Like anybody who writes anything, I tend to be influenced in my style by the blogs and books I enjoy most, but I rarely agree so wholeheartedly with someone else that I decide to use their words verbatim, even for a complete sentence. However, I recently read a blog post written by a dad, directed to a soon-to-be dad who was seeking an honest perspective on parenting, which nailed some things so perfectly that I’m going to shamelessly plagiarise (well, not really, because the link is right here and I give the author full credit!) two whole paragraphs of it.
The reason this post hit home for me is partly because of a conversation I recently had at work, in which a colleague and I were sharing stories of our kids’ most impressive pukes, poos, etc. with a couple of childless colleagues. The hilarious (to parents) and horrific (to non-parents) anecdotes prompted one of the childless guys to respond with, “Tim, you’re not selling this parenting thing very well, you know”, and I reacted with a flimsy “Yeah, well the best stuff about being a parent just doesn’t lend itself to good stories…”.
The author of the quote below captures this truth so eloquently when he says that all the words you could use to describe the amazingness of being a parent have already been “wasted” on trivial, everyday events and objects. There is simply nothing left, no sacred word that is reserved for the TRULY awesome, truly beautiful moments in life. I recommend going and reading the whole article, but here’s the best part for me, following just after his own version of the poop-and-sleep-deprivation tales we’ve all heard/lived though:
I know you don’t want anyone to blow sunshine in your face, but I also don’t want to paint my parenting experience to be nothing but one poop-covered disaster after another. The problem is that anyone can easily describe the stressful things; the good things, on the other hand, are much more difficult to illustrate. Difficult only because they’re so deep and transcendent and immeasurable. I can tell you about the love, and the joy, and the beauty, but even those words fail to contain how I feel about my children. After all, I’ve used “love” when discussing my favorite steakhouse, and “joy” when talking about the Ravens winning the Superbowl last year, and I even said “that was a beauty” yesterday when I successfully banked a ball of paper off the wall and into the trashcan from halfway across the room. I’ve wasted all of these words on food and sports, and now I’m left with nothing in the English language that can even come close to communicating what it means to me to be a father.
I can tell you that what people say about “losing your freedom” is bull crap. We’ve got a pathetically shallow notion of freedom in this country, and that’s perfectly reflected by this common claim that you lose it when you have kids. Sure, if “freedom” is merely “the ability to go places and do things with minimal hassle,” then, yeah, you’ve lost that. You haven’t lost it permanently, but for a good long while. This is a flimsy, flat, flaccid view of freedom. I believe there’s more to being “free” than vacations and financial flexibility. I’ve seen both sides of this; I lived completely alone for the first half of my twenties, so I know about this sort of freedom. I know about it, and I can honestly tell you that I feel more free now than I ever have before. If I didn’t have a family, I could go on a cruise, or move to Vegas, or see Paris if I so desired. In fact, I could go pretty much anywhere on the globe. But I’d only be “free” to travel laterally. Now, I can travel deeper. I’m free to go deeper into human existence and experience things that are much more life-changing, enriching, transformative and exciting than a thousand vacations to a thousand exotic locations. The greatest freedom we have as human beings is the freedom to change. I’m not talking about changing the scenery, I’m talking about changing ourselves. Having children is TRULY life changing; having free time is not. This is not meant to be an attack on people without kids and spouses; I’m just clarifying a point. They are not more free than you.
I know there are other transformative experiences available to people, and I’m not claiming – along with the author – that parents have exclusive rights to a higher plane of existence, but this is a topic that’s been on my mind for quite some time. I wasn’t ready to be a dad, and Kathryn wasn’t ready to be a mom. Nobody is ready for birth, and then that’s followed by some really difficult months (or years for some parents). And babies grow pretty slowly for the first little while, and they’re so needy and exhausting, so demanding yet ungrateful.
If you think of children as being just like any other ordinary people in your life, then you’ll never want kinds. I mean, who wants to have another demanding and ungrateful person in their life, let alone one who wakes you up all through the night?! But it’s not just another person, it’s actually part of you, knit together with part of your lover; a unique combination of your genetic code; a living, breathing, learning, growing person who would never have existed if it wasn’t for you bringing him or her into the world (whether “on purpose” or “by accident”). It’s surreal. That’s all I wanted to say, I guess!