I don’t mean this as any kind of insult, but I think of myself more as a writer than a blogger. And it isn’t because I’m some tortured soul who has an open bottle of whiskey sitting on his desk.
Although both of those things are true.
No, the reason I make the distinction is because I’m selective in what I write about here. Bloggers, in my mind, tend to be a bit less editorial, maybe a bit more raw, with what they share.
I don’t do that, for a couple of reasons.
Some of them have to do with the kind of person I am. But some of them have to do with Jack. Because sometimes I worry that this blog could become the equivalent of embarrassing photos I drag out and show to his senior prom date.
Me (in cardigan, mustache and pipe): “This was Jack’s first bath. He liked to pee in the tub.”
Her (whose name will probably be Dylan or Brooklyn or Yonkers or something): “Ooooh. That is like, so totally, like, cute and stuff. Can I text that to my friends?”
Me: “Sure! (We tap smart phones so I can transfer the album to her.) This is Jack trying to ride the dog. He used to think it was a horse. And here is the obligatory picture of him naked. On a bear skin rug, of course.”
Jack (muttering): “There isn’t a jury in the country that will convict me.”
There’s another reason, of course. It’s that, in telling stories about raising him, I want people to like my kid. Natural enough of an impulse.
But parenthood isn’t just joy and wonder. It has it’s share of difficulty and embarrassment and surprise. I work in an office all week, so I have a different view of Jack than my wife. She has a better sense of who he is than I do.
Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m missing out on a lot. But I have it pretty good, too, because when I come home from work, it’s play time with Daddy. We run around a little. We make things out of Play-Doh. He tells me about his day, as much as he’s able. I get to give him a bath and read him a story and put him to bed.
Lately, as Jack takes his firm, bold steps into his twos, I’m seeing this side to him that is perfectly normal developmentally, but completely take me off guard because there are these moments where he doesn’t act at all like the little man I know.
Like last week. We took him to get his hair cut. He’s good about it, because he was born with a full head of hair and has had to, by necessity, get a regular cut since he was five months old. So that was fine. No big deal.
The Kid Kuttery or whatever it was called — I’m sure there was an intentional misspelling in the title — had this small space set aside in the waiting area with a bin full of toys. There happened to be a toy truck that played music. Jack liked it, as he is currently obsessed with all toy forms of motor transportation, and was rolling it around the floor while I paid. Then we had to leave.
Cue melt down. And I mean severe melt down. Crying. Hyperventalating. Screaming. I can still hear him yelling “Truck,” over and over again, like he was frantically searching for a lover amid a smoking pile of building rubble.
This is what makes parenthood difficult, because here are all the things that go through your head.
You have the practical set of considerations, of figuring out how to get a squirming, screaming child out of a public place with a modicum of grace and dignity. You may as well forget it. It’s like getting out of a cab. There’s no good way to do it. You just have to try your best and hope you don’t fall on your ass.
You have the blush to your entire body, caused by the woman who is looking at you as she waits for her four-year old son with the fauxhawk to get called for his haircut, the woman who is glaring at you like you are the worst parent in the world and could you PLEASE get that kid out of here. She saw the whole thing. She has a son. But it’s like you’re raising some sort of hellspawn who shouldn’t be allowed out of a locked basement.
There’s the hot, sharp impulse to be a little less of a gentleman and say something mean and cutting to her as you walk out the door.
There’s the length and violence of the crying and the heartbreak in seeing your son so worked up that it makes you want to comfort him, but you can’t help but feel this little kernel of anger at him, not as deep down inside yourself as you might like it to be, for acting that way.
Over a truck, of all things.
Then there’s guilt, for being mad at him, because he’s only a little guy and to him, that truck is the current center of his world.
And then there is guilt on top of that, because if you comfort him, will that make him think that this kind of screaming fit will get him what he wants in life? You don’t want a person like that around you or anyone else. You know adults who act that way. You’re no great fan.
Then there’s this. A little less than a week later, you’re sitting down at your computer to write about it.
When Lara was sick for a couple of weeks, it was like we switched places and I was the full-time parent. Actually, it was worse, because I felt like a single parent. I had some help, from relatives. But really, it was like I was doing everything on my own while caring for a bed-ridden person on top of it.
It’s hard. Partially because it’s a lot to stay on top of.
Mostly, though, it’s hard because it’s lonely. I love my son. But there’s not a lot to talk about with a two-year old. There’s no meetings or brainstorming or walks for coffee. You don’t get any feedback on if you’re doing a good job. Half the time, you have no idea.
So, at the end of the day, if the boy is fed and seems happy and hasn’t split his head open by jumping down the stairs, well, that’s a pretty good day at the office.
Raising children is a wonderful thing. I truly feel that way. But I’m lucky, in that I get to enjoy and appreciate the best parts of the job.
There are a lot of people, who say (hopefully) unintentionally insensitive things to parents who stay home with their kids every day. “Oh, I could never do that.” “You’re smarter than that.””That’s a waste of your education/talent/ability.” These are things I’ve actually heard said to my wife.
You could say many of those same things about nearly every job imaginable, but for some reason, most people don’t. When it comes to stay-at-home parenting, though, it seems a different story. I don’t understand that.
Because while walking around with spit-up on the shoulder of your shirt doesn’t look very glamorous, how many people in this world are sitting down at their desks every morning with the ability to make a difference in someone’s life? Or are trying to teach, mentor and nurture someone to be the best versions of themselves they can be?
No, you don’t get promoted to Senior Dad. You don’t get a raise. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you don’t get a thank you.
So really, parenthood is like most other jobs in the current economy with one important difference. At the end of your career, you get to watch how you did walk around in the world. That’s a pretty powerful performance incentive, whether you feel appreciated or not.
Even when your son is screaming for a toy truck.