'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
WITHOUT A DOG OR CABLE TV, KIDS ARE DEPRIVED
Over the years, there have been a few things my wife and I decided we could, and possibly should, live without: cable TV, a swimming pool, a boat, a vacation trip to Disney World, high-speed Internet connection, and a dog. Actually, we owned a dog for many years, but when little Rosalita died about a decade ago, we decided having one creature in the house that scratches incessantly, fills the air with noxious fumes, and pees in inappropriate places is more than enough. (I’m trying to cut down on these bad habits—at least when we have guests.)
Our decisions often were influenced by financial considerations. For example, no sense installing a swimming pool or buying a boat if it meant we’d then be unable to pay the mortgage. Our controversial decision to disconnect the cable TV, on the other hand, was motivated by a desire to buck current social trends and have our daughters able to read by age 14. (It worked, by the way.)
Overall, my wife and I feel we have provided a decent standard of living for our family. Our kids, naturally, think otherwise. They are convinced that going through life without these “absolute necessities” constitutes child abuse.
The problem is not that our children think we have abused them. That doesn’t bother me. I have developed the remarkable ability to switch off my hearing function as soon as any of the following sentences are uttered: “Dad! Do you know how embarrassing it is to still use dial-up Internet service?!” or, “Dad! I’m the only person in my class who hasn’t been to Florida!” or, “Dad! How can I know who J-Lo is married to this week if we don’t have cable TV?!”
I just smile, with my ears completely switched off, and say, “That’s nice, honey.” And if that doesn’t work, I cleverly distract my daughters and change the subject by scratching incessantly, filling the air with noxious fumes, and, well, you know.
The problem is that our children are now approaching adulthood—ages 20 and almost 17—and my wife and I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel: the day when they’re off on their own and we have the whole house to ourselves. (A friend of mine with older children tells me that once you factor in the cost of grad school and weddings, and then having your kids move back in with you until they turn, say, age 35, that light at the end of the tunnel turns out actually to be a freight train coming straight at you.)
Once our kids are out on their own, I think it’s possible my wife and I could change our minds and decide certain things are now desirable and affordable. At that point in time, we just might put in a swimming pool, or buy a boat, or sign up for cable TV and DSL service.
If we do, however, I know for a fact that our kids will be livid. They have dropped subtle hints that once they leave we had better not get any of those “absolute necessities” they had to live without. The first subtle hint went something like this: “Hey Dad, if you get a dog after I leave home, I have two words for you: Menendez brothers.”
I’m pretty sure she was just bluffing. Without cable TV all these years how could she even know who the Menedez brothers are? I’m more worried that our kids will be the ones making our nursing home decisions. But I’m pretty confident that if my wife and I buy a pool or a boat or whatever, our kids will get over their anger and just enjoy it when they come to visit.
And I’m sure we could get a dog without our kids ever finding out. When they visit us, we’ll hide the dog in the basement. Certainly the scratching sounds, the fumes, and the carpet stains won’t give away our secret.
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