Whether it’s by grace or a grand joke from God, your resident idiot cartoonist has endured a year of nurturing a tiny human who is almost as psychologically immature as I am.
Dirty diapers. Teething tantrums. Spoonfuls of liquefied vegetables flung like Pollock paintings onto the canvases of walls, windows and white cabinets.
That ain’t nothin’. Or as the president might say, “it is what it is.” At some point, you sort of just surrender to the messier aspects of baby-raising, an acquiescence that is enhanced by the tiny human’s cuteness during the moments of hushed joy when the child mercifully decides to become sleepy.
And coupled with those blessed occasions, is the parent’s joy of telling lies to the drowsy child in the form of fantastical bedtime stories. Ours generally involve giant talking sea creatures who emerge from the Gulf of Mexico or saddling up atop bears and lumbering forth on expeditions deep into the creek beds and mountain laurel within the woods of Appalachia.
It’s great. You can make up anything. Babies don’t care as long as they are eating.
The marvelous beauty of these bedtime stories is the chance to scatter a few creative seeds in hopes that wild and wonderful images will bloom from the soils of the subconscious as soon as the man cub finishes slurping down the day’s last dose of calories and drifts off to dreamland.
Like I said, it’s lying to your kid. But it’s lying in the most delightful way and always with the faith that stories, dreams and imagination will eventually help him better understand all that he one day encounters in real life.
Which is why I got worried about Congressman Matt Gaetz last week.
As readers may recall, Gaetz recently shocked Northwest Florida by suddenly announcing that he is the “father” of a 19-year-old Cuban man named Nestor.
More from Andy
► Salzman’s victory a moral win for Escambia
► Andrade gets nasty on Dosev in dying days of District 2
► Losing ground, Hill launches lie about Salzman
And after hearing the appalling, doom and gloom depiction of America that Gaetz offered in his speech at the RNC last week, we might need to be concerned about the sort of bedtime stories that Gaetz may be telling his “son.”
“It’s a horror film, really,” Gaetz said. “They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door. And the police aren’t coming when you call, in Democrat cities they’re already being defunded, disbanded … nightmares are becoming real. Cops killed, children shot …”
Hide under the covers, Nestor!
So much for Ronald Reagan’s “shining city upon a hill.” If Gaetz is spreading fear and fright like this to the American public, one can only imagine how much he’s terrifying his “son” when he tucks him into bed.
I’ve only been at this fatherhood thing for about a year now, so I certainly can’t claim to be an expert on storytime or any other aspect of parenting. But in the course of this never-ending learning opportunity, I have picked up a few quick tips that might help Gaetz be a better “father” who doesn’t traumatize his “son,” or any other children, with nightmarish falsehoods about our country.
More talking animals, less drug cartels
When listening to bedtime stories, kids of all ages prefer goofy voices of talking alligators, whales or polar bears to angry, racial stereotypes of Mexican gang members and Black Lives Matter activists. Good bedtime stories shouldn’t use scary images of criminals or drug dealers as an attempt to demonize other groups of human beings.
They should be fun, imaginative, adventurous and relaxing. It’s bedtime, Matt, not “Breaking Bad.”
Avoid American ‘horror’
When telling children stories that are set here in America, always remember that even in the midst of problems, this land is full of endless and unconquerable beauty that vastly transcends the petty politicians who come and go in American government. Gaetz may think our nation’s beauty is reflected by images of himself on digital screens and television cameras that have been purchased by taxpayer dollars at a “private” studio inside his father’s house, but it’s important for kids to think beyond themselves and envision the “endless skyways,” “golden valleys” and “diamond deserts” that the great American Woody Guthrie sang about.
Just as the sloped shoulders of someone like Gaetz appear shriveled, frail and infinitesimal up against the ancient silhouettes of the Great Smoky Mountains, the full beauty of America will always outshine even the worst elected officials.
Fairy dust over violence
Whether it’s before bed or not, violence is a huge no-no in storytime. Kids should be imagining stories about flying above buildings, pirate ships and magnificent dreamscapes like Peter Pan, not getting shot in “Democrat cities” like Gaetz describes.
This is especially important since horrifying violence against children actually does happen in real life — right here in Gaetz’s own district where Republicans are in charge of almost every aspect of public life and law enforcement. Tragically, a 7-year-old was shot right here in Pensacola earlier this month. And earlier this year, there was even a baby shot in Gaetz’s own hometown of Okaloosa County.
Add in local rates of child abuse, neglect, poverty and hunger in all the “Republican cities” of Northwest Florida, and daily existence could be considered a real life nightmare for many, many kids who live in communities represented by Gaetz.
Need a nightmare? Now that’s truly scary.
Hide under the covers, Nestor.