Thinking about having kids? Even just thinking a little? A little thinking can lead to big decisions. I first came up with the idea when my wife wanted to get a dog. Honestly. That’s how it happened.
A dog? We might as well just have a baby.
Life doesn’t imitate television. You don’t have to have some big dramatic cliffhanger before you make life changing plans. They just happen. It’s life. There are no ratings. Sometimes changes spring up out of nowhere with little fanfare.
People who are thinking about having children are always urged by those around them to join the club. Many happy in their own lives and many others wanting company for their misery will tell prospective parents about how it will change their lives for the better. Truth be told, though. It might not be for everyone. Anyone who’s ever stood in line at Target while a frazzled mom berates her ten year old in the express line can attest to that.
When I talk about contemplating parenthood, I’m not talking strictly biologically either. Adopted parents, step-parents, guardians, and every other applicable variation fit the bill. Being a mom or dad isn’t about enduring nine difficult months. It’s about enduring the chaotic 216 that follow.
Personally, I love being a dad. I feel as though it’s something I’ve waited for my whole life. That’s not to say that I spent my teenage years cradling a doll and hoping for the day that I could have a baby. It rarely crossed my mind, to be honest. Like everyone else in the same situation, I went into the whole “should I have a baby” thought process fairly blind.
I knew I liked kids, although I did find them a little gross. It always made me laugh when a toddler, covered in their thin-layer of kid filth, would waddle past me or stumble through a knock-knock joke. Kids were okay in my book. In my head, I’m still one anyway. So I guess we relate.
Babies are a different story. I was pretty scared of babies. They were so tiny that I couldn’t imagine how I could hold one without breaking it, so I rarely did. When my daughter was born, it blew my mind that we were allowed to take her home on our own. She seemed like a porcelain doll or the egg your health teacher makes you care for in 10th grade.
Because of this, when I carried her, I used both hands, palms up, like a tiny bed. I basically held her the same way a member of the clergy holds an open bible. My wife would give me this weird look and ask.
Why do you hold her like that?
I tried to play it cool a few times until I finally made an admission that definitely veered into the too much information category.
I’m trying to be careful. I keep worrying that I’m going to trip, fall forward, and squash her underneath me.
Immediately I became nostalgic for the other weird look. This new one was more of horrified acceptance.
Oh. Uh, OK. Maybe you should keep holding her like that then.
The gist is that aside from making sure you can provide food and shelter for them, you can’t do too much to prep for life with kids of your own. You can take classes, attend seminars, and watch Nanny 911, but parenting is all on-the-job training. You can’t even wrap your mind around what it will be like when your life changes.
I remember in the months leading up to our daughter, people would warn us.
Get some sleep now. You never will again. Ha ha.
I didn’t. Even though I knew they were right, I still couldn’t force sleep upon myself. I can remember laying down and thinking, “Soon enough I’ll miss this. But right now, I’m bored. I’m going to go do something else.”
Years later, I think about this when I meet a set of parents-to-be. While I want to remind them to cherish the fleeting freedom to just decide to go to Atlantic City on a whim, I don’t tell them to. They won’t and can’t. It’s not real yet.
Everyone is different and every situation is unique. However, when it comes to being the main person in a kid’s life, there is one truth universal to us all. For better or worse, no one will ever see you the way your child does.
They will remember every word you say and every action you do. They will look to you as the guide through life and the icon of what an adult should be. Whatever your daily habits and routines are will be what they think is normal. The opinions you share, even long after you forgot about them, will be kept in stored memories for a lifetime. You will be both on a pedestal and under a magnifying glass all at once. It will last for the rest of your lives.
You can go ahead and apply “for better or worse” to all of that.
At the end of the day, wanting to become a parent is a feeling. Your heart will tell you it’s time and your head will clumsily follow. You will do what’s right for you…and the child you could be guiding through life. It’s the first of perhaps many times where you are the only one responsible for this major life changing choice that affects more than just you.
Welcome to your on-the-job training.