My best friend and his wife are having a baby this spring. I am excited for them because being a parent has been an amazing and eye-opening experience for me. I am also excited because he now gets to join the club. The club of parents is an unofficial club. There are no dues – aside from the ones you pay during those seemingly endless nights during the first year of the child’s life and the thousands of diapers you change until you can finally convince your child to use the potty.
There is a secret language to the club too and words like potty are used quite frequently, so much in fact that you might find yourself using these words outside of your time with your children. Other words that spring up quite often are paci, binky, lovey, boo-boo and hundreds of other cutesy terms. It was clear that my wife and I had entered a whole other realm of existence as we frantically searched the house for our son’s Snoodle, which was just a blankie-type object he kept with him when he went to sleep. Picture two adults, their voices escalating as the search wore on, debating who had seen Snoodle last and where we had seen it.
The search for the beloved toy is just one of the milestones that each parent shares and I look forward to hearing from my friend as his son grows up and they encounter each one. For instance, I’m sure my wife and I will have a good laugh when he hear about his first explosion on the changing table. It will remind us of the time that it happened to us and we were powerless to stop what ended up looking like a very crude art installation. It wasn’t terribly funny to us at the time. I gagged quite a bit, actually, but now, years removed from that moment I look back on that time fondly. Not that exact moment, but a time when my son was still tiny enough to sleep on my chest in front of a ball game. My son will turn eight years old this spring and he still jumps up to snuggle on me, like a Great Dane who is unaware of his (always increasing) size. I will let him do it until he no longer wants to or I can’t breathe when he is on me, whichever comes first.
I think the reason why I am so excited for my friend and his wife is because I know what they are in for. I would never go so far as saying that parenting is easy or like a bed of roses underneath a vivid rainbow adjacent to a chocolate waterfall, but it is ultimately a great and life-changing experience. The good outweighs the bad by hundreds, if not thousands, to one. In some cases, I think when our friends start a family or welcome another child into their home, we are reminded of the beginnings of our relationships and it adds some much needed perspective.
For example, both of my children are in school now and my son has homework to complete each night. Homework feels terrible. I do not remember homework from when I was in school and the learning strategies are different today than they were back then. There have been many frustrating nights and there have been raised voices on both sides. On those nights, the decision to become a parent looks like a decision to get a Color Me Badd tattoo – something that felt cool at the time (they are going to be the best band in the world for a long time, man) but looks dangerously impulsive and irresponsible in retrospect. Eventually cooler heads prevail and you remember that you are supposed to not parent in the heat of the moment. This is a long game – one that lasts a lifetime and ebbs and flows.
Being a parent isn’t just getting the homework done or putting the food on the table (both things that absolutely have to be done, by the way) it is also about the down time and the quiet moments. My wife and I don’t hit the clubs, bars or concerts much anymore – Heck, it is sometimes a chore just to get to a movie – but we are laying the groundwork for a life for our children. Every visit to the zoo or walk in the park is something that fills their brain and builds them up. It has been amazing to watch them grow from tiny creatures who don’t do much but eat and sleep into the beginnings of the people they will become.
I can’t wait to see what my friends build with their son.