I'll be the first to admit that I said a lot of stupid things during my years of growing up - and according to my wife, I am still growing up. For example, I can remember saying that I was going to be as rich and famous as Tom Cruise some day. Or was it that I was going to marry Nicole Kidman some day? Either way, it was a pretty stupid thing to say and I knew it. But there were times growing up that I said some pretty profound things as well. Like the time I told my friend, while discussing cartoons, that the Jetsons were basically the Flinstones but in space, and if Judy Jetson (despite the white hair) was real and not just a cartoon, every teenage boy in America would have a poster of her in their room.
I can also vividly remember saying that someday I wanted to have a family and nice things - and by nice things I meant, well you know, nice things; cars with leather seats, high-end electronics, the most expensive fishing gear, etc. However, nobody ever told me that I wouldn't be able to have both. I made it very clear to anyone who would listen that I wanted to live the American dream with a wife and a couple of kids, living in a nice house with a few nice paintings, driving a nice car, vacationing on our boat or in our motor home - but not once did anyone ever inform me that this was not actually possible. Life, unfortunately, has taught me the truth. I can have a family. Or I can have nice things. But I can't have both because they are in fact mutually exclusive. Like night and day, good and evil, Sonny and Cher.
This fact has never been more apparent to me than when I was pulling up to my house one day after work to find my kids playing outside. I happened to notice on this particular day my oldest daughter, who happened to be 4 at the time, repeatedly swinging something above her head and then slamming it onto the pavement of our driveway. As I got closer, I noticed the object in her hand happened to be my $350 golf club and she just so happened to be using it to pulverize her sidewalk chalk into oblivion. I think it was at this exact moment that reality hit me square in the face that it truly is impossible to have a family (and by "family" I mean "children") and nice things. They are and always have been mutually exclusive.
I dare you to name anything nice and I will find a way that kids would be able to destroy it. Kids work in destruction, if I can use a quote from A Christmas Story, the way other artists might work in oils or clays. It is their true medium; they are masters. There is no manmade object that I know of that is safe from being flushed, ripped, torn, shredded, pooped on, thrown-up on, or banged to death with a metal spatula.
So you have a nice car with leather seats. Have you ever seen what a hamburger and chocolate milk can do to leather? "So I won't allow my kids to eat inside my car," you are probably saying, "that will solve the problem." To that I would respond that you either have no children or you have no idea how kids work, because if you did you would realize that it is impossible from keeping them from destroying the inside of your car. Kids find ways of sneaking things into places you never even thought possible. For example we once ended up with Nutella smeared inside one of our car windows and we've never even owned a jar of Nutella in our life. How did it happen? You tell me. And if you are wondering how I know it was Nutella it's because I tasted it. Don't worry, I smelled it before tasting it so don't get all grossed out.
How about that new flat screen and blu-ray player you just bought? It's absolutely perfect - that is, until the flat screen meets the end of a metal fork and the blu-ray discovers what it's like to play a grilled cheese sandwich. What about those fancy new clothes you saw in the store and just had to have? Go ahead and kiss those goodbye. You may as well have just flushed your money down the toilet because new clothes are just begging to be puked on or have a blown out diaper while you're holding your baby on your lap. How about that brand new kitchen set you've always dreamed of? Have you ever seen what a kid can do with 5 minutes and a set of markers or pens to furniture? It's enough to make a grown man cry.
And if I may, I would like to take this opportunity to point out Parental Rule number 207. Never, and I mean NEVER, buy any art supplies that are not 100% washable. And even if they say they are, test them out first by buying a set and allowing your friend's kids to use them at their own house first. This is almost as important as Parental Rule number 206, which dictates that you keep all permanent markers locked away in a safe with your important documents such as passports, birth certificates, and social security cards.
Remember that classy Christmas tree you always swore you would have once you got your own place - you know, the one with white lights, white satin ribbon, and matching silver bulbs? Sorry Charlie, that's just a dream. You may as well forget about it, because once you have kids your tree will consist of lights in which only half of them light up, any bulbs within a child's reach will be broken, and that lovely white satin ribbon will be replaced by toilet paper that was colored with an array of crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Oh, and if your children are still in grade school you can plan on at least half a dozen homemade ornaments made of papier-mâché, hand prints on plates, and toothless pictures of each child.
Yes, there once was a time in my life when I thought I knew everything, that I thought it was possible to have a family and also some nice things. Come to my house today and you will find that I have absolutely nothing nice as far as "things" are concerned. And anything that could have been at one time considered nice has long since been destroyed by my artists in destruction, my children. However, what you will find at my home is a family as nice as they come and a husband and father who couldn't be any happier about where he is at in his life. Nice things can be great, but what use are they if you don't have a family to share them with?