No one loves their kids as much as me. No one. Not you. Not your mother. Not that lady on the news with eleven foster kids. No one. I've got two little boogers, eight and twelve, and they've changed my life. I used to be a bad person. My wife and I used to waste our Thursdays evenings biking to Mario's La Fiesta on Telegraph for dinner, stopping off to buy chocolate chips from Andronico's afterwards, then coming home, baking chocolate chip cookies, and watching Seinfeld. And having sex. Sometimes we'd have sex after Seinfeld. But it was all so ... empty. I see that now. That was me, Mr. Vapid! Mr. Selfish! Mr. Super Burrito with extra sour cream! No more.
Now we spend our Thursday evenings figuring out how not to play another round of "Pokemon Sorry" with the kids and feeling good about making our twelve-year-old watch Jeopardy. My wife says we should only force him to watch the Teen Tournament, as his self-esteem might be wrecked by the regular show. In my snippier moments (fewer and farther between now that my kids have made me a better person), I've thrown a hand in the air and yelled: "Fine. Why don't we have him just watch Celebrity Jeopardy! He'll feel like that guy who discovered the Bohr atom!"
But no TV until their homework's done. I'm firm on that. I point out to them the roof over their heads, the clothes on their back, the Trader Joe's frozen crap in the fridge, and remind them: See, Daddy's done his homework. So if I choose to ignore them and watch Design on a Dime at 4:00 in the afternoon, it's because I've earned it. I try to teach by example whenever possible. On the three times a year I decide in some fitful, anxious moment to take them to church, I show them how to daydream (in my case, about the girls I should've slept with in college) while keeping their eyes focused on the altar. When I tell my twelve-year-old for the 903rd time not to chew with his mouth open at the dinner table, I don't threaten to withhold dessert — and it's not because he can walk to 7-11 and buy Sour Patch candy on his own now with the ridiculous allowance I give him. It's because I know he admires me, and will someday not want to spit food out in anger trying to get his own little booger not to behave like a drunken cretin.
Some parents complain about sleep deprivation. They should be shot. How dumb are they that they haven't figured out how to get fraudulent renewals for their Lunesta prescription? I mean, c'mon. That's the kind of resourcefulness I've learned from my kids. You can't learn that in school, unless, I suppose, it's med school. But I didn't go to med school. Hated chemistry, biology, and studying hard.
My kids have sent my sex life through the roof. I like scheduling "sex dates" with my wife. Takes the guesswork out of it. I think it's romantic to pretend you're not tired and not still bitter about your spouse taking that extra hour to browse at Barnes & Noble when you had the kids all day, and then to hop into bed and do it. I don't want to be seized by the moment, I don't want to be steamrolled by my libido, I want to fret that come the magic hour, all of my obsessing about the magic in that hour won't send Baby Huey into hiding.
Other parents tell me, "Hey, don't get me wrong, Alfredo, I love my kids, but sometimes I resent them a little." Jesus Christ! That's sick. Sick! Not only do I pity those people, I want to smash them in the face. With my sons' Game Cube. Or their Wii. Or their Playstation 2. That's another thing: my kids have taught me to love without spoiling. So I limit them — only one hour of video games on school nights — unless I'm too tired to care.
After all, our replacements have arrived, and we owe them our best.
Soon my eldest will be a teen. I can't wait. I want to teach him stuff. Like it's not that girls don't like him because he has my big nose, it's that they don't like him because he scowls at them and thinks it looks "cool." I want to teach him not to pick at his pimples — that really, no girl in the world cares whether you have a marble-sized whitehead exactly in the middle of your forehead. They just don't. So leave it be. It'll take care of itself. Somehow. Magically.
My younger boy, eight, I try to teach him, too. When he's bad, I make him read. Some people say I run the risk of making him associate "reading" with "punishment," but I don't think so. After all, when he flushes candy wrappers down the toilet and clogs it, I give him a choice: he can unclog the toilet, bathe the cat, or read a book.
But mostly I am humbled by how much the little boogers have taught me. I thought I knew how to love before I had them. I was wrong. I've discovered a capacity for love I never knew I had. I thought it was weird that I used to want to eat them. Mostly when they were younger, more tender. But my boss' wife is a shrink, and she tells me it's perfectly normal to want to eat your kids — it's called incorporation. So now I know: when my twelve-year-old tells me I'm the only loser in the world who finds his smacking at the table intolerable, or when my eight-year-old lies again about having brushed his teeth, I know why I want to draw their blood with my teeth.