You do not want to read about farting. This magazine has done extensive market research on the subject, and the people in the focus groups all tell us, “Too many articles about farting,” and, “Enough with the farting!” So this story is not about farting. It is about parenting. Remember that.
The other day, my 6-year-old son suffered a bout of pants turbulence the likes of which I’d never encountered. It was so violent and so noxious that I wondered aloud whether he needed medical attention. But the boy did not share my concern. To him, it was all a joke. He gleefully sailed from one room of the house to the next, his spinnaker filled with that ill wind, leaving in his wake watery eyes and peeling wallpaper. Seriously, if our co-pay weren’t so high, I’d have taken him to the doctor.
The episode occasioned a father-son talk.
“I hope you haven’t been doing that in school,” I said.
“Why?” he asked, in a way that suggested he had, in fact, been doing that in school.
Even for a kid who understands the Byzantine rules of Yu-Gi-Oh! duels, the mores of wind-breaking can seem complex. I decided to begin with the basics.
“Okay,” I said. “First, farting is natural. Everybody does it.”
“That’s not true, Daddy. Mommy doesn’t. I mean, she does. She farts inside her body.”
I knew for a fact this wasn’t true. My Fair Lady had bragged to me just days earlier about her efforts at externalization. She’d gone to Neiman’s at NorthPark to buy mascara and had received a chilly reception from the woman behind the makeup counter. My Fair Lady theorized it was on account of her ensemble, which, head to toe, had come from Target. The haughty makeup woman gave MFL the once-over and then, without even asking if she needed help, passed her off to a junior saleswoman. MFL retaliated by, in her words, “crop-dusting” the entire cosmetics department.
But I wasn’t about to spoil the boy’s innocence. His mom only farts inside her body, the Tooth Fairy brings him money, and Harriet Miers asked the president to withdraw her nomination to the Supreme Court because the confirmation process would have presented a burden to the White House that was not in the best interest of the country. It’s the boy’s privilege to believe these myths.
“Your mom is a woman of many talents,” I told him. “Maybe she keeps them inside her body to be considerate to other people.”
The boy was confused. Why would she keep something to herself that was so funny? He cited scenes from Shrek and Finding Nemo that, to his mind, proved beyond a reasonable doubt that farting was funny.
“It’s like this,” I told the boy. “You know how you and I like to hide in closets and jump out and scare each other? And you know how Mom hates that, and we’re not allowed to scare her, and if you do it, she’ll send you to your room, and if I do it she’ll hit me? Farting is like that. Some people think it’s funny. Other people don’t.”
“So how come you fart all the time?”
I had to explain that Daddy doesn’t fart “all the time.” He does it only in the company of family and close friends. It just so happens that Daddy has a lot of close friends. I named them all. Then I asked the boy to name his close friends. Because he didn’t list all his classmates, I said he shouldn’t let loose in that setting.
“What if my stomach really hurts and I can’t hold it?” he asked.
“Excellent question. In that case, you should ask to go to the bathroom.”
“But I can fart on the playground if I need to. Right, Daddy?”
“Absolutely. You’re safe on the playground.”
“Because on the playground, your farts mix with bird farts, and the wind stirs it all up, and no one knows.”
You know, every parent likes to think his child is special. But figuring out on his own how to take advantage of meteorological conditions and defenseless creatures to camouflage flatulence? It’s times like those that make a man proud to be a paterfamilias. A tear came to my eye.
I said to the boy, “That was you again, wasn’t it?”