This post was inspired by Krissy Cole’s little one…
Would you have liked yourself as a little kid? This question has nothing to do with your self-esteem as a five year old, I mean if you were an adult and you had little mini-you hanging around trying to bum a piggy back ride or something, would you give mini-you a piggy back ride or would you tell little mini-you to beat it? I for one think I would have annoyed the crap out of myself.
This is not to say that I was a bratty little twerp. By most accounts, I was a good little kid. Its just that I think I was one of those kids who acted like he was an adult sometimes, and I know that those kids annoy the crap out of me. I also know for a fact that I was a smart ass, because I’m a smart ass now. It wasn’t my fault though. My father can assume most of the blame for me being a smart ass 35 year old trapped in a toddler’s body. As far back as I can remember he always treated me like an adult.
One of the earliest memories I have is of my father parading me aound my aunt’s house, bragging to a group of friends about how well I could read. To drive the point home he told them that I could read from an article in the New York Times all by myself. I was three and a half at the time. Next thing I know I am in my aunt’s living room reading an article from the New York Times for an amazed group of strangers, while my Dad sat next to me with his nose as high up in the air as it could go. Its funny, but I actually remember thinking “IN YOUR FACE BITCHES!” in my little 3 year old head. See now depending on who you are you would either find that little demonstration incredibly cute or incredible annoying. I for one would have wanted to punch little me in the face at that very moment.
My mom always tells me that my dad used to treat me like his drinking buddy alot of the time (minus the drinking of course). He would talk to me about all of his problems and ask me for advice.
Dad: So my boss won’t get off my back about this Dave. Should I just tell him to go to hell or what?
6 year old me: Maybe you need some time off. Do you have any vacation time saved up?
Dad: Nah I used up all of my vacation time when you had chicken pox.
6 year old me: Right, I forgot about that. Well how about we just have a nice relaxing night at home? Put some Looney Tunes on. I’ll make sure I go to bed by 9. How does that sound?
Dad: Maybe I just need to get laid.
He would really say things like that too. My father had a “colorful” vocabulary to say the least. In school, I had the dubious distinction of being the first kid to curse in my class. I made many a first and second grader gasp in horror at my potty mouth. I even cursed in front of the teacher once.
We had art one day and the teacher was walking around checking on everyone. This kid Brandon was teasing me and I was trying to ignore him cause I had gotten in trouble for talking too much a few days before. Every time the teacher turned her back Brandon would get at me. I was like a pot on the stove about to boil over. Finally after I couldn’t take it anymore, I got up and I shouted at Brandon “Would you shut up! Just SHUT THE FUCK UP FOR SHIT’S SAKE!” The whole class went silent. I mean you could hear a pin drop silent. The teacher grabbed me and covered up my mouth and escorted me out holding my mouth like it was hazardous waste. Needless to say my father had to come up to the school that day.
I remember being outside the classroom when the teacher explained what had happened. She told my father “Mr. Salnave, David told a little boy to shut the F up for S’s sake.” My father’s eyes opened wide and he turned red from embarassment. He turned to me and with a straight face asked “where did you hear that?”, knowing full well he was the guilty party. When we got to the car I was sure I was going to get some sort of pre-at-home beating warmup beating, but instead he told me this. “Now look I am not going to punish you because I know you heard me say those words, but you don’t say that shit in front of people. You definitely don’t say fuck or shit in front of adults. What the fuck is wrong with you?” It may seem unorthodox, but it actually worked. I was a very respectful kid. I cursed the shit out of my peers every chance they gave me, but I never cursed in front of my elders.
So when it all boils down, it seems that I was a smart aleck, potty mouthed, know it all, little brat. That is a pretty damning conclusion to come to. The truth is that there was much more to it though. Yes my Dad was rough with me, but he also made sure that I maintained that innocence and imagination that makes a kid a kid. I’ll leave you with this little convo as an example of how he kept things balanced. I’ll set this up for you. This was after picking us up at 3 AM on Christmas morning from my grandmother’s Christmas Eve celebration (we used to open gifts at midnight).
7 Year Old Me: Dad I don’t think Santa is real.
Dad: What?!!! Why would you say such a thing?
7 Year Old Me: Every year we are up all night. This year I kept my eye on the tree and the chimney all night and I didn’t see Santa at all.
Dad: The presents were there weren’t they?
7 Year Old Me: Yeah.
Dad: And who did they say they were from?
7 Year Old Me: Santa, but how could that be?
Dad: (pauses for a minute to gather himself) Look Dave I am not going to bullshit you. I am not sure how it works at your grandmother’s house. But I know Santa just left our house before I left to come get you guys. He waved hello to me and everything.
7 Year Old Me: Well I just don’t know Dad.
Dad: Well did you ever thik about this? Your granmda celebrates a day early because she is Puerto Rican right?
7 Year Old Me: Yeah.
Dad: Well Maybe Santa comes to Puerto Rican houses a day early!
7 Year Old Me: Hey that makes sense. Next year I am going to catch him. Watch.