I have 2 kids. The first one was an accident. The second, I guess, could be equated to a double-or-nothing bet at a pool hall. You already owe the hustler all your money, so why not risk your car as well?
The lies have changed in the past millennium. Originally, becoming a parent was a biblical, god-instructed requirement. Thou must go forth and populate the earth. Translation – the local land Baron and church Cardinal needed more peasants to work the land and bodies to throw at invading armies.
Entering the last few centuries, peasantry may have become passé, but the need for bodies to work the farm or take over the family business didn’t. And for the longest time babies were basically disposable. They died easy, so you had to have replacements on hand. Like a drawer full of AA batteries. Little, stinky, crying AA batteries.
Then we got desk jobs and antibiotics. Little Timmy wasn’t needed to harvest the back 40 and avoided the plague.
So the storyline shifted to one of fulfillment. Being a parent would be fulfilling. You’d feel complete – spiritually and emotionally – looking into the eyes of your offspring.
It’s easy to joke about the pain of being a parent of a newborn. The pain is obvious, even after labor. You’re not getting any sleep. Your nipples are chaffed raw. Your wife has to breastfeed. Little Timmy has something made up called ‘colic’ which really means little Timmy is just an insufferable asshole.
But the reality is parenting a newborn actually does come with a deep and fulfilling sense of accomplishment. You are solely responsible for providing for the needs of an entire life. When the hunger is satiated, when the swaddled babe finally sleeps, you know you did your job and did it well. Period, End of story. Have a six pack.
Then they get older. And while you no longer have to feed them, wipe their asses, or put them to bed, you suddenly feel responsible for slightly larger things. Like their emotional stability, spiritual fulfillment, social acceptance, future success and a little thing called happiness.
And you’re woefully unprepared. At least I know I am.
How can I expect my kids to understand and be in control of the depths of their emotions when half the time I want to break down in tears myself?
Going to church isn’t my thing. I think the Church as an institution owes most of the world a pretty huge apology. But I also don’t sit with my kids, stare up at the stars, and contemplate our place in an infinite universe. There is dinner to be made and laundry to be folded. Who has time?
For some reason I think it’s important that my son play sports with the other boys his age in order to be in with the cool kids and jocks, but the reality is I am an incompetent athlete and he got my genes. Am I just setting him up for mockery?
I have no idea what the future holds. Half the time I expect global climate change to mean we’ll all be starving. Half the time I expect our machine overlords to have us shackled to human battery pods. And half the time I expect zombies. All of the time I’m bad with math. So I could send them to college, which is likely a waste of money, or teach them how to kill zombies.
It’s a tough call.
And happiness? Show me the instruction manual on that little life objective and I’ll show you my chaffed nipples.
And no matter what you do, it never feels like enough. You can take the kids sledding, cart them around and cheer at all their sporting events, and make them a healthy dinner, but as soon as you realize they’re playing Xbox instead of reading a book or painting a masterpiece, you feel like a failure. What’s worse, while you’re sneaking 15 minutes of peace and quiet in the bathroom, you pick up a magazine and read about some parents who go hiking with their kids every weekend after feeding the hungry at a shelter. Assholes.
So I’ve decided to come to grips with it. Parenting is exhausting. Physically, emotionally and financially exhausting. My parents and their parents before them felt the same way.
The reality is my parents didn’t take us hiking every weekend. We weren’t in 3 different sports as 6 year olds. And the only reason we didn’t play Xbox was we didn’t have an Xbox. We played the shit out of some Atari though. And I turned out okay.
If it makes you feel better, rest assured I am doing nothing more than you are, and the kids will be fine.