While my son has been watching Jurassic Park since he was two and the odd “Family Guy” episode since he was four, my seemingly delinquent parenting has not extended to letting him watch Scarface. I have, however, seen the movie more than a few times myself, and since becoming a parent, I have been known to use some of its more colorful quotes in times of need.
Seriously, considering the explosions of expletives, you may be surprised how the words of the crass, irreverent, unapologetic, and egomaniacal Tony Monanta can help you through the darkest hours at the threshold of hell – or bedtime, as the case may be.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t invite Tony over for a game of Jenga and some G & T’s, but one can extract a certain desperate wisdom from much of his filth-infused rhetoric. And this is precisely what I found myself doing the first time I took my son to a toy store to pick out a toy for someone else. I probably don’t have to tell you what a shit-storm that can be, especially since he was on TV-lockdown for repeatedly chatting up the girls in his class when he was supposed to be listening to the teacher.
However, thanks to Tony, it was a storm I managed to weather with hard-won patience, and – I’d like to think – hard-ass style.
When you’re a kid, it isn’t easy to understand how money ebbs and flows – I get it -, so when my son started showing the first signs of an epic meltdown after I told him he could not get a toy, that we don’t always get what we want just because we want it, I summoned Tony’s words to mind and delivered them in the sort of Cuban accent I can only apologize for.
This stopped the whining, and brought on a dumbfounded silence.
“You see,” I continued. “You can’t just stomp your feet and get something. That’s not how life works. You have to earn the money. You have to work for money.”
“Like how you work at your laptop?”
“Yes!” I said. “Just like Mommy at her laptop.”
“So if I play on your computer all day, I can get a toy?”
“No. No. Mommy is not playing. Mommy is writing. Mommy is working.”
“But I don’t like homework.”
“Well, not everyone likes work.”
“But you like your work.”
“Yes, but I had to work hard before I got to the point where I could pick work I loved.”
“Daddy doesn’t like his work.”
“No, and why did Daddy tell you he doesn’t like his work?”
“Because he didn’t do his homework and didn’t finish college.”
“So if I want a toy, I have to get a job and make money?”
“In a way. Your job as a kid is to do your homework, listen at school, be kind to people and listen to Mom and Dad.”
“And then I can get toys?”
“Sure, but it can’t be a one-time thing. You have to try your best all the time.”
We paid for the toy and left. I felt smug. My lesson has sunk in, and blessedly, he didn’t seem to absorb the Scarface quote. That could have bit me in the ass.
“And if I work hard, I can get the women, too, right?”
And chomp! Had I unwittingly planted a seed of sexism in my son’s spongy mind? This presented what I’ve heard other parents call “a teachable moment,” but my capacity for mental maneuvering was spent. It was a moment I decided to leave for another time.
I patted him on the head. “Honey,” I said, “The world is yours.”
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