I’ve been a parent for 13 months. You could say I’m still “new at it”. During those thirteen months I’ve felt like some times were going by so slow that I could actually see the hands on the clock not moving. Other times I feel like I’ve lost days with nothing but exhaustion to show for it. I wouldn’t trade parenting my son for anything in the world. Talking with my wife, we’ve both agreed that we can’t imagine our lives without him and that our relationship has grown significantly because of him. Which is good because there will be another one by the time summer comes to a close. What’s that you say? Another one? Yes, but there will be plenty more time to explain the ins and outs of child rearing before it makes an appearance.
I want to think about trial right now. The trial that is other parents.
My son is five months old and we’re standing outside on a beautiful crisp day. There is a hundred gallons of maple sap boiling down in a small shack in front of us and people all around. We are at a boiling party. For anybody that doesnt live in Vermont and knows nothing of the joy of maple syrup: this is a get together to enjoy food, beer and company. The end result is that you buy a bunch of maple syrup from the people that hosted the party because you feel bad that you ate their food and used their bathroom. Unfortunately, the market dictates that we will pay far above our actual usage cost.
My wife knows a few people at the party. I know three people, two of them being my wife and son. The other one I know only by aquaintance because she is the one that invited my wife. There are children at this party but they are mostly of the running around, sceaming age. They can generally use the bathroom themselves and are prone to feeding the dog whatever they see necessary. Another couple near us introduces themselves. The man seems nice. He’s roughly thirty years old, wearing hiking clothes and a professional beard, he might be a professional beard grower, I’m not sure. The wife is dressed exactly the same, minus the beard.
Then I see it.
On his arm, dangling like a tentacle is a child dressed exactly like them, minus the beard, add a hat on head and spoon in mouth. I had been imagining this for the past five months: actually talking to another parent with a young child. In fact, I had been imagining any conversation in the past five months. Winter is hard, it’s even harder when you are raising a newborn. I had been listening to podcasts about science and nature while working, trying to keep myself awake long enough to remember to dump the right trash barrels. All the useless knowledge in my head was begining to overflow and I desperately needed an outlet. At this point my wife had long ago stopped listening to me about what I heard the night before. I can’t blame her, she was breast feeding a baby every two hours and barely keeping her eyes open while we ate meals at the table. A couple of times I saw her eyes droop and imagined her head falling directly onto the wood of the table, I would wince as a defining bang rang out through the kitchen, followed by lumberjack quality snoring.
I looked at the man inquisitively. He would be the one I would discuss the perks of time travel with. Maybe we would become great friends! I could see it! Standing side by side, holding our children, moving pieces around a game board, our beards blowing glistfully in the wind (mine really just stubble from laziness). He would help me break up the monotony of life. He would be the one I could get drunk with and we would cry together while reliving the stories of our children being born. Yes we would embellish! “Of course I ripped him from the flesh of my wife! I am man and so are you! You bit the umbilical cord too?! WE ARE GREATNESS INCARNATE!”
And then he opened his mouth.
What came out was the worst dribble you can imagine. Something between a blood worm and a terrible species we have yet to discover. He was talking about his child. The tentacle thing hanging off his arm!
Let me get one thing clear right now: As I said before, I love my son and my wife. They are the world to me. But sometimes, my world needs to be expanded.
“How old is your son? Yeah? Yeah, she’s about a year old and walking now. The spoon? Well, she’s teething so it helps.”
“NOOOOOO!” I didn’t actually scream this. It’s what was boiling over in my mind though. I realize that the bearded man was just being nice and trying to connect with me on some level, but it’s not the level I needed. This is going to make me sound like an asshole but I don’t care about your kid! I don’t care about anyones kid except my own. When I’m reaching out to you, you should see the longing for human contact in my eyes! Lets talk about galaxies and forces beyond our control! Hell, at that point I would’ve talked about the news. I listen to NPR this man should be too: HE HAS A BEARD! He really thought I cared about why she was holding a spoon? My son hung onto a spatula the other day and cried his heart out for no reason. I wanted to tell the guy that his kid was stupid because I had more teeth than her.
But alas, the moment I wanted to tackle some serious nerd talk, I was shut down. And it wasn’t just because of his kid.
I think the man was hoping to find the same thing I was. He was hoping to find someone to talk to. Maybe about beards, I don’t know. We used our children as a “foot in the door” and then we realized we would never be friends or even be able to carry on a conversation. I’m just glad he was the first to shoot. I feel like I would have looked a little odd if the first words out of my mouth were “You know, market price dictates that everyone here should leave without maple syrup and just go buy the fake stuff, we could take down the entire industry if no one supported it.”
That’s what we are. We are loving parents and husbands who just want to talk about our interests.
It seems that there is such a stigma at leading another life while you’re a parent. I honestly feel it’s important to separate yourself from the children you raise, if only for a moment. Our kids will leave us one day. This is a good thing! What will you do when they’re off leading their own lives? Will you have any beliefs of your own after you’re done raising the next all knowing, all proving, idol generation? Our children are not trophies and we are not their display case.
Personally I will continue to find the right people to talk about space travel and Breaking Bad with, kids by their side or not.
–AF (The Awkward Father)
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