play with, but you can’t break it if you try (and trust me, I have—Yes, I’m talking to you singing vacuum cleaner). No, the only things that break are the Crayons. But they don’t really break, of course; you just have more Crayons, in more places.

I’m not blaming them; in many ways, it is our own fault. Having the nerve to possess things of our own in a house now even-Stevened with kids. We were kind of asking for it. Dummies.

My wife was just looking around the giant playspace that is our living room the other day for some semblance of US, something with personality, some relic of a life lived before the dawning of the age of kids. I was quick to point to my beloved coaster, the one with the farmer standing next to a seven foot chicken that says ‘This man has a huge cock.’ Totally age-inappropriate. Nice conversation piece. Hilarious. Beyond that, I’ll have to get back to you. Um, does a Yankee candle count?

There is a lesson to be learned in all this, and it is simple—just stop caring. About your stuff, that is. Who cares? It’s just stuff. Yes, a lot of the things they’ve mangled are actually irreplaceable. They meant something, some more than others, to us at one time. Maybe they still do. Maybe we even hold silent candlelight vigils after the kids are in bed for some. Maybe that’s weird.

But for so many fallen comrades, we offered them a good home and a handsome display area. And then The Destructors invaded, started commandeering things. Wasn’t it Sting that said, ‘If you love your stuff, set that shit free?’ Something like that. Either that or bury it in a time capsule, then try to remember to dig it up when college comes a-knocking.

‘Daddy, what’s this?’

That’s how it always starts. If I answer the question with anything other than, “That’s Daddy’s, Bub. Don’t touch it,” I might as well just put it on the floor and smash it with a ballpeen hammer myself. At least that way I’d get some exercise. It’s like my testimony alone could have freed that poor little thing. But now it’s been absorbed, like all the others, condemned to Thing Death Row.

Yes, HP, that was the last of our set of small Japanese sushi dipping bowls you launched from the U.S.S. Traytop yesterday. We REALLY loved that bowl, your mother and I. Bought it in Japan, nearly a decade ago; the opportunity cost alone to replace it would cost you your first 300 allowances, not that I’m keeping track. And you chucked it to certain doom, why? Because the yogurt didn’t regenerate fast enough? Really?

Destruction, with kids, is like corporate leakage. We accept it, even account for it now, try to focus instead on the overall profit margin. Like Disney or herpes, the destruction is not going away--we just learn to live with it. This is why Louie was so mellow about his car being destroyed in front of his face (and why I could totally relate). I mean, It’s just a car, after all, right?