The rule at Come Up Kids World Headquarters is that no child may watch TV until he or she has completed a modest list of responsibilities: getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, taking a leak (and wiping, if applicable) and telling daddy what a handsome and talented human being he is. On many days, the kids execute these simple tasks with nary a whimper. But there are some mornings like today, for example when reminding the children that they “have to wash before they can watch” results in howling protests and spirited claims of unfair treatment at the hands of Evil Warlord Mommy and Crazy Daddy The Asshole Who Farts All The Time And Blames It On The Dog.
I have extensively researched ways to get my kids to do what I ask without these tantrums, but I have failed. I’m too nice. My kids are not sufficiently scared of me.
Lying in bed the other night, I decided to borrow lines from my favorite movies and use them to frighten my children into compliance. Why reinvent when I can just poach the hard work of well-paid screenwriters? Having just seen Talladega Nights, I told my son the next morning that if he didn’t put on his shoes and socks that instant, I’d “be all over him like a spidermonkey.” He laughed. He knows an empty threat when he hears one, and I saw in retrospect that there is something distinctly unfrightening about a spidermonkey.
Think, Danny! Think!
And then, like morningdick, it came to me. In the history of film, there has never been a scarier character than the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. His ranting domination over the soldiers in his platoon make the first 40 minutes of that movie pure cinematic genius. At once hilarious and terrifying, he was the perfect role model for my new attitude toward getting my kids to do what I want.
This morning at oh-six-hundred, I gathered my troops in the mess hall. I ordered them to stand up straight, stop picking their underwear out of their tushies and listen carefully to what I was about to tell them. I paced back and forth in front of them:
“If you ladies leave my mess hall, if you survive, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that day, you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on earth. You are not even human fucking beings. You are nothing but unorganized grabastic pieces of amphibian shit. Because I am hard, you will not like me. But the more you hate me, the more you will learn. I am hard but I am fair. There is no bigotry here. I do not look down on crybabies, poopiepants, thumbsuckers, booger-eaters or kids who are old enough to ride a bike without training wheels but still ask for their milk in a sippy cup. Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved family. Do you maggots understand that?”
[Silence. Long, uncomfortable silence.]
“Daddy?” It’s her. It’s the adorable, two-foot-tall, blonde-haired Artist Formerly Known As Barney’s Biggest Fan.
“What!” I bark.
“What did you say?”
I race over to her, get on my knees and put my face nose-to-nose with hers. “What did you just say, Private Bee-Bee-Eff?!”
“I said ‘WHAT DID YOU SAY!?’”
“You little scumbag! I’ve got your name! I’ve got your ass! You had better get yourself squared away and start shitting me Chicken McNuggets or I will definitely unscrew Barney’s head and shit down his neck!”
As my daughter begins to sob, my son begins to giggle. I scoot over and get right in his face.
“Do you think I’m cute, Private Champ? Do you think I’m funny?”
“Yeah, daddy,” he says. “You’re hilarious.”
“What is your major malfunction, numbnuts?” (I’m yelling right into his face.)
“Private Champ, lemme see your warface!”
My son wrinkles up his nose a little and furrows his brow. His mouth opens and I can see the gaping hole where his two bottom baby teeth used to be.
“That’s not a warface!” I tell him. “LEMME SEE YOUR WARFACE!”
He makes the same face, but this time he does a little “grrrr” sound to go with it.
“There! That’s a warface!”
My daughter is still crying. I scoot back to her.
“Private Bee-Bee-Eff, why are you crying? You’re not a crybaby. YOU’RE A KILLER! Now lemme see your warface!”
She starts crying and runs off to tell her mommy about the crazy man who’s going go poo-poo on Barney.
I scoot back over to my son.
“Private Champ, I want you to go potty. And when you’re done, I want you to wipe all of the errant pee-pee off of the toilet seat. I want that head so sanitary and squared-away that Derek Jeter himself would be proud to go in there and take a dump. Ya got that?!”
“Good. Carry on.”
As my son runs off to tinkle, I was feeling pretty good about my new attitude. But then I remembered that the drill sergeant I was imitating gets his head blown off by one of the recruits he was mean to. So I ran down the hall to tell my daughter I wasn’t REALLY going to poop on Barney.