The Daughter Chronicles

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Parenthood

Today is Mia's birthday. That means that I have been a father for three years today. That also means that my life has been completely different for three years. I often think about being a father and what it means.

Parenthood is something no one can prepare you for. Not even owning a pet can prepare you for it. I always think of Keanu in the movie of the same name as this post, and how he says you need a license to do pretty much anything, but any asshole can have a child. Good point, Ted! People seem to think parenting is easy, and that your life won't change. This frustrates me, because Krys and I spent a lot of years together not having children because we were too selfish and knew we weren't ready for the responsibility. I'm not saying we're the greatest parents, but at least we knew that we would have to stop doing most of the things we enjoyed if we chose to have children. You can't understand how completely your life will change. You are responsible for an almost completely helpless human being. It's an astonishing and daunting experience, and it is not something to be taken lightly.

This past weekend at Mia's party, I was talking to one of the guests about a relatively new parent we both know. This parent has been whining that she has to go to sleep early these days because she has to get up so early. Well, tough. I have heard of parents keeping their kids up late because they don't want to get up early. Unbelievable. If you aren't ready to be a parent, don't have kids. Here's what being a parent is all about:

1. No sleep. Forget it. Once you put the kids to bed (hopefully before eight in the evening), you have to get ready for the next day. Then, you have to go to bed, because the baby will be up quite often at night and the toddler will be awake early in the morning.
2. Lack of communication. Speaking to children is amazingly frustrating. Okay, Mia is a special case, but all kids act like they understand you, and then they go do their own things anyway. Yes, high schoolers do this, but at least with them, you know they know what you're saying and are just being jerks. Jerks I can deal with.
3. No social life. One of the reasons Krys and I didn't have kids earlier is because we loved going out. We liked seeing movies and going to the theater. We wanted to be swingin' in our 20s, man! It was wall-to-wall orgies, drugs, overthrowing small South American republics, devaluing currencies worldwide, and wiping out various species of endangered animals. Since Mia was born, it's all ended. This year we have seen two movies in the theater, and we haven't seen a play since Mia was born. Of course, we live in the cultural wasteland of Phoenix, but occasionally they have good theater. Many people pass their kids off on their parents so they can continue with the social life they have become accustomed to, but although we can't do that because our parents live 2000 miles away, even if they were around, we wouldn't do it. You will have no social life for the next 15 or so years if you become a parent. Deal with it.
4. A completely screwed-up schedule. Kids live by their own schedules. Sure, you can get them onto a schedule, but it will still mess yours up. We don't eat dinner at a normal time, partly because of the kids. Get Tivo, because television schedules don't often coincide with kids' schedules.

This makes it sound like I'm bitter, I'm aware. I'm not. The three years since Mia was born have been the most wonderful in my life. Despite living in hell and, well, a rather inconvenient automobile accident, it has been superb. I wouldn't change anything (well, maybe I wouldn't have taken Mia for a ride on 18 April 2003, but that's water under the bridge). All of the incoveniences about being a parent, the joy you feel outweighs them all. I know people who don't seem very happy about being a parent. Maybe some people feel that way about me! I don't understand it, though. It is a truly awesome experience. Mia and Norah drive me crazy, but they give me such a great feeling when I think about them and interact with them.

I'm not the greatest father, I'll admit. I get angry at them, and I probably don't make Mia work as often as she should, and when I can't figure out what to do with them, I take them to the mall. The mall rules. But I love them both, and I wish people would treat parenting more seriously. Your life will change completely. You can't expect to do the same things you once did. And that's not a bad thing.

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