Issue 29

Nasty Habits


                As of late, there’s been an issue of grave importance keeping me up nights: Just when do I have to stop picking my nose in front of my son?

                I take the job of being a positive role model and good influence on my son quite seriously, but let’s face the truth: I am not a saint.  Occasionally I have a run of potty mouth, and I have been known, heaven forgive me, to burp or fart and then laugh out loud.

                When Skylar first joined the household, I wasn’t too concerned about corrupting him with my various sundry and nasty habits.  During his first week of life I could act however I wanted because he couldn’t even figure out how to look at me, never mind focus that far away.  So for the past few months I’ve been fairly secure that I haven’t chipped off any of his immaculate and innocent paint.

                These days, however, I’m not as confident.  He already knows how to hold a beer bottle and he keeps eyeing my triple bacon cheeseburgers.  In other words, he’s trying to act just like me. I’m awestruck by Skylar’s innocence and how easily corruptible he is.  But he’ll have enough reasons to hate me, like curfews and embarrassing him in front of his friends, that I don’t need to add any fuel to the fire by teaching him bad habits he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life.

                I’m really struggling with this.  Some of these habits have taken me over thirty years to perfect.  And it’s not like I can just give them up overnight.  Heck, some of them I’ve been hard at work to give up for over thirty years. There’s also my vanity to consider. I want to pass on good, wholesome values to my son and yet be able to privately retain the dignity of my vices.

                Of course, I can take the path of doing wrong only when Skylar isn’t looking, but that’s more or less torture when we’re spending a long block of “quality” time together.  I can just imagine the future, when I’m playing a marathon session of Monopoly with him and one of my urges becomes overwhelming.  “I have to go to the bathroom,” I’ll say, seeking privacy.  “Dad,” he’ll say, “you’ve gone six times in the last hour.”

                Where things will get most difficult is when Skylar discovers just how unfair it is to be a child among grown-ups.  I can already hear him asking Rebecca why he has to brush his teeth before going to bed when Daddy doesn’t. (You see what I mean about it being unfair?  Do I ask him questions like why I have to go to work and he doesn’t?)  There’s no doubt he’ll be clever enough to see the injustice of having to brush his teeth when I don’t, but will he be old enough to understand that I can care more about his teeth than my own and not be hypocritical?  With my luck he’ll turn out to be cheeky and point out that he only has baby teeth which are going to fall out anyway while I’m looking at dentures.  Maybe that’s when I’ll introduce him to the concept of contributing to the household by giving him his first chores.

                I’m not the only one who has to worry about the negative influence of his vices.  Rebecca will have her work cut out for her when Skylar catches her nibbling at the bin food without paying for it, although she claims it’s not stealing because one time the store manager suggested she try the malt balls to see if she liked them before she bought them. I’m not sure the manager meant “six or seven” when he said “try” or that he meant she should act like she’s grazing at a smorgasbord each and every time she goes to the store, but then again, I wasn’t present during their conversation so I don’t really know.

                In one sense I realize that I have considered this important question of nasty habits too late in my son’s development: too many of my friends knew me during my college days and not only remember all the bad things I bragged about doing back then but in several cases even have pictures.

                I still remember the day I learned that my own father was not perfect, a day tinged with betrayal and hurt. I learned that he was a man, that he was flawed, and that at some things I was better than he was.  That day he became more real to me, more of a person than he had every been before, and my love for him doubled.  I wonder what that day will be like for me when it is my turn.

                Perhaps I will finally be able to relax, be myself in front of Skylar, and relish my nasty habits once again without fear of permanently damaging my son.


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