Auto-Pilot Parenting

The moment you become a parent, people start to remind you that time is fast. They urge you to soak in every moment and observe every action because “you blink and it’s gone.”

It sounds insane at the time and you need to stop yourself from saying, “I know how time works, grandma.” After all, it’s almost insulting to suggest. You get it. You know that the years tick by and one day, it’ll all be over.

The rapid movement of time, though, isn’t the only reason for this need to bask in the daily riches of parenthood. It isn’t simply a matter of embracing the moments because the calendar goes fast. No. It’s because parenthood is mostly autopilot.

Yeah. Autopilot – the numb, mindless, robotic motions we put forth to get through another day and complete tasks that, if we heard about them before we had children, would make us cry our eyes out.

Have you ever seen an exploded diaper? Have you? It’s like a snowstorm in the living room. Miss a toddler changing by 20 minutes and you’re greeted to a deluge of soaked cotton strewn about the room you once meticulously cared for. It’s so shocking that your brain literally takes a while to understand what you’re seeing. You take two steps in and think…

What is happening? Is that snow? No. Is a pillow ripped? What is…oh my God!

It’s awful. You weep internally and begin to clean it because, any minute you allow it sit there is another minute your bundle of joy has to trample, fall into, or eat it. It’s a parade of sudden movements that can’t be put off. No matter how much your mind wants to grab the kids, burn the house down, and run away, you can’t. You have to handle it.

appSo you go numb. In fact, the more you encounter moments like this, the more you stop thinking about the movements. You drift off into your head to far away memories of days gone by as your hand, wrapped in a plastic bag, picks up pieces of drenched diaper. You dustbust up whatever you can’t carry and then lament over the fact that your vacuum – a vessel of household cleanliness – now has a urine-scented exhaust coming from it’s vent. Still, you move forward.

Before long, you’re done and your memory of what you just did is completely erased. It’s like getting abducted by a UFO. You went into this awful experience with an absurdly difficult and disgusting task. Next thing you know, it’s 45 minutes later and you’re sitting on the floor finished, with no recollection of how you got there or what you did.

That’s the stuff they tell you to take notice of. That’s the stuff they tell you to “soak in”. Yeah. Soak it in. Like that diaper. The problem, though, is that like that diaper, you too will explode if you do. So you don’t. Autopilot.

Having kids is like having adorable terrorists committing war crimes on your house. We’re all willing victims of their torment and our only job is to push forward. Sometimes you can even telegraph the horror shows before they begin.

This past weekend, Lucas was coughing like the Marlboro Man. Still battling the virus that kept him home from school, he ran through the living room with this deep hacking in his throat that sounded like, at any minute, he was going to throw up. I could feel it in my bones.

So, I do what I always do at times like this. I begin freestyling a song asking him not to puke. What else am I going to do? Put a spell on him? I’m not a wizard. After 11 years of kids, I’ve learned that all you can do is hold on and pray for salvation. So I sing to the tune of “Allouette”.

Hey there, Lu-cas. Don’t you freakin’ puke-is. If you freakin’ do, then I will freakin cry. Freak-in cry. Freak-in cry. Freak-in cry. Freak-in cry. Freeeeakin-cry….Hey there, Luc-as…

Haha. Ah. We have fun around here.

And then he threw up on the couch.

Yes. My beloved couch. My most prized purchase of the 20-teens. The couch that I didn’t let anyone eat near for over a year. The couch that has USB ports and three recliners. The couch that I love with all my heart. Now, the couch with puke on the corner seat.

My son, of course, is oblivious. I mean, he knows to stay away from it, but he’s busy clapping and watching his iPad. He’s good to go. Lucas doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Hell, Lucas doesn’t even sweat the big stuff.

The couch, on the other hand, grows big eyes in my imagination like a character in a Disney Movie. It looks at me with sad face and asks, “James…you used to love me. You have forsaken me. Save me. Save me from the children.”

I sadly kneel down before it, “I’m sorry, couch. They have me held at their mercy too. One day. One day, they will be grown and torment you less than they do now. Just hold on, couch. Ten, twenty, thirty years tops. If I can make it, you can make it.”

Of course, as I’m holding this internal conversation with my sofa, I’m scrubbing it with Shout spray and hot water on a handtowel. I’m spraying Lysol and patting it dry. I’m doing all of this without a second thought as to my actions. I’m just doing it. Time is passing. I’m here, but I’m not.

Autopilot. Half an hour later, I’m back in my office and typing on the computer with no idea how I got there.

So yeah, parents. Soak it in. Soak in whatever you like. Just don’t soak in too much. If you do, you might end up exploding and smelling like puke. Because it’s moments like this when you remember them telling you, “Blink and it’s gone.” And all you can think is, “God, I hope so.”