So my wife’s dad (who is a really good guy all-around — just today he paid for two strangers’ layaway at Walmart without their even knowing because he’s just that kind of guy) bought my 4-year-old boy this giant-ass wall sticker-poster-thing of a T-rex and some other dinosaurs from a company called Fatheads. It’s freaking enormous, over 100″ across. And he’s in Alabama, so it’s not like he’s putting it up. It’d been sitting rolled up in its box for about a month, and I decided it was finally time, before Christmas presents overwhelmed all other thoughts in the boy’s mind, to get the thing on his bedroom wall.
I wanted to surprise him with it. He knew it existed, but he had no real idea of what it would look like on his wall (and I didn’t either, really). So I wanted him to be delighted one day to come home from daycare and find it dominating his wall. The only way to surprise him with it, however, would be to do it when I was the only one at home. If my wife and I are both at home at the same time, so are the kids.
Here’s the thing. I mentioned that the thing is freaking huge. The instructions even say, hey, dumbass, this should be done by two people. I’m paraphrasing. But I thought, well shit, it’s just a big sticker. I can do it by myself.
Let me spare you the details and just get to the point. It’s a big sticker so of course I screwed a lot of it up. In wrestling with this enormous decal, I managed to get the T-rex’s head to fold its adhesive side onto itself, and in trying to undo it, I put a small rip in the dinosaur’s neck and hideously pocked its face with little creases where I tried to unstick the thing from itself. When I comically succeeded in getting the thing on the wall, I scratched some of it up using the smoother-outer thing that it came with.
I was consumed with guilt. I drove to daycare to pick up the kids, and all the way I have this sick feeling in my stomach that I’d ruined his cool dinosaur wall sticker thing, I’d spoiled my own excitement for the surprise reveal, I’d damaged the expensive gift his grandfather had bought him, and I’d succumbed to my own impatience and stupidity in even attempting this fool’s errand.
After begging my wife’s forgiveness for my sins, we finally showed the boy the giant dinosaur now overwhelming his wall. And, as you can guess, despite how bad I felt about it, he loved it. (The baby, however, was somewhat scared of it, though fascinated.) The boy even went into a kind of dinosaur frenzy, a mad excitement came to his eyes, and he jumped up and down on his bed growling and roaring. “I LOVE it!” he declared. Of course he did. But I still knew it was a little screwed up, and still felt pretty bad.
The evening wore on, we got through dinner and baths and bedtime. I got a couple more looks at the dinosaur before leaving his room for the night. I came downstairs, went on with my evening, and I thought, well, maybe the dinosaur’s just fine. Maybe I don’t need to be so upset with myself about it. He loves it, it looks cool, the end. It’s a big sticker, after all.
So I’m settling down for the evening. The baby has a cold, so while watching Breaking Bad on Netflix, the wife and I had to pause to allow the baby to get up for a few minutes until she was willing to lie down again. The show ended, the baby went back to sleep, and the wife put herself to bed as well. I think to myself, well, to be a genuine artsy-fartsy intellectual smartypants, I need to sit and read. But what I really wanted to do was have a beer, browse Twitter, and watch TWiT shows. So then I start beating myself up about how little I read, how slowly I read, how much time I waste, and how it all indicates what a waste of space, and generally crummy human being, I am. I’m paraphrasing.
And then something happened. I stopped, took a breath, and I actually thought, hey, maybe I should cut myself a little slack.
This thought stunned me a bit. It was an unfamiliar thought, an unfamiliar feeling, maybe somewhat unsettling.
And then I thought, yeah, okay. I’ll get off my own back. Just for now, anyway.
I don’t know if I can do it again — it’s novel enough of a sensation that I felt compelled to write about it. But this whole getting off your own back? I can see the appeal.