“Mommy, would it be OK if I grew up to be a thug? You know, someone who commits crimes and steals from other people? Maybe shooting a gun once in a while for fun, even if it kills someone?”
I looked at the rosy-cheeked little boy whom I constantly adorn with kisses and said, “Huh?”
“Well, what’s wrong with bein’ a thug?” he asked sincerely.
“I don’t have room in my house for one, that’s what’s wrong with it! You’re going to be a professional golfer if I have to hog-tie you and drag you all over the country myself!” I replied, drying my hands on a dishtowel.
“But Ma …,” he whined, “I’d make more money if I set up a meth lab!”
His eyes gleamed as he dreamed of all the things he could buy with his meth money — a PS3, a RipStik, bunk beds.
“Dude, hate to tell you this, but your dad and I just don’t do thugdom! And I don’t intend for you to start focusing on that kind of stuff, either. Drink a glass of milk, it does a body good. Besides, do you think we’d take care of you if you got into trouble? You’d go straight to jail, and you’d have to do your time.”
“What does that mean?” he asked, biting into a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie.
“It means, my dear boy, that if you commit a crime of any nature, you will promptly go to jail and not get to play xBox or watch Cartoon Network! You will have to watch something like “Matlock” or The Hallmark Channel ... or Lifetime, Television for Women.”
Horror-struck, he said, “Is that what they do in jail? Would I get to eat Cheetos? Or have a Coke?”
“No, dude. And you’d have to wear ugly pajamas and sleep without camouflage blankets and pillowcases!”
“What if I got sick? Who would take care of me?” he wondered, suddenly realizing that his mama would not be there to tend to him.
“The prison doctor, that’s who,” I said, with a hint of Vincent Price in my voice.
“Well, why are there so many guys in jail? There must be something OK with it!” he said indignantly.
“Of course there is, if you don’t want to have a job and earn money and take care of yourself! If you want to eat crappy food and get beat up all the time and sleep with the light on because you don’t want someone stealing what little you have or givin’ you the shiv in your sleep. I mean, that sounds OK, doesn’t it?”
He pondered that thought for a minute and said, “What’s a shiv?”
I pulled an instrument out of my back pocket.
“This is a shiv, my friend. A well-crafted one, too, I must say,” I replied, turning it slowly to admire the scary-looking implement.
“Ma. What are you doin’ with that?” he asked, backing away.
“I keep it on hand in case someone tries to take my Little Debbie’s away from me when I’m shopping at WalMart,” I said in my best Jim-Carrey-as-The-Cable-Guy toned-down voice.
He put his cookie down and said, “I’m gonna go work on my putt...”
I twirled my little shiv around and slid it into my back pocket.
“Good idea,” I whispered, patting the old paint can key I’d just tucked in.
You need to shock your kids back into reality? Send ’em over to my house.