The most painful experience of parenting for me occurred when I decided to stop listening to the Howard Stern Show in the car while driving with my son. I remember the moment precisely--it was one day between January and December of 2010 either in the morning or evening. Or dusk.
Like many things (including my sexuality), I was in utter and complete denial that there'd come a day when I could no longer listen to the King of All Media in my car when I wanted to.
At the time, I dropped my son off at daycare on my way to work, which was the longest stretch of my commute. During that leg, I could always catch an entire interview with a guest, a segment of Howard imitating his parents, the gang destroying Jackie the Joke Man Martling, George Takei detailing his foreplay sessions with his husband Brad, or Richard Christie and Sal the Stockbroker showcasing a new phony phone call.
My friends warned me that I'd have to stop, and I just called them pussies. Grow a pair, I told them. It's your fucking car; it's your fucking rules. No way in hell I was going to surrender this last bastion of freedom. I would listen to Howard or die trying.
At the very worst, I would ween myself off verrrrry gradually. I'd shift the audio to the front of the car away from my son or simply lower the volume during a Sybian ride.
Sadly, there was a hard-stop. My son said the word asshole, and he wasn't even two yet.
A caller was busting Ronnie the Limo Driver's balls, which led to this paraphrased colorful exchange:
Caller: Seriously, you're so disrespectful, I don't know why Howard hasn't fired your ass.
RTLD: Yeah, I'm disrespectful.
Caller: You are. You're an insubordinate little midget.
RTLD: And what the fuck do you do, dude? You just sit there, calling in all day! Get a fuckin' life, man! I bet you don't even have a job, you fuckin' asswipe!
Caller: I have a job, and I listen to my boss. I'm not an ingrate piece of shit like you.
Meanwhile, I'm checking in the rear-view mirror, praying this is all going over my son's head.
RTLD: Yeah, I bet you have a great job.
Caller: I do, and I'm good at it.
RTLD: Why don't you come down here, tough guy, and say this shit to my face? Fuckin' asshole.
That's when my son made eye-contact with me through my reflection and said,
That was it. I shut the radio off immediately and quickly became one of the "pussies" I accused my friends of turning into.
At one-and-a-half, my son was already a sponge and a parrot. I couldn't risk his imitating Riley Martin at a Gymboree birthday party. Instead of singing Happy Birthday with the other kids, I could have seen him blurting out,
"Uhhh, look you cheap Jew bastard, I am worthy of more than this pittance you call a salary. Uhhh, why don't you reach into your deep pockets and fucking pay me what I deserve?"
So yeah, I stopped listening with him in the car, but I didn't stop listening altogether. My grandfather once told me, with regard to time management,"Davey, you make the time to do the things you need to do."
I'm pretty sure he told me that in the context of financial investment and not budgeting 30 minutes to listen to the Lord of the Anal Ring Toss competition.
Rather than live a double life in which I was a Howard Stern fan only when driving alone and just a dad around my kids, I've brought Howard into the conversation, and it's happened organically.
I say "Baba Booey" at least eight times daily, and I walk around the house uttering soundbites that Fred Norris plays.
Naturally, my son imitates me imitating the Howard Stern show. Now he walks around the house saying, "Zero point zero. Who's High Pitch? This is Kelly Clarkson. Hello hello. Oh my."
My favorite is when he'll use one in context. The other day, I tripped, and he said, "Look out!", a soundbite isolated from the O.J. Simpson interview before he murdered Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. He says other O.J. gems like, "It happens.","I would love to," and "I plead the fifth."
I have a Fred's Soundboard app on my phone that my son loves. As you can see, it is best that I control the sounds, some of which are clean, and some of which are not.
Last week, he asked me about Baba Booey.
"Dad, is Baba Booey a person?"
"Yes. His real name is Gary Dell'Abate."
"Do you know where he lives?"
"Connecticut, but he drives into New York City where the studio is."
I Googled Baba Booey.
"Check this out." I said, turning the laptop around. "This is Baba Booey. This is what he looks like:
"Is that really what he looks like?"
"Doesn't he look silly?"
"Who's the lady in the bathing suit?"
This picture had slipped in there:
"Oh that's no one."
"Was that his wife?"
Having mourned the loss of not listening in the car with one child already, it won't seem as difficult when I have to do it again with the baby. He has a handful of words now: dadda, mamma, hi, door and ball.
He doesn't need to add "asshole" to the list. Instead, I'll gladly settle for "Baba Booey."
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