Continuing on the Path of the Toast
(Obviously the spoken version deviated a bit, you know, nerves and all that.)
An Apology to my Future Potential Children
I imagine it might be confusing to listen to me apologize to hypothetical people.
Why, you might be asking, am I apologizing? Apologizing for something I haven’t yet done? Shouldn’t I just NOT do these things I need to apologize for?
Good questions. All very good. Allow me to tell you a story.
When I was in the 7th grade my dad came down to the basement where I was playing video games and said, “let’s play a baseball game.” I imagine that this statement was preceded by a brief conversation between my dad and mom, “You need to spend more time with DumbFunnery.” And my dad, in an eloquent response, probably said, “mm.”
There we were, in the basement, playing this baseball game.
I don’t remember too many different times that we sat there and played because each instance was so much like the other instances. Part of that was because my dad and I are routine-oriented people. But this one particular night stands out because of something I realized.
My dad was up to bat and doing his usual thing. Letting the first pitch go by while he sipped a beer. He never told me to do the same thing, but it was implied by him explaining his strategy, “you have to let the starting pitcher wear himself down. Get the pitch count up.” If you swing on the first pitch and get out, this pitcher will be fresh as a daisy and that’s no good. The second pitch would go by and one more sip might be taken. And if I didn’t follow the strategy, he would explain it again. And again. It’s a pretty effective way to get your point across.
The third pitch was pretty much always a ball because the game had a predictable AI. And finally on the fourth pitch my dad would swing, often resulting in an, “AGH!” Which meant he struck out, popped out, grounded out, whatever it was .. he was out.
On this particular night my 7th grade brain was feeling cocky. I thought to myself, “he sounds like a monkey with those crazy noises he makes.” And I just knew I was about to get a hit.
I let pitch one go by. Pitch two comes, I keep with my dad’s strategy, pitch three is of course a ball and pitch four … “AGH!”
I just made the EXACT same noise. I had limitless options but I chose the exact same approach, and when the opportunity came it resulted in the exact same thing.
I. Am. My. Dad. This was heavy news for my 7th grade brain.
Therefore, I am very qualified to apologize to hypothetical future kids – because I have been the annoyee, and now I am the annoyer. I have tried to avoid some of these things … but I think for some it’s hard-coded, and for others it’s just going to come so naturally to me I won’t realize something was frustrating til years later.
In light of the fact that I know some of my future – I’d like to go ahead and apologize for three particular things.
From as far back as I can remember until my senior year of high-school, I can tell you exactly how the morning routine went. Remember how my dad and I are routine-oriented people? I’d wake up, my dad would’ve already been awake for an hour or more, and he’d say cheerily, “good morning!” and I’d say in response, “num-morning.” Usually following that my dad would do an impression of me and then laugh. And occasionally I might be treated to a , “what’s for breakfast? Cereal? Sounds pretty good!”
My freshman year of college a switch flipped. Suddenly I couldn’t be a chipper and enthusiastic enough morning person. Late to class? Woah buddy, better hustle huh? Dribbled while eating cereal in the cafeteria with me? Hey there mister, you missed your mouth!
And it’s only grown stronger. My wife, when she was growing up, had nicknames like “prickly pear” and “thundercloud.” Do you know who loves to bug her in the mornings? ME.
I … “apologize,” I suppose, for the inevitable obnoxious doses of good cheer and happiness in the mornings.
Secondly, I’d like to apologize for my phrasing. Do you know that experience when someone says something serious and you should listen attentively and respond sincerely with something intelligent … but instead you thought of a joke. And not just any joke, but something like a pun? The kind of joke that’s so bad it’s good? And who are you to deny that person this brilliant joke? So instead of something nice you say that joke?
You know that kind of … heavy, frustrated, silence? I know that. I really know that.
And my kids will know that too. Because at some point they’re going to say something where I should respond with something intelligent, and instead I’m going to crack a joke. But I also know the sound of my name being said in such a way that I get it IMMEDIATELY. My wife has crafted a tone of voice that communicates ever so clearly, “I appreciate your sense of humor, it’s one of the reasons we’re married, BUT. NOT. NOW.”
Last up … emotions. I know. They’re scary.
I am capable of experiencing emotions. In fact, at different points in my life, I have experienced all five three. Just kidding, I know there are only two.
I’m going to be Mr. Even Keel, and if there is something emotionally-charged to talk about, my wife will be a much better audience. That doesn’t mean I can’t listen or that I don’t want to listen, it’s just that I might say something like a heartfelt, “sorry buddy” in response to a big, long, emotional story. Whereas my wife’s eyes will reflect every emotion, her jaw will drop, she’ll throw in an occasional “NO!” while you talk about something awful.
I’m going to work on that, I’m going to try and be there for you emotionally … But that’s not going to come easy for me. But just know that I will comfort you in my own ways. I’ll crack dumb jokes, I’ll be silly or a clown for you, because that’s going to be easier and much more natural for me than finding the right words to comfort you.
Heck, I don’t even know those words for myself, but I do know about ice cream. And so will you.
Why the speech, then? Why bother apologizing for things that I’m sort of, kind of, not actually apologizing for at all?
Why apologize for my chipper am self? For laughing as I watch kids make their way to the kitchen, mummy-like, seemingly having just arisen from the grave?
Why apologize for my sometimes unwanted quips for all occasions?
Why apologize for stumbling through emotions and being an emotionally reticent person in general?
Well, it’s because I truly AM sorry for the times these parts of me will be annoying.
In the end, I want to be a good person, which will hopefully one day include trying to be a good dad, and this is the way I was taught to do it, and I happened to like my teachers.