virtual children by Scott Warnock

Loathing of the pre-kid self

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Maggie Simpson has the baby with one eyebrow. Humbert Humbert has Clare Quilty. Randall Patrick McMurphy has Nurse Ratched. Seinfeld has Newman. Randy “Macho Man” Savage has Hulk Hogan. Perhaps you think about, on those dark nights, who you might hate the most in the world. For me, it’s easy: My pre-kid self.

I am well along the path of having raised three kids. I’m 15+ years in. I look at my schedule now. I feel like a pretty productive member of the human work force. On the side, I get some coaching in, involve myself with some community stuff, and even have hobbies and interests that I invest time into. But I come home from a long day of work, and I walk in the house, and it’s all just beginning. Every day hours are spent interacting with, talking to, entertaining, and “guiding” (read: disciplining) children. Every weekend, most of it is spent with children. Same with vacations. Same with holidays.

I look back at the person I was before 1999, we’ll call him SJWpre99. Dripping with venom, I ask, “What was that lazy SOB doing?” How could that slug look himself in the eye in the mirror every night, knowing he didn’t have some book or film in production? How could he casually brush his teeth, that yellow-toothed sloth, knowing all those classic novels sat on the shelf unread? How could he snuggle into bed knowing he not only hadn’t climbed Mt. Everest, he hadn’t even crested the Sutter Buttes? Why wasn’t he out there building some furniture or starting some institute? That dude had free time.

How could he have not converted those countless free hours that now spiral into family life into something beautifully constructive? For seven years, my wife and I didn’t sleep. Our kids saw to that. What did SJWpre99 do before the 1999-2006 insomniac death march? What was he doing with those luxury hours all well rested from the night before? He could have gone abroad and promoted peace. Worked the ladle at a soup kitchen. Cleaned up the local park. Made a cool million in the stock market.

He was doing some other stuff, that’s for sure. Cause he did none of that. Whatever he was doing with all those precious hours that I don’t have anymore, I hate that guy and all his TV watching (what did he do on those long Saturdays in the early 1990s — was he watching college football, not even the pros, for god’s sake?) and phone talking. All his Road Rash playing and day drinking. Loser.

If I ever get a time machine, old SJWpre99 will have some time accounted for on at least one of those Saturdays. He and I will have a long, painful conversation. It may come to blows.

Cause I know he’ll make excuses. I try to look back through the lens of that derelict. I bet he’ll claim that he was working hard back then. He’ll say he was enjoying some of the things life had to offer and doing some useful stuff too. In fact, I shouldn’t essentialize him as an indolent boob, should I? He probably thought he was pretty busy, which is why he wasn’t more productive. He probably rattled off his many friendships — and maybe he was a decent friend, a worthy co-worker, a pleasant neighbor. Maybe he helped some people out.

You know what? I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care. Whatever he was or wasn’t, to me he was the biggest bum in the world. And I loathe him so.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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11 Responses to “Loathing of the pre-kid self”

  1. What did SJWpre99 do before the 1999-2006 insomniac death march? This truly tickled my funny bone! “If I knew then, what I know now!” Youth is wasted on the young! I feel your loathing. I also loathe CBpre97!

  2. PhD?

    Figuring out how to be an adult?

    (Day drinking?)

    Be gentle on SJWpre99. He made you the guy you are…he is your father, Luke…

    Great post. I feel the same way…but then seeing you lambast yourself makes me have more empathy for ‘that guy.’

    Then again, I did sleep between 1999 and 2006. A lot.

  3. WTF are you on! 14 hours in McGlones time well spent, we solved all the worlds problems and D&D. Running around like a mad man trying to put your kids on the best path nonsense, look at you, you got it all figured out. And speaking of MAD MEN new Mad Max movie coming out Fury Road yes Im coming out of retirement who’s with me Warnocks House 72 hours booze movie palooza cans of NattyBushLightDraft only MadMax triology, Jaws I only, The Bad Luet, Romper Stomper, Do the right thing and PE on the radio big old school Boom Box D MFker D!!

  4. This reminds me of something my old boss used to say: “If you have 100 things to do and 8 hours to do them, you’ll get 100 things done in 8 hours. If you have 4 things to do and 8 hours to do them, you’ll get 4 things done in 8 hours.”

  5. I think I’m hearing the by-product of ambition, and I am sure that is a good thing. But when Socrates (I’m sure among many others) said contentment is a natural wealth, I took it to heart. In 1999, I had already gained a measure of expertise in being content, and four kids later, the only difference is I have a little more noise to tune out. But it can be done; you just have to want it bad enough. If I could advise that pre-kids lay-about from the last century, I’d tell him, “stay put and enjoy; the noise will find you soon enough.”

  6. I’m thinking it was wiffleball.

  7. Let’s be honest, as long as you are attempting to be, POST 99 SJW is not a nobel laureate, nor a multi millionaire author or film maker, and there are no, as far as I know, Pulitzer prizes crowding your shelves. That being said, and I mean this with all the love and nostalgia of our misspent bygone youth, that pre 99 guy was much more fun. He never would have bitched about himself, say pre ’86 and the time he wasted in high school. I just hope there isn’t a post in your future about pre15 SJW showcasing the 06-15 years, cause I’m not going to have the time or stomach to read that pitiful novel. Suck it up and move on. Plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead.

  8. PS – vote REPUBLICAN!

  9. You were probably doing something useful like playing dungens and dragons.

  10. Great post, Scott. I want all those hours back, too! Who can we sue?
    Henry (Israeli)

  11. Loved this post! Be kind to yourself, I think you may have just described very well a stage of development for becoming a real person who has a life. Debra

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