The way I've come to see it, you can't fully qualify as a modern parent unless you bring to the job these five essential items: shelter, food, clothing, medical care and a $999 video camera with special-effects functions and a free accessories package (retail value: $150) that includes carrying case, tripod and cleaning kit.
My wife agrees with that list . . . almost to its end, where she'd substitute "an indoor bathroom with full plumbing." As you can imagine, the woman is no fun at all on camping trips. Nor does she become exceedingly agreeable when I try to charm her into $999 purchases. But I really wanted that camera.
"Think about it," I told her. "Our son is almost five years old. His childhood is flying by. And soon, the way our memories are fading, we won't be able to remember any of it."
"Remember any of what?" she asked, deftly proving my point.
Alas, I couldn't point out that she'd deftly proven my point because I'd forgotten what my point was--proving my point twice in a row. (I so rarely score double victories in my house, I hate it when they're lost on both of us.)
Several hours later, however, I remembered I really wanted that camera. "Mark my words," I cautioned, fairly certain I was picking up where we'd trailed off. "Before we know it, our boy will be a teen-ager. And, if you put any stock in the law of averages, he'll be a dorky-looking doofus who hangs out at malls and complains about his creepy parents. Meanwhile, we'll be sitting home asking, `Why us, Lord? Why us?'
"How can we avoid that scenario? Well, we can't. But if we kept a running video record of our boy's cutest years, we'd have a permanent audio/visual reminder that we didn't always pray he'd be kidnaped by terrorists."
"Yeah," my wife said. "But the way our memories are fading, how are we going to remember where we put the tapes?"
Curses. She had me. As luck would have it, though, we both forgot what we were talking about--until several days later, when I remembered I really wanted that camera.
"By taking advantage of the state- of-the-art technology available to us at a very affordable price," I continued, "we could not only capture forever our son at peak adorability, we could also prove to our grandchildren that there was a time, eons ago, when Grandpa had hair and Grandma had teeth. We could collect golden memories of our own parents. We could amass a video library of family gatherings, weddings, divorces, arrests for public drunkenness. We could virtually harness time!"
Obviously, I'm no amateur when it comes to dealing with females. If I'd mentioned the main reason I wanted to spend 999 bucks (to live out my fantasy of becoming the Orson Welles of East Mesa), my wife would have suddenly been struck deaf. No, what was required here was an appeal to sentiment. Women can't resist appeals to sentiment. Usually.
"We can't afford it," this woman growled. "We're already up to your receding hairline in debt."
"Correct," I parried, opting to ignore the cheap insult. "We are in debt. But look at it this way. If we get the camera, we'll be in debt, and if we don't get it, we'll be in debt. What, pray tell, is the difference?"
The semiblank look on my wife's face was telling me one of two things. Either I had stunned her with my foolproof logic, or she had forgotten what we were talking about. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and closed in for the kill: "Here's the difference. With the camera, being in debt will be fun."
"Fun for you, maybe. You'd get to live out your fantasy of becoming the Steven Spielberg of East Mesa."
"Puh-leeeease," I moaned, as if weak from shock. "I can assure you I have no desire whatsoever to become the Steven Spielberg of East Mesa." Indeed.
At that point--motivated, perhaps, by my wounded-puppy-dog expression-- my wife exhaled the one syllable I most wanted to hear:
"Weeellllllll . . . "
She was giving in! Delicately handled, this crucial moment could pave the way to the kind of victory modern parents dream of capturing with their brand-new $999 video cameras. So, as delicately as I could, I said, "Okay, okay, I'll go buy it right now"--and with that, I was out the door and on my way to fully qualified modern parenthood.
The moral of this story? Always discuss major purchases with your spouse, but don't beat the subject into the ground.
Coming soon: "Orson Welles Is Alive and Well in East Mesa . . . And Mrs. Welles Is Not at All Impressed.