I read somewhere that we spend our lives before we become parents running away from trouble, and our entire lives after becoming parents running towards that same trouble. For example, when I heard a scream back in the day I would move away from it, with the thought that whoever’s causing the screams might decide I’m a better source of torture. If there’s a messy situation with a spider crawling on the bathroom wall, well, that’s what parents are for. “Mooooom!” I’d say, and it would be taken care of while I was cowering in my bedroom.
Now I’m the one taking care of the problems, and I’ve learned to run to the source of those screams instead of away from it. It’s funny, but when I first became a father, my first inclination just switched. Like flipping a wall switch, actually. And all the parents I knew told me “several things will happen the moment you become a parent.” Here’s a comprehensive list:
- “You will learn to awaken at odd hours and sleep when you can. And be able to operate off of whatever sleep you (don’t) get.
- “You will suddenly become a safer driver.”
- “Your current fears will become secondary to your kids’ fears.”
- “Your language will conform to PG standards.”
- “You will call your mother, and she will laugh at you, telling you that it’s YOUR TURN now.”
- “You will automatically learn the cadence of your child’s breathing.”
- “You will run into trouble instead of away from it, ready to shield your child from all harm.”
- “You will quickly grow to appreciate your mother-in-law and her babysitting skills.”
- “You will think your kid is the most photogenic child ever.”
- “You will finally understand unconditional love.”
Let’s face it: having your own children is a sort of magic. I love it when people who don’t have kids talk about how it’s “close enough” to spend a lot of time with nieces and nephews, or about how “little Lulu” (their German shepherd) is just like a kid. Uh, not even in the same zip code, ladies and gentlemen. Having another living, breathing human being who you’re responsible for, who looks to you for everything, who shares your genetic code, your blood even, there’s something just so magical about it, so profound I can’t even begin to explain it.
“You’ll understand when you become a parent.”
My mother used to tell me that all the time when I was the one creating the aforementioned trouble. She used it as a threat, or at least it seemed that way at the time, but what it really was, it was a promise from her to me, that when the time came I would finally be thrown into the role and I would see what she had to deal with all those years. It’s funny, but even now I realize that it’s still not even over for her. I’m 37 years old, and her mothering instincts haven’t diminished one bit.
We were on the phone the other night, and she asked me if I was taking my blood pressure medication, and when I began to hem and haw, she ran right in with how important it is for me, and how she would do whatever she could to make sure I would continue to take it. I have no doubt that even now she would hop on a plane and get here post haste if I needed her for anything. And that’s how I feel (and will always feel) about my own children. It’s an incredible feeling, just so indescribable, and yet also so perfect. It’s the way things were meant to be, and I feel so honored to be a part of the miracle.
“I knew you were trouble when you walked in. It’s a shame on me now.”
Yeah, I kind of knew what I was getting into when I invited all the “trouble” into my life when we decided to try and have kids, but on some deeper level I only knew some of what was involved. A lot of the rest was “on the job” training, and it’s been some of the most intense training ever. As we move into the fall, and with the youngest starting kindergarten, that job only gets more intense, but I’m ready for it. I’m ready to run towards the screams, with a smile on my face, and a plan already forming in my mind.