Take a look at this kid right here, building sand castles in the South Florida sun. Adorable in his innocence, ain't he?
Well, soak it up, suckers, because that innocent little kid doesn't exist any more. I stole his childhood from him this morning as sure as he crushed those sand castles two seconds after this picture was taken.
I didn't mean to do it, of course. I was completely unprepared when he attacked. You see, he's been asking lots of questions lately. I mean LOTS of questions. And there's nothing like a truckload of questions from a five year old to make you feel like an idiot.
"What makes wind? How do rainbows form? What does 'again' mean? What does it mean to live outside the law? Can people be laws?"
If I don't know the answers - and I usually don't - I fully enjoy making stuff up in the grand tradition of fathers dating back to the dawn of time. But this morning, I got blindsided while driving him to the bus. We went from a totally harmless discussion about things that are fragile into: "Daddy, is the Easter Bunny real?"
Now, I don't normally like to lie at all. Have tried my best not to do it since the great "Chocolate Milk lie of 1978", that went undiscovered for nearly 30 years, eating me up inside the entire time. I was only five and going to kindergarten and eating in a cafeteria for the first time. I had been told that I could have chocolate milk every other day, as long as I alternated it with white milk. What would you have done? The chocolate milk was right there in the cafeteria! My parents weren't around. How would they know if I drank it every day... which it turns out I did, starting on day 1. I feel sick inside just thinking about it.
Finn and I had a major "disagreement" a couple of weeks ago when he lied to me about eating a piece of Easter candy. It's not like that was at the front of my mind - I'm not that quick - but it was part of the reason, along with a disregard for the importance of the Easter Bunny in the pantheon of childhood imaginary figures, and a healthy dose of complete and utter cluelessness, that I casually replied, "No, buddy, the Easter Bunny isn't real."
Oh no. What have I done? How could I be so stupid? No one cares about the stupid Easter Bunny, but we all know where this conversation is going next, don't we? I'm so dead when Kitty finds out about this.
I tried to backtrack as quickly as I could, going into the different things that different people believe, the importance of faith and a whole load of other crap that even I wasn't buying. In a cold sweat, I told him that it was only important what he believed and mock-casually asked him if he believed in the Easter Bunny. Not being an idiot after my big, lame attempt at a cover-up, he just casually replied No.
And then, like a freight train slowly coming down the tunnel while I was tied to the tracks, he asked the question we all knew was coming next. "Daddy, is Santa real?"
Although it pained me greatly, my conviction was strong. I will not lie to my child. And so it was with great sincerity that I replied:
"Oh yeah, absolutely. Santa is totally real. In fact, I know him. Would you like to go see him? I'll call him and we'll hook it up. Don't worry, totally, 100% real."
And there goes my conviction, along with any moral high ground I ever held with my child. I waited to see what the follow-up question would be and to see if he would call me out on this one. Turns out he did have one more question:
"Daddy, did you know that glass is as delicate as a penis?"
Now that's more like it.
Epilogue: Speaking of man-parts, if you really want to know the truth, his innocence probably wasn't lost this morning. It was likely stolen a couple of weeks ago, when we saw this dude on the beach in Key West. I tried to get a picture of him with me and Finn, but I didn't have the balls to ask. Ha!