Jason Gay Just Wants Five Seconds to HimselfHopefully, someone will wake him from the couch.Published: June 17, 2018
Jason Gay loves his children. Sure, hear him talk about how they hijack grocery carts and fight on Mother’s Day and you might think he’s had enough of his offspring. But the hilariously frank Wall Street Journal sports columnist and author of Little Victories loves his kids—he swears. Quiddity chatted with him about what he wants and needs on the one day a year he gets to watch whatever he feels like on TV.
First of all, I don't know what the deal is with this stupid assignment. “Wants” versus “needs”? I mean, I get how they are literally different, but very often, a want and a need feel very much like the same thing. For example: sometimes I want a pastrami sandwich, and technically, do not need it—I am not going to die if I do not consume a pastrami sandwich. But sometimes, it can really feel that desperate, so “want” doesn’t feel sufficient, in the way “want” doesn’t feel sufficient about my desire for a margarita at 5 PM on a warm summer Friday. That margarita is definitely a “need.” If I don’t get that margarita, I truly may die. And then what, Quiddity? Are you going to read this crappy post at my funeral?
I have been asked to do this because Father’s Day is coming up, and word is out that I am a father. However, I am a lousy father—still a novice. My children are five and three, but often act two and in utero. I am that frantic parent you see in the supermarket, whose wayward kids have stolen the shopping cart, and are barreling straight into the tower of cheese. “Geez, can't that Idiot Dad get control of his his kids?” you ask. And the answer is no—no, I cannot. I am a failure. I love my kids, but they rule me. My wife said this would happen if I didn’t read the parenting books, and she was right. It’s a total disaster.
So I guess for my first want, I would say “Parenting wisdom.” But the truth is, a parent has to find wisdom on his or her own. It’s OK to consider yourself a parenting fail, but the moment another person (especially a stranger!) dares to suggest a better parenting strategy, your back goes up like a Halloween cat’s: WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME? DO YOU THINK I AM A BAD PARENT?
Can we curse on Quiddity? What is Quiddity, anyway? Is this porn? I’m going to wind up fired, aren’t I? I need this job.
Needs: Five seconds to myself
Parenting changes your life in many ways, most of them terrible—seriously, I will give you either one of my kids for half of a pastrami sandwich—but I will say it does quell your luxury cravings. When I tell you I need some peace and quiet, I am not asking for you to jet me in a Gulfstream to a barrier beach in the Bahamas—I just want FIVE EFFING MINUTES TO MYSELF, without anyone asking to borrow the iPad or having a “poop problem.”
I will settle for three and a half minutes. OK, two.
Wants: Primo fitness classes to look like a Fit Dad at the park
There’s a lot of competition among parents at the park, and the men seem divided into two categories. The first category is Fit Dads, who are lean and sinewy and look like they’re swinging a kettlebell, even when they’re not swinging a kettlebell. I hate Fit Dads and their beef jerky paleo snacks.
The other category (and it’s a much bigger category) is Flabby Dads. I am a Flabby Dad. Flabby Dads are basically the same: baseball cap, distressed XL t-shirt from cool band or college, shorts that probably could stand to be a size bigger. Flabby Dads tend to want to punch the Fit Dads in the face, but Fit Dads would probably snap our arms off in the sandbox, and then go to an Orange Theory class. Rather than fight, I want to get a membership to one of those amazing boutique gyms where you do like three sit-ups and they stick you into a cryotherapy vat and you instantly lose 20 lbs. That’s what those gyms do, right?
Needs: A sandwich
I always need a sandwich, as you can tell. I love you, sandwich.
Wants: Respect of my authority
My kids haven’t listened to a word I have said since they were born. I don’t blame them—look at me. But it gets frustrating when they’re misbehaving, and I’m trying to tell them to do the right thing. I am not saying I want to be Don Corleone—I don’t need my children to obey without questioning, or start a turf war with the five families. I just want them not to laugh when I ask them not to throw a water balloon at a police car.
Needs: Less blood
One thing nobody tells you about becoming a parent: all the attendant violence. Not a week goes by that my children don’t sock me in the eye or lip, and I am temporarily stunned, like I’ve been thrown to the mat in the Octagon. A few times, I’ve had to go to work looking like I’ve tangled in a bar fight. Do I seem like the type of person who tangles in a bar fight? I can’t even drink a whiskey neat.
I really pulled out all the stops this year on Mother’s Day—I got out of bed without waking my wife, grabbed the kids and made a breakfast to end all breakfasts. She deserves it—she’s an amazing mom. We had eggs, we had toast, we had fruit, we had coffee, we had juice, we had pancakes. It wouldn’t have looked out of place at a five-star hotel, or a really good buffet at a Holiday Inn Express. I let the five-year-old carry the tray to the bedroom, and he nearly tipped it on the floor, but we made it. My wife was touched, and I was a super husband and father, for about 20 seconds—until the kids fought over who made the pancakes and I had to break up a wrestling match on the floor.
Also, I made the pancakes. Those losers just did a little bit of stirring.
Have you ever watched small children eat? It’s finger-based and revolting. You should not let a small child prepare food of any kind. I do not need them cracking eggs and sticking their fingers in the bowl. I don’t need them licking the butter. I don’t need them taking “just a sip” of the OJ. Or the olive oil. If they are going to make me Father’s Day breakfast, I need video on them at all times. Any code violations, and I am slamming the bedroom door, and ordering bagels on Seamless.
Wants: Watch whatever I want on TV
Self-explanatory. No “Peppa Pig,” no “Frozen,” no “Cars 3” or anything my wife likes, either. (No “House Hunters.”) I’m watching my dumb shows and sports. I may even watch golf and NOBODY CAN COMPLAIN. I don’t even like watching golf on TV, but I will do it on Father’s Day, just to prove a point. At night, I will watch a movie of my choosing, probably something very stupid that I fall asleep to at 8:45.
Please come wake me up. I don’t want to spend the entire night out here. I wake up feeling terrible. It takes two days to recover from a night’s sleep on the couch. Help Daddy. Please. I love you, my children. I’ll let you stir pancakes with your toes.