When I last chatted with Kim, things were pretty much status quo. He enjoyed a comfortable existence with his wife, Lori, augmented by the occasional trip to visit family and friends, and admitted that he'd never paid much attention to such highlights of mass culture as the Super Bowl. Today, though, things have changed.
What made you take that big leap to become a daddy?
It was like when you would get prizes in the cereal boxes and it would say "Collect the whole set." Lori and I realized we were going through life without experiencing all it had to offer. There were many good reasons, but it just seemed important that my wife should become a mother. Of course I was kind of scared to death of the whole thing. Parenting is kind of like going up the first little jaunt on the rollercoaster, where it's pulling you up to the top--[Kim makes various sound effects]--and you realize you're in for a ride.
How do you handle all the stress and grubbiness of parenting?
The secret is just not to care any more. You've got to quit caring about neatness and cleanness. To look at the ripe banana, hardening like epoxy on the floor, and just not care.
What about those cries in the night?
You go into the baby's room in kind of a daze. You're not entirely awake, and not wanting to get up completely, so you lean against the crib and hope he'll go back to sleep. You try to stay mostly asleep and drag the baby back to dreamland with you. Unfortunately, it ends up with you wide awake and the baby asleep. No, actually it ends up with both of you awake and you going to get the mother.
I bet he's getting better about that by now, huh.
You would think. Alas, not so much.
What personality traits are you seeing in him?
Reef's a happy child, and quite mischievous. He'll probably spend the bulk of his formative years in the time-out chair. He doesn't really know on his own what mischief to get into, so he figures out what you don't want him to do, and then he does it . . . again and again.
So you're going to be like "Don't finish your food! Don't put away the dishes!"
Reverse psychology . . . I never thought of that. They say the best way to deal with the young children when they 're doing something bad is to either distract them or substitute a different activity. If they are playing with the digital camera, you give them something else to play with. So we're practicing that, and what usually happens is that we don't so much distract him as we are driven to distraction ourselves.
He's a very tactile child. He likes to point to things as he approaches them, touch them , and then throw them in his wading pool. Or the trash can, whichever is closer.
You named him Reef. How does he take to the water?
He loves the water. LOVES the water. Bathtime is a time of a thousand joys. He loves his rubber duckies, rubber frogs, rubber dolphins. Have you seen these little plastic books? They have books that you read in the tub now. And they float. He doesn't really read them himself, of course--just points and makes kind of a whiny sound.
We had him on a "personal watercraft" at about six months. He didn't seem too impressed. Of course there wasn't a lot of feedback at that age. He was either happy or sad. It's kind of a binary communication system.
What are your ambitions for your son?
I just want him to be a godly person. Be a godly man.
What's been the most surprising thing about parenting?
It was interesting how babies went from being just another feature of our American landscape, to suddenly being these adorable little treasures from God. Before when I saw a baby it was like seeing a Toyota Corrola or something--no big deal. But now, every baby is like a Jaguar or a BMW M3. They're on my radar screen now.
Do you compare babies to your baby? Is it kind of a competition?
There is. Because our baby isn't speaking yet, and other people's babies are, and we're feeling threatened by this.
But surely he has a first word.
Yes, his first word was "vacuum."
He loves vacuums. He would start a cult worshipping a vacuum cleaner if we let him. He's always pulling us over the closet where the vacuum cleaner is kept so he can offer obeisance. When we visit Sears, where they have their vacuum cleaner displays, it's like the GC session for him. All these great luminaries in his religion are there--the Hoover, the Kirby.
So you think he just might pitch in with some chores someday, and enjoy it.
He might. We are hopeful. Of course when we actually start the vacuum cleaner he runs away screaming. It's kind of a fear of the Lord sort of thing, an awe.
So tell us about this "fish out of water" experience at the Super Bowl. I hear you won a contest you didn't even know you'd entered. What was that like?
I learned that big corporate dollars can make you very comfortable. They can provide lots of snacks. This was the first football game I'd ever been to, and really the first I'd seen from beginning to end.
What did that tell you about culture? About America?
That there's a lot of money in professional football.
I hear you're reprinted in Britain and in Australia. Do they Britishize or Australianize your material?
I wrote a column that mentioned a sport-utility vehicle. And they changed it to a ute, pronounced "yoot." That's short for "utility." When I talk about Walmart they change it to a local shopping center. I talk about Walmart all the time because it's pretty much the center of American life. So they change it to Kangaroo Mart or whatever they have down there.
You're known to be a bit of a cynical guy.
Really? Moi? I'm shocked.
How does your relationship with God affect your view of the world? Does being a Christian affect how you handle life?
Being a Christian is basically abandoning yourself to hope. I have to abandon my cynicism and my doubts and just be hopeful. So much of what we do is futile and meaningless, and you can either get depressed about it, or laugh about it, and believe that redemption is on its way.
Who are your influences?
I've really been influenced by writers like C.S. Lewis, Frederick Buechner . . . and Uncle Arthur.
How's Uncle Arthur helping you with Reef right now?
He doesn't seem to have learned to never be disobedient again. The Bedtime Stories are going to be our thermonuclear obedience weapon as soon as he's old enough to comprehend them.