Friday, November 17, 2006
No, I'm the Knucklehead
When my son Adam was nearly two, his mother and I decided that it was time to put him in daycare. There were various reasons for this. First, we both needed to work, plus, I was in school trying to finish my teaching certification. Second, he needed to learn to be around other kids. This point was made when he walked up to my brother's daughter, who was about his age, shoved her down and laughed. He needed to start working on his people skills.
At first it was rough-- he did not like it at all-- if it wasn't his mom, I, or grandma, he wasn't going to have anything to do with it. He cried and cried.
After a couple of weeks, he began to enjoy it-- maybe too much. His latent social butterfly was loosed. He became popular. Or a ringleader, depending on your perspective.
Around the same time, 1996, I bought a car, the first one I'd owned in five years. Getting around by bus and el had become more and more difficult and time-consuming, particularly when I had Adam with me.
One of my habits, one that my wife makes fun of, is that of having a running commentary on the driving abilities of the drivers around me-- usually in some peppery language. When I finally got a car to run around in, it occurred to me that Adam, was beginning to talk up a blue streak, and was repeating everything he heard. With great effort, I began to clean up my language, substituting "bozo," "knucklehead" and other colorful non-expletives for my regular insults.
Adam loved the words I chose to use. When I got angry with other drivers, Adam got excited, and started coaching me on which words to use: "Call him a bozo, dad!" "Call him a dirtbag!" "Call him a knucklehead!" was his favorite. He'd laugh and repeat this word to himself over and over, declaring "I'm a knucklehead! Ha ha ha!"
Not long after this, I was going to pick Adam up at daycare. His daycare teacher took me aside to ask me about something. "Mr. Yen, there's a word...." I had a feeling I knew which word. With that, she opened the door to her classroom, and I beheld a Felliniesque sight. About 20 children, two and three year olds, were excitedly running around shouting: "You're a knucklehead!" and "I'm a knucklehead!" "Look at me-- I'm a knucklehead!"
"Um, yeah, he, uh must have heard me use that in the car. I guess the other kids liked it too, huh?"
I'm the knucklehead.