Parenting aint easy.
Everyone understands the joy that a four year old can bring, but what about the utter frustration of trying to get that child to put on pants, or brush her teeth, or just take a bath? It’s just basic maintenance, but it’s enough to warp the rest of your day.
That shit ain’t easy, but ultimately it may be the easiest thing I did all week.
This one is dedicated to all you folks out there with pictures of chocolate babies on your news feeds. Those of you who penciled “have a baby” into your life plan, after career but before buying that Brownstone in Fishtown, or Brooklyn, or The West End. Let me tell you, parent’n aint easy!
- You’re Always Wrong. I mean that in the most profound, soul shaking manner possible. My son told me with a straight face that the half eaten pop tart I found under his pillow wasn’t his, and did so with such utter conviction that to this day I’m not sure. Did the man set him up? To be a parent is to navigate in a cloud of guilt and uncertainty. It’s a cold, dark place. Be prepared.
- The Balance… This is what it is to prepare a child for adulthood. You have to inspire them to be open but not naïve, with a sense of wonder that is somehow both shrewd and capable of great expanses of awe. Street smart, but not thuggish. Academically astute while armed with full awareness of the bullshit that is academia. It’s not enough that they graduate and become productive taxpayers. They have to keep a piece of that thing that makes childhood magical.That is the balance. Easy, right?
- The Boogeymen. As I write this the world is waiting to find out if Officer Dan Wilson will be indicted for the murder of Mike Brown. I’m not into your politics. I don’t care how you feel about it or how you voted. In my eyes, a Black boy died that day. Perhaps he made mistake, but he was executed for it. If my kids die I’m afraid the world won’t mourn with me. They’ll tell themselves that they deserved it, then they will move on. I tell him to treat the cops like they are strange dogs; with cool, vigilant skepticism. Don’t assume they’re your friend, but don’t assume they’re evil either. It’s the same advice I gave him concerning the knuckle head uncles and big brothers from down the way. Funny how that is.
- I’m getting old. Everyone knows this in that intellectual sense, but I feel it in my very core. I measure my mortality in lines drawn on the chalkboard marking out my daughter’s height. Everytime I pick her up and realize that soon she’ll be too heavy to carry around anymore, a gray hair pops up on my head.
- Talks on awkward shit. For a while it’s cute when your children slink silently out of the room everytime a rated PG love scene comes on during movie night. Cute, how they suddenly look very hard at the iPad until it’s over. But as surely as 10 becomes 15, eventually you have to talk about it. Most likely, that conversation will take place more than once, at different levels and with different amounts of detail. Anyone who pretends that shit is easy is either a little bit pervy or a chronic oversharer. It it were easy to talk about sex in America, we wouldn’t have to talk about it.
- Silent teens. My teen daughter goes through phases. Sometimes she lives purely off of solitude and old sit-coms; My Wife and Kids, and Good Times. Other times she mind melds with her iPhone, looking up just often enough not to fall down the steps or step into traffic. She’s so low maintenance. But I remember the old her, from back when she wouldn’t shut up. And I miss her.
- I’m becoming a cliché. You will too. You know all of that music that you think is so progressive? Wait until you hear your daughter sing those lyrics. I’m now the preacher daddy that breaks records and calls rock and roll, “Devil Music.” Only it’s radio rap, not rock and roll, and I say those words without irony. I hate contemporary rap. I think that one day civilization will collapse under its weight, just like every father from every generation before me. Only, they were crazy, and I’m right.
- She won’t hold my hand for much longer. My youngest will be five soon. She holds my hand when we go down stairs, or when the dog runs over. Her hand is small and soft and insanely delicate, and with that simple grip I have kept her from falling hard, swung her over puddles and even swung her in circles until she couldn’t stand straight. That will end. She won’t need me to help her cross the street anymore. It’s coming. The day when I go from being her world to being an embarrassment. I get colder thinking about it.
- Your eyes! Know, that your child will try to gouge your eyes out. They will do it playfully, but they will be no less gouged. When a child laughs, “Close your eyes, “ something bad is about to happen. Close them tight. Be ready. I’ve been head butted more than once. I’ve been punched, of course, but people underestimate four year old fists. Sometimes they will hit you just right, in just the right place and you will feel pain. The worst part is, you agreed to it. You closed your eyes when she told you to, and now you have a bruise exactly the size of a four year old girl’s fist.
- You’re not cool anymore. You aren’t. You just aren’t. The more you try to cling to whatever you think cool is, the more uncool you are. There is an inverse relationship to coolness and the age of your child. My youngest is four. In her eyes, I’m the zenith of cool. My 10 year old son still gives a damn. My 14 year old I’m less cool than Mr. Bean, and become less and less cool by the moment. Just in case you think your different, you’re not, and it’s kind of sad that you don’t know it. You’re the chipper nerd at the cool table. The one everybody wishes would go away. Welcome to parenthood. It only gets worse from here.