Friday, January 23, 2009

Metamorphosis

I hate it when people talk about how Becoming A Parent Is Such A Humbling Experience like it's a good thing. What they really mean is that having kids takes you down about 10 notches on the coolness scale, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

After having a child, for example, the illusion of competence vanishes. This child will cry and scream, moan and wail, and your Master's, Ph.D., high salary and stellar resume will mean nothing to him. You will cuddle and coo and rock and walk him and it will not be enough. You will sing and whistle, take long drives with him and consult the doctor and it will help and it will make you feel as if you are improving, but you will actually remain incompetent.

All of those old insecurities, from which you were paroled after being released from high school, return in force. Only now, the more your child goes out into public, the more ridiculous you become. As they grow, you will go from being the-most-super-amazing-wonderful-magnificent-person-on-the-planet to a know-it-all. You will do it wrong, not understand, be old fashioned, be impossible, be an embarrassment, be controlling and ruin his life, in that order.

Newly married, we are cool and chic, in love and on top of the world. So to perpetuate our hipness, we create a life and then nag it until it flees the nest in a flurry of pierced rebellion. It's the American Dream, only because none of us realize what we've done until we've done it. Then it becomes a plan that perhaps we should have thought through a little more carefully.

In reality, the birth of children and the emptying of the nest are the prideful parentheses of an otherwise challenging experience. Even as we become less and less cool, we love them more and more. They push us away and we hug them closer. They criticize, and we stand our ground. They leave and we let them. It all sounds very black and white, but in reality it's hard. It's really, really hard.

Someone once said that when you have children, the days are long but the years are short. And we don't really think about this until we are standing on the quad hugging and crying and not caring that we're embarrassing them in front of these people who aren't yet their friends. But it's true.

The challenge, once you've had a child, is to put your ego in a box on a high shelf somewhere. Once they've moved out, there will be plenty of room to take it down and put it back on. Just don't count the days until it happens. And don't expect it to fit quite the same way when you do. But it will still look really cool. You just won't care as much as you used to.

2 comments:

jlou said...

great piece. especially loved the line "So to perpetuate our hipness, we create a life and then nag it until it flees the nest in a flurry of pierced rebellion."

Michael said...

The quality of your writing is getting better and better (not that it was anything other than really good beforehand). As someone who hasn't had kids, I am drawn in to the experience by your piece in ways that mostly I'm not by writing on parenting. Do keep up this quality writing!