Like all solid nut shots, the pain starts in my testicles before traveling upward, until it eventually reaches a crescendo somewhere in the vicinity of my lower abdomen. Despite the temporary agony I’m in, there’s a hint of a smile on my lips.
It’s because my 1-year-old son, Jake, stands next to me, laughing his adorable, infectious laugh. Regardless of what’s going on at the time, nothing — not even what I’m sure will at least be a testicular hematoma — can keep me from smiling when Jake laughs his big, uninhibited laugh. And this little guy seems to laugh hardest when dad injures himself.
Jake is directly responsible for me lying here in the fetal position and struggling to remember the last time I felt pain this great. Moments earlier, I’d been lying on my back and playing this game where Jake holds my hands and uses my stomach as a trampoline. Then, without warning, the sneaky little bastard slipped from my grasp, launched himself airborne like a flying squirrel and landed directly on the family jewels.
Turns out, getting hitting in the balls by your children is a fairly common occurrence for new dads. What’s probably not as common, however, is purposely putting yourself in harm’s way as often as I do. The easiest way to get laughter from my children is by pretending to hurt myself. And the more realistic the injury appears, the bigger the laugh I get. That’s how I tend to get burned.
When my 3-year-old daughter’s magic spell is supposed to knock me over, I commit to the fall. Most of the time I land as adroitly as a skilled stuntman, but I’ve gotten my fair share of bruises from poor falls, too. One time, I underestimated my momentum, and my head actually hit our hardwood floor with such force I saw little black dots floating in front of my eyes. Of course, my kids couldn’t stop laughing for a full minute after the head-on-hardwood incident. And that’s what’s I’ll remember. I’ll remember the absolute joy that Daddy’s unintentional injury gave my children and not some terrible temporary headache — unless of course, I find out somehow the terrible temporary headache was in fact a serious concussion, in which case I’ll kick myself for not being rich enough to pay somebody else to hurt himself for my children’s enjoyment.
In my three short years of fatherhood, I’ve suffered pulled muscles, a chipped tooth, several bloody noses, a veritable cornucopia of testicular injuries, and a split lip.
The lip is a fun story. When my kids are on the swings at the park, they love to play this game with me. The basic premise is simple: I tell them it’s super-important to pay attention when you’re walking past the swings so you don’t get hit. As I say this, I’ll wander into the path of my swinging children and — boom! — I get pretend-slammed by a child I’d just been lecturing, fall back onto the rubbery ground, and cause the duo to break into uncontrollable fits of laughter.
One time I really wasn’t paying attention to where I was while pushing my kids on the swings. As a result, my son swung right into my head, and his one little Timberland boot connected squarely with my lower lip, opening it up and drawing no small amount of blood in the process. (Luckily, I always have napkins on my person these days, so I was able to press this to my lips before my children saw the blood.) Of course, my kids thought the front snap-kick I took to the face was planned, which made it all the more hilarious to them.
I know how this comes off, but I’m not encouraging my kids to laugh at others’ (i.e., my) pain. After all, they think I’m pretending, which of course I am — except for the times when I screw up and actually hurt myself. The latter seems to be happening more frequently. That’s because I keep pushing the envelope. When it comes to my kids, I often feel like Johnny Knoxville these days. I’m more than willing to put my body on the line to evoke the right reaction from my audience. A temporary injury is a small price to pay for the pure laughter of a toddler.
Speaking of Mr. Knoxville, the Jackass star once said, “I pretty much operate on adrenaline and ignorance.” As the father of two toddlers who relish extreme and realistic slapstick humor, that statement pretty much sums up my parenting style at the moment, too.
Jared Bilski is a dad, a writer, a comic, and someone who witnessed an armed robbery when he was 11. Follow him on Twitter at @JaredBilski.