Practice Kid by Michael Channing

Practice Kid

by Michael Channing

My wife and I are planning to have a baby. That's a frightening proposition for me, and not because I don't like children, but because I don't like fathers. Why should I bring another one of those into the world? The best fatherly example I've had in my life has been Darth Vader. Don't get me wrong, I will kill an emperor for my kid, but I have no clue how to do anything else that fathers do.

To help educate me, my wife came up with a brilliant idea. I should borrow our nephew--good thinking because if you're going to borrow a kid, it should be one that knows you--and have him be my practice child.

I took him to the park, and he had a great time climbing and swinging and putting dirt on me. Then he saw another kid go the wrong way up the sliding board. "I wanna do that," he said. Of course he did. It's something every boy must learn to do, like peeing standing up, shaving, and making vroom vroom noises while pretending to twist a motorcycle throttle.

little boy on a trike

Fire all of your guns at once and go get a juice box.

I stood him on the bottom of the slide and watched him flail away like a hamster in a wheel and go absolutely nowhere. I was the only one of us amused.

Eventually he got tired of not making any progress and ordered me to give him a push.

I rolled up my sleeves and said, "Okay, kid. We are going up this slide. Are you ready?"


Now, what I intended to do was boost him up the incline. But what I did was shove his face directly into the sliding board.

He started crying immediately, and everyone in the park turned to stare at me. I shook my head and said, "Practice kid. Doesn't count. I get a pass on this one."

Of course I still had to do something, so I started combing through my memory and trying to recall what my dad would do in similar situations. And I remembered that what my dad did was drugs.

Not an option.

Then I hit on a memory of my brother and me playing professional wrestling and of me suplexing him a little too realistically, and I applied that past solution to the current problem. I wrapped my arms tightly around my little nephew to stifle his screams. And I whispered, "Shh, you're okay. You're not hurt. Don't tell Mom."

Apparently it worked. He calmed down and stopped crying, and I felt a glimmer of hope. Then he said, "Where's my shoe?"

He had indeed lost a shoe. His little foot dangled there in its Cars sock, Lightning McQeen looking up at me as if to say, "I know what you did." I found the wayward shoe lying at the bottom of the slide like the world's saddest crime scene. I picked it up, put it back on him, and he said, "You did it."

And then he applauded.

I felt joy beyond joy, as if the heavens had opened up and poured sunlight directly into my soul. The universe sang in rhythm with my heart. I was at one with all and at peace with myself. I was fathering the crap out of that kid.

Inspector Gadget and his niece Penny

I learned how to uncle from the best.

Then I realized he wasn't applauding. He was giving me a slow clap. Like a tiny Heath Ledger as the Joker. "You did it. And you will pay."

The world went dark, and all the joy drained from my spirit. He hated me. My practice child was now my nemesis, and he hated me.

I felt just like a real dad.

Adulthood in Development

foolscap Home       Podcast       Essays       Poems       Songs       Videos       Stories       Images foolscap

Chokes and Warbles
Now Available

Chokes and Warbles, a collection of essays and poems by Michael Channing