Hey lay off me, man. Nobody likes a quitter.
Oh gosh, I thought, that's why he's been so twitchy and bleary-eyed the last few months. Both of Nick's pinky claws were 3 times longer than his other well-clipped nails. I know what those are for. It would be out of character for my older brother, but that little seed of doubt ate at me. I took a couple hits off my snifter of whiskey and mustered some faux nerve.
“Hey man, love what you've done with your nails. What's cocaine like?” I inquired jokingly, but also not jokingly.
He snorted a tired, wistful laugh, and sighed more than said, “Naw bro, I wish. I could use some. This is for excavating boogers and snot out of the girls' tiny noses.”
I can't prove Nick doesn't also use those claws to indulge in cocaine, but this conversation shed a weird and profoundly poignant light on the similarities between fatherhood and cocaine addicts: I'm strung out, bro. I'm exhausted and broke, but I can't get enough.
If you never thought being a dad had anything in common with being a cocaine junky, read on.
1. Dads and Cocaine Addicts Have Long Pinky Nails Sometimes
One sad – but incredibly memorable – truth about fatherhood is this: you have to do some ridiculous shit sometimes to keep your “perfect children” from looking like that weird chubster kid down the street with snot perpetually descending down his face. The pinky nail is the only fingernail on a respectable man that can fit inside the nostril of a toddler. If it works, it works. You taught me something today, Nick. Just please don't put any white powder in your nose with those nails. They've had boogers on them.
2. Dads and Cocaine Addicts Sniff Frequently and Have Runny Noses
Nobody ever told me having kids meant I would get sick seven times more frequently...with zero ability to A) call in sick, B) stop being affectionate with them when they're sick, or C) not look like a cocaine junkie while wiping my perpetually leaky nose. Every dad shares the same snot predicament with that [aforementioned] weird chubster kid down the street, except friends and co-workers don't think it's as cute or acceptable in public. Then it occurred to me: parents don't flip out about hand sanitizer because they don't want their kids to get sick. It's generally beneficial for kids to get sick. Parents themselves don't want to catch whatever plague their germ-ignorant kids picked up.
3. Dads and Cocaine Addicts Can't Shake the Bloodshot Eyes
A decent night's sleep looks different for everyone. But what we all have in common is that sleep's duration steadily declines the older we get. Then BAM! Kids. I'll always admit it's worse for moms (because they're better than us and care more), but gosh what I wouldn't give to lose these bags under the eyes, ease the stingy redness when I put my contacts in bright and early, and sleep past 6:30am.
From what I hear, cocaine gives you tremendous euphoria almost immediately, but the crash always follows with extreme lethargy and depression. Hop on Facebook or Instagram and you'll see the proud pictures of kids posted by euphoric fathers. What you don't see is the crash – we're freaking tired. Now I know what Nick meant when he said he could use some cocaine.
4. Dads and Cocaine Addicts Have Financial Problems
This History degree I tote around is fantastic, but I severely underestimated the financial commitment my loins would later produce when I chose my career path. The truth is that we're fine financially, but the ever-present pressure from kids to keep up with all the devices and toys their peers have is the killer. Balance and patience is key here, but when a new iPhone comes out every year and Dora the Explorer socks cost ~$299.99 a pair...it's easy for dads to get a little strung out and desperate. I think most dads would consider upping their stimulant game if they had two nickels left over to rub together.
5. Dads and Cocaine Addicts are Twitchy and Paranoid
Focus is never more important, and ironically never harder to achieve, when you hold little lives in your hands. I find myself always worrying and wondering about what my kids are doing in school, the quality of their friendships, if they have matching socks today, or if they're drinking water after other kids at basketball practice because they forgot the water bottle I put out for them on the counter this morning like a badass dad. If I get another cold I'm gonna take it out on Mikey this time, I swear. This stuff gives me a paranoid tick sometimes because I like control and doing things the right way.
For a cocaine addict it's the fear of an intervention or getting caught. For dads, it's the fear of being discovered for our imperfections. I'm learning to be comfortable with this, though. Fatherhood is a weird mixture of failed plans and subsequent improvisation. Sometimes I mess it up. But that's ok, don't make the same mistake twice, Josh. And if you do, don't make it a third time.
In spite of my typical fatherhood complaints, I wouldn't change any of this reality I wake up to every morning. And I've never met another dad who would, either. Much like cocaine addicts, we're exhausted and broke, but we can't get enough.