Babysit My Ass
Dir: Joey Silvera
In April, after a battery of tests, at age three and a half, my firstborn son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Perhaps I should have realized something was up sooner—like at ten months when he lined 34 pancake bites across his highchair tray equidistant apart from each other in a straight line. Or at age two when he became very particular about how his toys and books were put away and any deviation would result in a meltdown. But I had no idea what signs to look for. I was a first-time parent with no father to ask for guidance. It took my son’s preschool teacher to tell me his humming and outbursts warranted professional examination.
It seemed just as the diagnosis came back that things were at their worst; meltdowns and outbursts were becoming violent, and he nearly broke my wife’s nose with a kick to the face in one particular instance. I wrapped him up in my love and rocked him back and forth to calm him down. I whispered in his ear how bad it is to hit people.
July 1 marked my seventh wedding anniversary and I found myself in a car headed for Maine on a camping trip with my family. The campsite, as you would hope, smelled of inbreeding and white trash from various parts of America. The people at the cabin next door to ours were from Ohio. The wife and husband both wore glasses, giving them the appearance of being learned; I realized this to be false advertisement when their five-year-old daughter rode up on her bicycle and said, “Mommy! Drinky!” and proceeded to hop off her bike and run over to her mother who was simultaneously whipping out her deflated tit to put in the child’s mouth.
The swimming pool was ice-cold but had four hot tubs in a row beside it. My son liked to jump in the freezing cold water, letting his temperature drop, then hop in each of the hot tubs for exactly 34 seconds before moving on to the next. Two hot tubs were marked under 18 and two were marked over 18. He can already read but he chose not to heed the signs and I didn’t stop him; he was enjoying himself.
A 40-year-old redneck guido (picture a mullet and gold chain, Oakley Blades, and a Pam Anderson barbwire arm tattoo) tried to regulate a hot tub for him and his bro. My son paid him no mind and slid into their tub. The guy told my son, “No kids allowed.” My son ignored him and continued to count to 34. I told the fucker, “It’s fine, I’m his dad.” He kept on and pointed to the sign and said it was 18 and over. I looked at him and laughed. He had no idea how important counting to 34 was to my boy, and I wasn’t going to tell him. It was none of his goddamn business, and I wasn’t going to give my son a “He’s special” crutch to walk around with his whole life. If his wild eccentricities make him happy, there’s no reason for him or anyone else to apologize for them. I told the Kenny Powers stunt double, “It’s a campground. We’re all on vacation. Chill out.”
With that he leapt out of the water and puffed up in my face. He was begging me to pummel him senseless and fill that tub full of blood, and it took everything I had to restrain myself.
“You are fighting in defense of a hot tub, you cocksucker. I am fighting for my son. Who do you think is going to win that fight?” I asked him. Maybe his Oakley Blades made him a learned man for that instant because he let it go.
It was the closest I’ve come to beating a man in front of my son. I feel awful he saw me that way, and I could tell in his fearful eyes that it resonated in him.
“Thirty-four?” I asked him.
“Do you want ice cream?”
As we walked for a chocolate cone with rainbow sprinkles he asked, “Were you going to hit that man, Daddy?”
“No, boy. We don’t hit.”
Read more Skinema from our past issues here.