I have heard some peers say, “Why would anyone want to have children?” And almost three years in, I can say they have a point. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. And absolutely the best.
So to give a taste to anyone sitting on the fence or just watching in the bleachers, here are some of the things I had to give up when I became a parent.
1. I had to give up knowing what smells to expect at any given second.
Thanksgiving 2010. Isaiah, our oldest, is 2+ months old. I’m at my parents’ house, up at 6:30am, half-asleep, changing a diaper on the floor of my room in my boxer shorts. I have cleaned the specimen. While I’m reaching for the new diaper, Old Faithful goes off. Only brown. And horizontal. I caught my breath for a second, realized what had happened and told my wife, “You’re going to have to work on this. I’m taking a shower.”
Think you’re safe reaching blindly into the backseat of your car to get something out of your bag? Nope. Thought baby poop would be mild because they’re so little? That’s adorable. Think you can just empty that seemingly-recently-abandoned-and-therefore-harmless cup of milk without much trouble? Curdled.
2. I also had to give up my search for my place in this world.
We’re all trying to make a mark on the world. We’re all trying to use our gifts, someway somehow, to make life better for ourselves and for others. And a lot of us worry that we’re not doing it, that we’re wasting our time and talents and are not “all that we can be.”
Since I’ve become a dad, I’ve stopped worrying about that. I absolutely love being a Dad. And I’m really good at it, too. So at the end of the day, no matter what I feel like I have accomplished or not accomplished, I know that I am a good Dad. And that is more than enough.
To go further, I’ve also realized that part of being a good Dad is being a good minister. One of the best lessons I can teach them is that you find your calling and you pursue it with all you have. And that motivates me about as much as anything has ever motivated me before.
3. I had to give up the assumption that logic would govern my conversations.
Me: “Do you want me to cut up your waffle for you?”
Me: “Are you sure?”
Isaiah: “Sure am.”
Me [After cutting waffle into bite-size pieces]: “Here you go, buddy.”
Isaiah: “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.”
4. I also had to give up a world in which I was the most important person.
In the B.C. world (“before children”). It was all Brad all the time. What do I want or need today? Now in the A.D. world (“anno diaperus”) I rarely have time to wax philosophical about my existential angst or place in this world (see above).
I have discovered that in the A.D. world, because I am living my life more than evaluating it, it is a much more beautiful place. And when I’m living for these illogical, smelly, beautiful beings, instead of just myself, I think the world ends up with a better version of me too.
Of course, no one may notice because when we see people now, they only greet our children, and all our conversation goes through them, “And how are your Mommy and Daddy doing?” Someone apologized for this once, “You probably feel like you’re not even there sometimes!”
Oh don’t worry. This Daddy is here. And he’s happy. And he’s proud. And life is beautiful.
5. I had to give up the ability to do whatever I want with my time.
I have never been a morning person. I’m still not. Someone once told me that I would get used to it. But, no, no matter how many times my children wake up at 5:45, it’s still terrible. There are nights when we get home from work, throw something together to put on the table, take the boys separately to their rooms for bedtime and emerge together at 10:15 with just enough energy to put on pajamas and utter an “I love you.” Then sleep. Knowing that tomorrow may be the same.
It can be brutal. This is why I’m all for birth control. If you think you might not want a child right now, then you do not want a child. I don’t know any parents that feel just rainbows and lollipops about their children all the time, but I also don’t know how any can survive even a month without this profound sense that you are called to love and raise this child.
6. I also had to give up evenings without dancing and laughing.
Some nights, when we all gather at home in the living room, and before my wife and I pass out (this is like a 30 minute window here), we just crank up the TV and put on some Pandora station and rock out. Isaiah’s favorite station has been Beach Boys (“Went to a dance/Looking for a man[sic]/Saw Barbara Ann/Said I gotta take a chance” [voice and hands go up on the last line]). Lisa and I did not (normally) do this before the children were around.
Other nights, I look at my boys smiling and laughing at each other on the floor and something just starts bursting inside of me. I tried to coin a word for it once: Proudulatorious. I cannot just sit there when this happens. Usually I end up rolling on the floor, flipping Bennett and Isaiah over and around me, letting them run up to me and collapse on top of me, and making them laugh any way I can. I’m shameless. I’ll do anything to see Bennett’s smile or hear Isaiah’s chuckle.
I could go on (really, ask me, I’d love to gush about how awesome my kids are). But suffice it to say that my exhausted, drained, often-frustrating life of never enough alone time is so much fuller and funnier than it ever has been before.