I knew what my mother was trying to say to me the day I accidentally dialed her number, my cell phone tucked away in my front pants pocket. And while the majority of the universe knows what a “butt dial” is, I guess not everyone knows how to use the term correctly.
“Did you booty call me?” she happily chirped, a question no son should ever hear from his mother. Ever.
I would have openly wept had it not been for my 6-year-old daughter, Ava, who was sitting in the back seat on the way to school, pillaging through the lunch I had carefully made for her to make sure it was “good enough.”
Note: Even 1st graders understand that there’s serious street cred to be won or lost in school lunch rooms; nobody wants to be that kid who unearths a soggy tuna fish sandwich out of their paper sack.
“Daddy, I told you to give me half a sandwich because I never finish it,” Ava gasped. “Why do you give me a napkin? They have plenty at school.”
“The napkins at school don’t say ‘I love you’ on them, that’s why,” I reply, her eyes roll in the rearview mirror.
The conversation quickly turns to the jazz music I am listening to.
“Daddy can I hear my music, please?” she asks.
Why not, I think. It’s a short ride to school and I like her to be upbeat when I drop her off. Not all of today’s music is total crap despite what some critics and aging rock stars may tell you. Besides, I enjoy seeing my daughter singing in the back seat.
Our youngest daughter, Zoe, is another story altogether. To my complete and utter dismay this 4-year-old has become a devout fan of Justin Bieber. She’s a full-fledged Belieber. And when it comes to her music, Zoe is a tyrant. If she says it’s her song, she really means it. That means I cannot partake in the singing and/or dancing of “her songs.”
“I thought Justin Bieber was that Hannah Montana girl?” I ask her.
“Daddy, Beaver is not a girl!” she screams.
I could care less about Bieber or any of today’s teen idols and boy bands that pop up every generation. They are but a piece in a larger puzzle assembled by moguls and businessmen and women. You plug a Bieber into a tried and tested formula, hit the start button and the machine spits out a manufactured pop star. Just add water. And in many cases, rainy puddles will have more depth to them than some of the lyrics we hear.
When I met you girl, my heart went knock-knock,
Now them butterflies in my stomach won’t stop stop…
Shakespeare, he is not.
It’s during these times I realize I have become my father, Car Radio Dictator, who reminded my brothers and I every chance he got that “Pat Metheny had more talent in his pinkie finger than Eddie Van Halen could ever have.”
I suppose that’s all part of the cycle, you know? Kids grow up, students become the masters, etc. “Enjoy them while you can,” people tell me all the time. And, of course, you love your kids. Until you hate them.
“Daddy, you don’t know how to draw! I wanted you to draw Olaf the snowman – that looks like an elephant, silly daddy!”
“Daddy you’re an old man, right?”
When she was four, Cameron our oldest daughter used to study me like a science experiment.
“Gross, why is there hair growing out of your nose?!” or “Eew, is that dirt in your belly button?!”
She’s now 18 and I die just a little bit every time she leaves the house. I guess our worries shift and change the older our kids get. From bumping their heads and slipping off the monkey bars as toddlers to which boy is going to break their hearts and how will they navigate through a minefield of perverted men scattered throughout the world, the worrying doesn’t stop.
It’s a different kind of worry for our oldest, Ivan. He’s 22 and about to graduate from college in May. And while raising a boy brings about another set of issues, I’m much more familiar in this area having been raised in a family of 5 boys and no sisters. We didn’t talk about feelings in the home I was raised in.
“Don’t look at me, asshole,” was our way of saying “This is a really emotional part of the movie and I’m actually tearing up right now.”
But Ivan will be leaving soon; I’ll be sailing through these unchartered, estrogen-laden waters alone.
Of course, life is much different for me today. I’d like to tell you that because of my wife and daughters I’m a more sensitive person, a man who’s more in touch with his feelings. I’m ashamed to admit that I may have made some strides in these areas thanks to these women. But in reality they’ve created a sucker, an easy mark. Crying will now get them everything.
In other words, I’m totally screwed.
“Payback is a bitch,” my mother reminds me daily, reveling in the fact that this was probably not what I had in mind at the notion of being surrounded by women one day.
“God’s laughing at me,” I reply.
For all I know God is a woman.
The new book, Summer Son/hijo del verano, will be published by Floricanto Press in the Spring of 2016. Follow me @phillipdcortez