As A Father And A Monkey I Am Horrible, Horrible, Most Horrible

monkeytyping.jpgIn mathematics there is something called the Infinite Monkey Theorem which states that a single monkey striking keys at random on a typewriter for an infinite amount of time will type a particular chosen text, such as William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Because of the writer’s strike Hollywood has hitched their wagon to this theory by investing millions of dollars filling warehouses with scab monkey writers. Unfortunately, aside from writing a treatment for a new reality show called America’s Next Top Macaque and three episodes of How I Met Your Mother (one of which was nominated for an Emmy) the monkeys do little besides throw handfuls of poop and cups of Starbuck’s Lattes at each other.(which is basically what the striking writers used to do)

Despite their early successes I say boycott the monkey scabs and support the Writers Guild of America! No Monkey Scabs! No Monkey Scabs! (I’ve found Neosporin works especially well on Monkey Scabs)

This hypothetical image of a chimpanzee sitting at a typewriter, the symbol of a device hammering out a chance string of letters into infinity, is an appropriate one because it has become evident to me that my parenting style and my (in)abilities as a father can only be best described using the Infinite Monkey Theorem. It’s a style that is based on randomly saying and doing things with complete inconsistency with the hopes that it will result in a poetry of healthy, happy, well-adjusted monkey-loving children rather than an arbitrary sequence of petulant misbehaved disrespectful keystrokes.

Each morning the single monkey of my soul struts on stage with a cigarette and a cup of coffee, cracks his knuckles then hunches over the ciphered keys hunting and pecking for the opening lines to my daily tragedy.

clickety-clack… clickety-clack… clickety-clack

I’ve mentioned previously that Kathleen works on Saturday mornings during which I get a few precious hours with Jack and Adam and though I anticipate this time every week it’s inevitable that during the morning I’ll check the clock dozens of times to see how long it is before she comes home to save me from my own ineptitude.

The simple act of getting the boys dressed and fed results is a comedy of errors. This past weekend while Jack was half undressed on the couch, nibbling on the same waffle he’d been eating since 8:00 and going into his third hour of cartoons, I hunched over Adam struggling to change his diaper on the dining room floor yet only succeeding in smearing poop, half a latte and an episode of How I Met Your Mother all over my hands. Even though the typebars were wedged together jamming machine I continued to strike arbitrary letters until the reassuring machinery of the clattering keystrokes started up again. I snapped at Jack and told him to turn the damn TV off, eat his damn waffle and put his clothes on. (Yes Jack, I know… Damn’s a bad word) Then used an entire box of baby wipes to clean the monkey ammunition off Adam and myself all the while glancing at the clock fully expecting it to be 12:00 and not 9:43.

clickety-clack… clickety-clack… clickety-clack

Then last night, all three of my theories of understanding the words that are coming out of Adam’s mouth were useless in the face of his howling, tear-streaked, starving hysterical naked madness and nothing I did either comforted or consoled him.

When I picked him up he wailed a gritty protest of Get your stinkin’ paws off me you damn dirty ape and arched his back until I lowered him to the floor. In what I believe to have been a mocking derision of my words per minute style of QWERTY parenting he ran to the refrigerator and threw Leap Frog letter magnets across the kitchen. After prying a half-eaten tube of Chap Stick from his hands he began chewing the spinning motorized cylinder on the bottom of one of Jack’s Spiderman Bump and Go toys. However upon taking that away from him he let out a screech that was almost as unlistenable as a John Tesh album (Important Note: Despite her name Leeza Gibbons is not a monkey)

clickety-clack… clickety-clack… clickety-clack

The only thing that finally calmed him was when I folded him into a fleece blanket with his head sticking out like a player on the stage parting the curtain to peak at the audience and I rocked him gently back and forth. This we took as a sign that it was time for him to go to sleep, but by sleep I mean not to say we finally ended the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to just that Kathleen and I took turns lying on the hardwood floor next to his crib until he finally surrendered to sleep. One little monkey lying on the floor, my hand angled between the slates of his crib and resting on the small of his back, the other pecking away at the keyboard, the inky ribbon of my exhaustion spooling across the ceiling and into the night.

I have always pictured myself as a Hamlet figure, dark, brooding, heroic, and noble and when Kathleen and I decided to have children I thought of my own father and how despite the infinite hours he sacrificed with his children due to the many jobs he worked, he was always there when he needed him to be. Dramatically, I envisioned this memory of my father as an apparition, a ghost beseeching me to remember him, to echo his legacy, to follow his path into the great undiscovered country of fatherhood.

Yet I’m not Hamlet, nor am I my father.

I am not even poor Yorick, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy, bearing my children on my back.

No, the single monkey of my soul has written me in the image of Ophelia, mad and fated to drown; my platened garments heavy with responsibility, uncertainty, guilt, and regret while below the surface the iambic levers of my treading legs punctuate this tragedy of single-letter epitaphs. The roller feeds me deeper down into the lake and it is here where you’ll find me sleeping, dreaming within the mortal coils and apparatus of parenthood. My heads wreathed with fantastic garlands of chap stick, Leap Frog alphabet magnets, half-eaten waffles and baby wipes.

Submerged in a sea of random letters I’ll sink ‘till the voices of my children wake me. Alas then, I am drowned and the rest is silence.


14 thoughts on “As A Father And A Monkey I Am Horrible, Horrible, Most Horrible

  1. That IS sad Bill. We’ve had many trying days like that, but you can’t let them get you down. Take comfort in my pain: a 3 1/2 year old boy who just doesn’t give a rat’s ass about potty training. Are second kids always this hard?

  2. I just LOVE the infinite monkey analogy!
    I too, wishfully watch the clock when I’m “in charge” of my three and four year old grandsons, keeping them alive while their parents earn a living for them. (It seemed so much easier to raise the kids of thirty years ago, though.)
    I will only feel sorry for your monkey in the future, when he’s cracking his knuckles at the rigours of teenagehood! Then you truly will be a dark and brooding hero, (hopefully retaining the noble part)
    thanks for yet another inspiring image, I’m putting it in my firefly jar

  3. I think if you are going to subscribe to the monkey parenting theorem, you must adjust your expectations. Rather then searching for Shakespeare, you must rejoice in a few random letters together that create a word and the rare occasional phrase. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t at one point count the hours until the boy’s bedtime so I loved the 9:43 statement. I thought alot about this post and hope tomorrow you can tackle something simple like the meaning of life…

  4. Awww, I felt sad reading this too. We all feel inept most of the time (or maybe that’s just me). Think about the way you remember your father…I’ll bet he felt the way you do right now a lot. You just didn’t know it. Like your mom said, someday it will all just be a memory. Actually, sadly, most of won’t even be an actual memory…more like a blur of flying letters and dirty diapers and endless hours of Noggin’. Just think though…this is all making you stronger, so that one day you’ll be able to teach them how to drive. 😉

  5. Hey! Hey, they’re the monkees. So they monkey around…

    Sorry, perhaps I’m a callous cretin, but I didn’t find it sad. I found it real and something that hits home (not my home, but I’m sure someone lives there). I guess I related too much to fill anything but camaraderie.

  6. OK, take this for what it’s worth, a pep talk borrowed from a master and a laugh, hopefully.

    “Suicide is never the answer, little trooper.
    And dying when you’re not really sick is really sick, you know. Really!”

    “I’ve been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I’m no dummy.”

    “Ah, come on! It’s Christmas Eve! I could be home right now, drinking this *monster* eggnog my brother makes with lighter fluid. ”

    “Buck up little camper, we’ll beat that slope together. “

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